by Daniel Loxton ▪ Kids Can Press ▪ Ages 4-7
Story behind the story: "The Tales of Prehistoric Life series," says author Daniel Loxton," strives to attain very high degree of photorealism — I want it to look like I just grabbed my camera and popped back to the Cretaceous in my time machine. To achieve that, I borrow a lot of tricks from Hollywood special effects and visual effects. But there's a big problem with that: Hollywood techniques tend to be very expensive, and work best with huge crews and huge movie industry budgets. We don't have any of that!
The support and involvement of my own family helps to make that possible. My pregnant wife and young son and I spent days in a tent to capture the key Canadian location photography for Pterosaur Trouble. Those photographic plates get modified a great deal once I get them into my computer in the studio: I stitch them into massive panoramas; paint out the Coke cans and roads and human beings; replace the skies; add the creatures; and modify the landscapes as needed to serve the story. But the more I can capture in-camera on location, the easier and better the process is later. For example, the prehistoric animals in Pterosaur Trouble interact with the water of the river in the story, so it was very useful to capture a lot of splash elements on location. That way, the splashes of water accurately reflect the environment and lighting conditions of the location, so they look intuitively convincing when I add the dinosaurs. To generate those hundreds of splash elements, I drafted my son to spend hours playfully lobbing rocks into the water — nice work if you can get it!
The creatures I select for my stories are sculpted inside a computer as entirely virtual creatures by my collaborator Jim Smith. After expert feedback from our science consultant and a large number of revision cycles, I wrap realistic skin textures around them. That's a laborious, detail-oriented process. The skin texture maps have so much resolution that they're each equivalent to a 67 megapixel photograph!
I hand paint much of that detail, but for realism it starts once again with photographic reference from nature: detailed photographs of modern living animals from zoos and preserved specimens in museum collections. Bats, pheasants, and herons were especially useful for Pterosaur Trouble.
Although these books are fiction for kids, they are nonetheless informed by the true scientific discoveries of paleontology. In fact, the basic conflict of Pterosaur Trouble was inspired by a specific fossil find from Alberta, Canada. Scientific accuracy is very important to me, to the extent that I actually went back into Ankylosaur Attack to make a correction AFTER it was published: Throughout the process for Pterosaur Trouble and the third book (in production now), I've kept in close contact with our science consultant, palaeozoologist Darren Naish. He clears all of the basic plot points, reviews the creature designs, and checks the story for scientific accuracy. See more here.
Reviews and praise:
“…the prehistoric creatures sport feathers, wrinkles, teeth and scales that are all rendered with hyper-realistic clarity and sharpness. … Dino devotees will devour this eye candy with relish.”
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