Digital media students bring rare feathered dinosaur to life
NAIT Digital Media and IT (DMIT) students have brought to life a feathered dinosaur that roamed the prehistoric swamps of Alberta 73 million years ago during the late Cretaceous Period.
Three-dimensional video renderings of the Ornithomimosaurus (or ostrich dinosaurs) appear in a five-minute documentary called The First Feathered Dinosaurs of the Western World. It was produced by DMIT Digital Cinema and DMIT Animation students. The documentary, a year-end project which recently aired on Discovery Channel, tells the story of how Drumheller, AB-based dinosaur hunter Frank Hadfield discovered the fossilized skeleton of a feathered dinosaur during a walk through Alberta’s badlands in 2007. It was the discovery of a lifetime: the first feathered dinosaur found in North America.
“I just decided to go for a walk outside my house. It’s a typical thing I had done a hundred times before,” recalls Hadfield, president of Palcoprep, a company that fabricates museum exhibits. “Sure enough, I saw a concretion sticking out of the riverbed. When I got closer to it and looked at it, I couldn’t believe my eyes.”
A dig uncovered the dinosaur’s entire body, which Hadfield nicknamed Woody due to its resemblance to the cartoon character, Woody Woodpecker. A year later, Hadfield made a second find buried in the same formation of rock: another Ornithomimosaurus, this one an adult about the same size as a full-grown ostrich. Hadfield nicknamed it Andy.
Using the latest industry-standard digital cinema production and post-production technology, a team of eight NAIT students scripted, shot and edited the documentary about Hadfield’s discovery with guidance from DMIT instructors. The documentary’s digital animation – which brought Woody and Andy to life – was a painstaking process where attention was paid to every detail. The feathers used on the models, for example, were photographed from real ostrich feathers.
“I’m very proud of the way everything turned out,” said Trent Schneider, the film’s principal writer, editor and director. Schneider, who graduated in 2013 from the DMIT Digital Cinema stream, now works for the Edmonton Eskimos where he produces web videos. “Like many others, I’ve been interested in dinosaurs since I was a kid.”
"Working on this exciting project was such a great opportunity for me to use the skills that I learned while in the DMIT program and create something amazing,” said Kristin Jacobs, a graduate of the DMIT Animation stream, who did all the digital animation. “A huge amount of work went into bringing these dinosaurs to life and I am so happy with the end result.”
The fossils are currently at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Drumheller. In addition to airing on Discovery, the documentary will be used by Hadfield as a centrepiece when he makes public presentations about this find.
“This documentary is another example of the outstanding work our students are doing and demonstrates the standard of excellence industry can expect from our graduates,” said Michael Jorgensen, a NAIT Digital Cinema instructor and Emmy award winner.
“I’m blown away by the quality of the production,” said Hadfield. “The animation is stunning.”
DMIT is a two-year program where students can focus on up to two areas of specialization, including video production, animation, game design and web design.
Stills of the digital animation suitable for publication can be viewed and downloaded at www.flickr.com/nait.
The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) is a leading Canadian polytechnic, delivering education in science, technology and the environment; business; health and trades. With more than 60,000 credit and non-credit students and a 98 per cent employer satisfaction rate, NAIT grads are essential to Alberta’s prosperity. Known for hands-on, technology-based learning, NAIT engages with business and industry in applied research and innovation and provides corporate training around the world. Recognized as one of Alberta’s top employers, NAIT provides outstanding returns on investment for its graduates, partners, the provincial government and the people of Alberta.
About DMIT Digital Cinema Production Stream
Digital Cinema Production is one of nine career paths in Digital Media & IT. Students are exposed to leading edge narrative techniques and evolving technologies while providing them with an equaled opportunity to excel in an industry production environment. Courses are delivered by highly-respected and award-winning instructors from the world of fiction and nonfiction screen production. Graduates have gone on to successful careers in a variety of digital screen roles from producer, director, writer, editor, cinematographer, sound technician and multi-skilled business owners within the digital cinema industry.
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