I love this little four-winged wonder, and featured it in Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara. Here is Microraptor flying over the rooftops of Chandara, with its front wings up and its back “wings” or legs down.
Whether this creature was capable of flapping, and what position it held its arms and legs in flight are the subjects of lively debate among both scientists and artists.
What I’d like to show you here is a practical tip for making a quick reference maquette for a creature like this so that you can get the perspective right. I call it a “2D to 3D maquette.” This method would also work for insects, birds, and fish.
To begin with, I found the science article by the Chinese paleontologist Xu Xing, and printed out the dorsal view of the creature, with its arms and legs splayed out flat. The printout was on card stock.
Then I hot-glued some thin aluminum armature wire underneath the paper cutout. I tried to place the wire where the bones go. I then beefed up the volume of the head and chest with plasticene, or modeling clay.
I now had a fully poseable maquette in 3D, which allowed me to experiment with different wing positions. I placed a light source to see how the big planes would look in light and shadow.
This is the work of only an hour or two, but it helped me choose the angle and pose, and it gave me crucial information about the foreshortening of the wing shapes, the cast shadow on his left wing, and the appearance of the tail.
NOVA video on its website, Link.
New Scientist Article, Link.
Wikipedia article on Microraptor, Link.
Thanks, Mike Sheehan.
Tomorrow: The Sinking of the Cumberland