Sabtu, 08 Juni 2013

Spidrids and rusps: works in progress

The main Furaha site hasn't seen any significant change for quite some time now, which makes me feel a bit irresponsible. I have devoted the time I spend on this project wholly on the blog and on new paintings. As for the site,  I will get around to a complete 'redecoration' one of these days, and the blog is what you are reading right now, so there.

I am keeping the new paintings for the book but can show you bits of works in progress now and then, both of paintings and of blog material. In this post I will show progress on two themes, not that odd as I usually work on several themes at once (a major interest at present is working out which aspects of plants can be tweaked on other worlds, and what the results would look like; that is progressing nicely).

Copyright Gert van Dijk

I have discussed spidrids here several times, the last time here. That post showed them walking on uneven terrain in a variety of gaits. Those animations, done in Matlab showed how an animal with radial symmetry changed direction without turning. Although the animations showed that well, a proper 3D animation would be better. I am not aiming to achieve the quality of Avatar or Walking with Dinosaurs, but getting to a point in that general direction would be nice. The challenge then was to translate sets of coordinates of one system (matlab) into rotation and translation values for objects in a completely different format (Vue), and then controlling Vue to make an animation one frame at a time (Python). I won't bother you with the details. As you can see above, I am now at the stage where I can control the legs and have them end up on the right orientation and position. It really looks much better at a larger size, but blogger does not allow that. The low light was chosen so I could see whether the feet end up on the correct spots of the surface: their shadows just touch them, so that works! But when the innermost segment moves beyond the vertical, that segment flips around, so my rotation subroutine isn't quite right yet. I'll solve it. Meanwhile, it's starting to look real, isn't it? Now just imagine a body in between, texture on the ground, plants and shrubs with leaves swaying in the breeze, the sound of spidrid legs on the floor, and the occasional 'chikking' of the spidrid itself. I can see it already; perhaps imagination is better than animation...

Click to enlarge; copyright Gert van Dijk
Rusps! After my last encounter with them I thought some more about a possible painting. I decided it would look good as a double page spread, occupying the top of both pages. That results in a very wide format, just the thing for an animal that is itself long and horizontal. I decided to 'stagger' successive legs: segment x has the legs placed a bit to the inside, and segment x+1 has the placed to the outside, x+2 to the inside again, etc. In that way the stride might be long without the animal knocking its legs together. As there are so many legs, each one can be skinny. So I took the 3D model of a segment I did earlier, strung them together and starting playing in Vue with positions and curves. But I also needed a head, so I sculpted one roughly in Sculptris. I do not need a detailed sculpt as the sculpt is only a simple aid to produce the painting, not an end in itself. (Then again, if I did that, I could perhaps sell you models of spidrids and rusps). That is what you see above.

Click to enlarge; copyright Gert van Dijk
Here is another view of the rusp head. You cannot see the inner design of the snout, but the story is as follows.This particular rusp species, Megacrambis brucus, is very large and has an accordingly large head. It always pays to conserve energy, so moving that massive head or even the entire body to eat one bite is wasteful. It is better to stick a small head on a long neck (sauropods) or extend the reach in another way (arms, trunks, hooks). Inside the rusps' snout, technically a  'rostrum', there are rings connected to one anther at right angles to allow pointing the rostrum in all directions. Then there is one of those intriguing linkage systems that fish in our world excel at. Putting that in action extends the reach of the rostrum two- to threefold. Finally, at the end there are some grasping mouthparts. I put some more conventional mouth parts underneath; they are probably part of the overall rusp design.

Click to enlarge; copyright Gert van Dijk
Anyway, I put all he 3D parts together in Vue and played some more, seen at the top. Below you see  a quick over painting of the result. I was aiming for an overall diagonal effect in the composition, of which the shadow falling over the rusps's body is a part. I am not certain whether I will keep it though. I will keep the strong light against the dark clouds, as it helps to highlight the front whip. Megacrambis' English name will be 'Mammoth rusp', but I am not certain yet. Furaha was first discovered by Swahili speakers, so some of their names survived. I am also considering 'Mdudu Mzee' , roughly translated as 'respected elderly bug'. Any preferences?

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