The MFN exhibitions 1: Sauriersaal

It is high time that I start a series of posts on the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin (MFN) and its exhibitions. Naturally, with a focus on the dinosaurs.

This post will feature only one of them, and only one image. However, it is a huge image, and preparing it took me all slack time day today and some time on the weekend. And I had a lot of slack time, because of the research I am currently busy with.

I use a NASTRAN-derivate program to do kinetic/dynamic modeling of dinosaur locomotion, specifically Plateosaurus and Diplodocus these days. Models typically start out fairly simple, and are accordingly computed in very short time. You can watch the program go from step to step. But the more the models develop, the more complex they get, and usually computing time grows exponentially. That means that I spend a short time editing a model, then sit back and wait for up to ten minutes. Today, these breaks were in the one to two minute range. Saving and loading models take about a minute, too. During these time I can do other things, but they need to be no-brainers. What means that I need to be able to totally dump them from my brain when the modeling software goes BING!, and then pick them back later without any time loss. Editing photos, especially the mindless task of background removal, is a favorite, or writing short blog posts. For example, this paragr…


aph was written during a short pause, then I picked it up again after adjusting friction values for a foot/ground collision that hadn’t been quite right (in fact, the dinosaur was catapulted off the ground up to two meters).

So I worked hard the last few days on a picture I took on Friday, when the museum was nearly empty. It is a simple side view of the Diplodocus mount, the only one of the sauropods where you can step a comfortable distance away and take good pictures without tilting your camera way back. Giraffatitan requires that, whereas there is too little free room next to Dicraeosaurus (evident here).

However, this is not a simple photos taken with an extreme wide-angle lense and cropped, but rather a panorama photo. I followed my rules, but didn’t bring a tripod. Me = idiot. Exposure times thus had to be short, and the museum’s Sauriersaal, for all its ambient light and spotligths, is a pretty dark place. It is not as dark as many other museums, but it has less light than the AMNH’s dinosaur halls. So I had to crank ISO way up, and as a consequence the pics aren’t really that great. And I needed to increase brightness in my photo program, too. I took new ones, with a tripod today, and will have an image up for comparison soon.

Well, all said that needed saying, there’s the picture (at 25% size; email me if you want the full one). Stitched from 11 individual shots.

MFN mount of a cast of Dipolodocus carnegii. Panorama image made with Hugin. Click through for MUCH larger size!

Why do I remove the background on so many photos, you may ask? The reason is that it always distracts me. That’s especially bad if there are other skeletons in the background (what belongs where?), or if the background is highly colorful and chaotic. The MFN is very bad in this respect, with many-colored walls and lots and lots of windows leading to other, less lofty rooms. Their spotlights are thus shining out from between the ribs of the sauropods. AARGH! Therefore, I go to the trouble of cutting out the background. I’ll soon show some of the nice things that can then be done with the images…..


About Heinrich Mallison

I'm a dinosaur biomech guy
This entry was posted in Dinosauria, Diplodocus, MfN Berlin, Sauropoda, Sauropodomorpha. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The MFN exhibitions 1: Sauriersaal

  1. Mike Taylor says:

    Very nice! But you’re right that the lack of tripod was a killer for the quality of your base images. I’m looking forward to seeing how the next version looks.

  2. Jay says:

    Very nice.

    Thanks for the link to Hugin too (been looking for a decent photostitcher capable of handling complex mosaics for a time now).

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