Saturday, 4 February 2012

Away until back...

After almost four years of writing posts for this blog it is time for a sabbatical. There are certainly enough subjects left to write about. For instance, there is the issue whether established echolocation can prevent eye evolution taking off (I think not), as well as more on eyes, issues on flight, on camouflage, etc. I find writing posts and interacting with those who react (thank you all!) most enjoyable. It is just there are things I need to take care of, and the blogging batteries need recharging. I do not know when I will resume writing, but a nice time to do so would be sometime around the blog's fourth birthday (that's in April, in case you wonder). That is not a definite promise though.

This does not mean that the Furaha project is in any danger. After 30 years I am not going to drop it now. Far from it, in fact: I intend to devote part of the time I have spent blogging on painting. There's lots of things to do.

As proof that the project is very much alive, I can tell you that Furaha will appear in a film that you can actually see in a cinema. The film is being produced by an independent company and is being shot right now. I cannot say too much about it, but it is not a documentary; it will be about people, right here on Earth, and the Furaha project plays a very interesting role.

The producer recently asked me to make -with two days notice, but such things always seem to work that way- a 3D model of my woolly-haired shuffler, an animal that they had seen in my newspaper interview (here and here). and so I loaded Sculptris, a program I wrote about earlier, and started making one. Sculptris is completely free and a joy to work with. The resulting model is certainly not perfect, but for someone like me with limited experience with digital 3D sculpting programs it did not turn out too bad, I think. Particularly if you consider that this was done in about four hours of time...

Click to enlarge; copyright Gert van Dijk

Here are some screen shots of Sculptris with the model in various colours. It was a bit difficult to get the lateral jaws in there, as Sculptris does not formally accept holes. What i did was to push two extrusions together and then I flattened them where they toch one another. Formally, there are no holes in the model...


Once I had that, it wasn't difficult to export the model to the 'obj' format, import it into Vue Infinite and make a 'turn table animation'. That is what you see above. Not too bad, is it?

With the 'obj' model at hand, I decided to have a better look at a website I had visited before. The site, by the firm 'Shapeways', provides a service through which you upload a 3D computer model, and they then check it, print it in 3D and ship it to you. The instructions on how to check the model and upload it were fairly straightforward, so all was left was to choose a material. You can choose various materials with different qualities, such as the ability to hold detail. I chose a material that promised to allow details and settled for a small size, as you pay for the volume of the material used.

Click to enlarge; copyright Gert van Dijk

The model arrived within in two weeks and looked good. Part of the left maxilla had broken off, not too surprising if you consider how thin it was. The website has lots of information on how to prevent making your models too thin. What I had not foreseen is that the material was transparent, so much of the detail did not show up. I painted it to solve that, and photographed the result. Interesting, isn't it? I was impressed with the details, but would like a larger size next time. You pay for the volume of material that goes into the model, so I will have to learn how to hollow out the model; if I manage that, I should be able to order a much bigger one for the same price.

So, it's off towards the sunset for me, for a while. I intend to keep on replying to questions here and on the Furaha bulletin board in the meantime, so I'm not away altogether.


Evan Black said...

I must say congratulations on the movie deal! After 30 years I bet that's a rewarding feeling! If you're doing concept work for a film, I don't expect to see it in a theater any time soon. Since it's independent I may actually have to go looking for it, but I'd be eager to see your work on the big screen!

I can completely understand wanting to take a break from blogging for a little bit. Between my schoolwork, my night job, and a new long-term commission I've picked up, my own project has gotten little attention. However, if I play my cards right I might just be taking Nereus into a new medium as well.

That new commission has also familiarized me with 3D prints, and I must say I really think the shuffler head turned out well. I especially like the eyestalks, which is something I've wondered about. Do you have a blog post somewhere that talks in more detail about how the eyestalks have evolved and radiated among the species? I seem to remember something like that, but I haven't been able to find it. Maybe I'm just imagining things.

I really need to get a 3D sculpting program too. My new commission is kind of calling for it, and afterward I'd be able to make nereids in all their glory! :evil laugh:

Anonymous said...

Have fun on your sabbattical. and congratulations on the movie.

keep safe, and enjoy yourselves.


Anonymous said...

Remember one of your first blog posts about aliens in comics & hexapods? well, I just found this:

some of the creatures look quite familiar, from the comics you gave us examples from.

thought you would like to see it.


Spugpow said...

Sitting here with golden light streaming in through the window, I find myself getting a little emotional. It's a combination of sadness that you're leaving (temporarily) and joy at the news of the movie and the absolutely beautiful 3d sculpt.

Maybe I'm being a little over dramatic.

I wish you the best in your movie endeavor, and I hope you come back from your break refreshed! Even if you're gone for a year, you've built up enough content on the website and blog to keep me coming back :D .

Sigmund Nastrazzurro said...

Evan: Thank you. There is no big post about eyestalks. Many Furahan animals with compound eyes do without them (have a look at Fishes). I admit that I started with eyestalks because they look good. They do confer a bit of an advantage in widening the visual field, but I doubt that that is a big advantage.

As for 3D work, I recommend Sculptris, together with a graphics tablet. It allows you to get to work fast and intuitively (and it is free). Beyond that there is Zbrush, but that has so many tricks and different methods that is daunting to get to work with. It is not free. I look forward to the first 3D printed Nereid.

Rodlox: thanks. The page you refer to is indeed about the 'bandes dessinées' by Léo I wrote about.

Spugpow: thank you too (voice dimming because of progression towards the setting sun).

Christian C. said...

Hope you have a good time. I actually have a request for a post you can do when you come back. A couple of weeks ago the existence of a new planet called Gliese 667C c was confirmed and described as potentially being one of the four best confirmed exo-planets for harboring life. The other three are HD 85512 b, Gliese 581 d, and Kepler-22b. Maybe you can do a post about what lifeforms could be like on those planets using the information collected thus far (which you can access easily on Wikipedia).

SingYu said...

I've been following your blog for a good while, and I'm glad you're taking time to focus on other things. I haven't been very active in the comments, but I've read all your posts. Wish you the best of luck!

El Squibbonator said...

Please tell me more about this movie Furaha is going to be appearing in. What is its name? Is it live-action or animated? What is the name of the studio that is making it? I myself have my own "alien planet" project on the Speculative Evolution forum--it's called Valhalla--and I think you should check it out.

Sigmund Nastrazzurro said...

Like everyone with a similar interest I am hoping for an exoplanet with near-Earth characteristics. As for the life on such a planet, well, how about something like Furaha?

Sing Yu: thank you.

El Squibbonator: I answered your question on the bulletin board of my site. It's not much of an answer, but that's all I am prepared to say at present.

John A.M. said...

Hey cool model! I've never used sculptris, but I've been using the free blender 3d( for over three years. it can do much including sculpting, but perhaps not as good as Sculptris. With blender you could do holes like that (If you simply extrude, merge and such in edit mode before sculpting.) and you could use the solidify modifier to get it hollow. It imports and exports obj's. It takes time, though, to learn, but you can youtube and google to find lots of tutorials. There's also forums like Blender You might not be interested, but just thought I'd mention it. You really get a lot of good quality features for it being free, (you can donate) but at least look at the site if you're interested or have time to.

Never commented here before, so I ought to tell you I find your sight and blog inspiring for my own creature ideas and sketches and such! :-)

~John A.M.

Sigmund Nastrazzurro said...


Thank you for your comments. You are obviously a Blender enthusiast. I have tried to get into Blender several times, but admit that I found it very hard to get to grips with it. That is a a pity, as Blender can do a great deal. still, time is the most expensive commodity.

You mentioned hollowing objects; is that something you could provide help with? I found a tutaorial for Blender, downloaded Blender once more, and found that the tutorial did not look like my version at all, so I floundered after a few steps...

Petr said...

I was, too, unable to get blender to work, and I had problems with the tutorials being different from the version I had downloaded, but on the same note, I'd like to thank you, because you're the one who introduced me to Sculptris which is a software I really enjoy, and it has worked for me rather well from the very beginning.
I only need more ideas for new sculpts so I can practise! =D

I would like to thank you for your incredible accomplishment, what you've developped on your site and your blogs is incredibly interesting, beautiful and inspirational, and you're one of the people who made me want to start my own project too.

I am at the very beginning currently, all I have is a bunch of sketches, but the pile is growing, which is a relief.
Knowing you have worked on Furaha for so long, i have prepaired myself for spending a long time on it, but once I'll have a decent number of sculpts or at least cleaner drawings, I would like you to have a look, but I don't want to bother too much when I have still so little to offer. ;-)

I chose an orange dwarf as the parent star, and the second planet is the one with life. It's only slightly farther than Venus from the Sun.

I don't rush you by any means, I don't want to interfere with your obligations and goals, but I've read many posts about the coloration of alien plants, but they concerned the extremes, either blue stars or red dwarfs, but never a "medicore" possibility such as an orange dwarf, even though they would be excellent for harbouring life on the planets around them, they're more common than yellow dwarfs and are stable and have a great longevity.
I will stop walking around the bush and just jump into it. It would be cool if you could concern alien plants in general in one of your future posts, no matter how long I'd have to wait for it, but that's something I' admit I need someone's help with, because I need to know what wavelengths make it to the surface, and thus which vawelengths the plants use and which wavelengths they reflect. If you could manage to sumarize the trends in plant color depending on the brightness of the star, distance of the planet (given that the atmosphere is roughly earth-like) so anyone (including myself) could find the fitting color for given conditions, it would be totally awesome, because though all of these "alien plant color" articles don't include an orange dwarf even though it's far better for supporting life than either a violent powerful blue star or a very small and weak red star... The articles contradict each other when dealing with blue plants, some list it as a possibility, but some say no plants would ever be blue because blue is very desirable to gather energy from, so no plant would reflect it.
I'd like to know where the truth lies. All I got is that dull stars would have black plants, but I have never understood why they always take care of the extremes instead of showing the full pallet of what's possible. =(

Sigmund Nastrazzurro said...


I more than once considered writing something about the colour of plants. All articles seem to focus on the different spectra of the various stars, and indeed it would not make sense to design a photosythetic molecule for a wavelength that is hardly present in a star's light. However, photosynthesis only uses a very narrow portion of sunlight. A perfect photosynthetic plant would be black, not green. What I do not know at present is how the molecular structure of a pigment determines the wavelength it is sensitive to.
I doubt all this makes much sense; it needs a longer post to explain it well. Meanwhile, my hunch is that you should not worry much about the spectrum of your star, but about the colour sensitivity and efficiency of your photosynthetic pigment; there is room for creativity there.

Christian C. said...

Hey, maybe when you get back, something you can do a post on are the aliens races described in the Si-Fi comic Carpe Chaos. The author gave a lot of though (and I mean a lot into the design, anatomy, and society of these aliens. The thing I think you would be interested in most is the anatomy and physiology of these aliens (which are given on the wiki which you can find a link to on the Carpe Chaos site). So you don't have to spend the time finding it, here's a link to the wiki page (