Shark out of water: the model makers bringing our finned friends to life


Sharks have ruled our oceans for 450 million years, ancient predators that have evolved into a remarkable biodiversity. For an upcoming exhibition at the Australian Museum, a team of model makers from CDM: Studio, Perth, were commissioned to create 11 sharks. From extinct prehistoric sharks to mysterious deep-sea species, this studio combined traditional model making with 21st-century technology to produce shark models that are more hyper-realistic and detailed than ever.

Daniel Browne, owner of CDM:Studio, has a background in sculpture. Using source material provided by the Australian Museum, Daniel and his team digitally modeled the sharks in ZBrush, software that combines 3D and 2.5D modeling, texturing and painting.

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Converting the source material into 3D models required a bit of detective work. According to Daniel, sharks are usually photographed from similar angles, from the front or in three-quarter view, which visually distorts their body proportions. He says it’s difficult to find images of modern day sharks that haven’t been manipulated or altered in some way.

Then there’s the Helicoprion, an extinct species that lived 290-270 million years ago. The Helicoprion’s “teeth whorls” — a spiral of fossilized teeth — have puzzled scientists since their discovery in 1899.

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“The museum did its homework and reviewed all of the evidence to come up with our best guess as to what this shark might have looked like,” says Daniel.

meet the Helicoprion.

Modern day sharks can be just as elusive. The goblin shark is a deep-sea species that has only been photographed a few times.

“Once we feel like we’ve got the proportions right, we refine the detail with further revisions, all the while sending it back to the museum for approval,” says Daniel. “When we reach a point where we’re all happy, we take the digital sculpture, take it out of symmetry, and set it up.”

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Daniel and his team viewed the digital sculptures in a virtual gallery provided by the Australian Museum. By visualizing the models hanging in the gallery space, the modelers were able to choose the best pose for each shark.





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