3D artist recreates Sue the T-Rex for Field Museum of Natural History

Jan 02, 2019 at 11:50 am by SchelleFire

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Sue the T-Rex

The Field Museum of Natural History turned to technology to illustrate the life and times of one its most famous prehistoric inhabitants.

SUE, the world’s biggest, best-preserved, and most complete T. rex, is back on display and better than ever at the Field Museum as of Friday, December 21, 2018. SUE is now up to date with the latest scientific research and is in a new “private suite” that shows through digital animation what her world was like.

In addition to highlighting the fossils that led to these discoveries about what T. rex was like, the new suite brings those facts to life with digital animations by Atlantic Productions projected onto six 9-foot-tall screens set up behind SUE, forming a panorama. The animations show SUE hunting an Edmontosaurus, fighting a Triceratops, and even pooping.

"It's one thing for scientists to be able to figure out how an animal would have moved or hunted based on clues in its fossilized skeleton, but with these animations, we're able to show our visitors what that would have actually looked like,” said Jaap Hoogstraten, Field Museum director of exhibitions. "The animations look so real, and scientists checked every detail—if you want to know how T. rex really looked and behaved in its habitat, this is probably the best way in the world to learn.”  

The renders used in the animations were created by zBrush artist Vladimir Venkov. 

"I had to create a number of species. I was also provided with skeleton scan, scale impressions, and papers on the subject," Venkov said, adding he created the creatures under the supervision of a paleontologist from the museum and ZooVFX.

A triceratops from the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. (Photo by M. Willard)

As for the Field Museum's most famous dino, Venkov used zBrush for sculpting, the retopology was done in 3D Coat and the texturing in Substance Painter and Mari to create the digital version of SUE the T-Rex.

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The results were remarkable and quite a step up from the existing drawings of the dinosaurs.

Once Venkov completed his design, ZooVFX animated and rendered SUE and the other species for the exhibit.

SUE has been on display at the Field Museum for nearly two decades when she was taken down in early 2018 for a makeover and move to her own gallery in the Evolving Planet exhibit hall on Dec. 21.

"During SUE's time out of the public eye, the scientists have made important scientific updates to the fossil," Venkov said, adding new bones were added and her arms lowered in agreement with scientific findings since she was first unveiled in 2000.

"So after all these changes were made, we can see that T-rex was not as athletic as we have seen in all the movies," Venkov said.

While SUE was getting her makeover, Venkov was working to create a digital reproduction for the exhibit. 

You can see more of the exhibit on the WTTW website or the Field Museum's blog.


Michelle Willard, Editor of Renderosity Magazine | Former newspaper reporter. Recovering archaeologist. Political nerd. Writer at Middle Tennessee Mysteries. Read her articles here




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