The Kickstarter Blog

This Week in Kickstarter

  1. Featured Creator: Tyler Keillor on the Digital Dinosaur

    If you think about it, Tyler Keillor's project to make the most realistic reconstruction of a dryptosaurus that's ever been attempted is the closest we can possibly get to having real live dinosaurs on Kickstarter. (Clearly, that's a goal we are always working towards.) The project is amazing for a number of reasons, including rewards for a variety of casts of Tyler's incredible dino sculptures. We caught up with this professional paleoartist on how he got to where he is, his process, and obviously, who wins the award for Dopest Dinosaur.

    It sounds like you essentially have every 8 year old child's dream career. How did you get to where you are?

    I loved dinosaurs and monster movies as a kid, and spent my time drawing, teaching myself how to sculpt, make molds and casts of my creations, life-casting friends’ faces and making special makeup effects for home video projects, etc. During my college years while attending Columbia College in Chicago, I pursued makeup and effects more seriously, and started assisting local makeup artists on film, TV and theater projects, as well as becoming a student of Dick Smith’s Correspondence Course. My exposure to the entertainment industry helped me to see that while I loved the artistry, the field wasn’t a fit for me. I then worked at a dental laboratory making porcelain teeth for dental patients for a few years, and later worked at Chicago’s Field Museum, in the Exhibit department. 

    Throughout all of these jobs and experiences, I was assembling the skill set that I use today in my work; and throughout all of those years, I was also revisiting my childhood interest in dinosaurs, reading about new discoveries and advances in the field of paleontology, as well as attempting my own miniature sculptures as a hobby. I’ve been working for paleontologist Paul Sereno at the University of Chicago in 2001, and since that time I’ve had the chance to work with real fossil material on a daily basis, preparing the bones for research, making molds and casts, and developing my style and techniques for the flesh reconstructions that I’ve built for his and other researchers’ discoveries.

    Can you run us through the process of creating a model? How do you create a sculpture of a thing when no one really knows what it looks like?

    I usually start with a skull – and since complete skulls aren’t always unearthed, I often begin by first restoring the skull from preserved remains, and sculpting missing or damaged parts by mirroring the opposite side of the skull, or looking at other related species. For dinosaur flesh reconstructions, I observe the living relatives such as crocodiles, birds, and even large lizards like Komodo dragons for anatomical reference and inspiration. I try to find similarities in bone texture between the fossil and living species, for clues as to what types of soft tissues may have covered areas of the dinosaur’s face, such as keratin, muscle, lips, etc. 

    Once I have an idea for the appearance of the model, and have discussed the reconstruction with the paleontologists I’m collaborating with, it’s time to cover the skull armature with clay, sculpting the details and trying to make them look as natural as possible. The clay sculpture is molded and cast, and the resulting replica is painted and detailed to create the display model. The whole process can take many months.

    “Jane” juvenile tyrannosaur
    “Jane” juvenile tyrannosaur

    What's different about this epic dryptosaurus project that you're embarking on?

    This Dryptosaurus project will be my first digitally created model. Also, I will be creating a full body instead of just the bust. As I describe on my Kickstarter project page, there so many advantages to using digital technology to create this dinosaur…but at the same time I am not planning on abandoning my traditional sculptures – this is a powerful tool that will allow me create in a new way. What is not changing is my commitment to create an anatomically and scientifically accurate reconstruction, with the input of paleontologists to verify my work. 


    Which of your projects are you most proud of?

    It’s really hard to limit it to one, because they’ve all been so unique and demanding…but I am particularly proud of the work I did on a bizarre dinosaur called Nigersaurus. For that project I collaborated with paleontologists Paul Sereno and Jeff Wilson, and it involved a truly challenging skull restoration, and then a lot of investigation and effort to put flesh back on the bones.

    A not lame Herrerasaurus!
    A not lame Herrerasaurus!

    What's the dopest dinosaur? What's the lamest dinosaur? 

    My vote for dopest dino, at the moment, would be Spinosaurus. Like Dryptosaurus, this is a dinosaur that’s known from incomplete yet tantalizing remains: a HUGE creature with an enormous dorsal sail, and long toothy jaws. 

    And for lamest? There are no lame dinosaurs!! Actually I recently reconstructed a model of a little plant eater called Heterodontosaurus; I thought it would be a really lame dinosaur to sculpt, but it has turned out to be one of my current favorites!

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  2. FAQ: Guidelines for Hardware and Product Design Projects

    On Thursday we announced new guidelines for Hardware and Product Design projects on Kickstarter, including prohibiting product simulations, renderings, and offering multiple quantities of a reward. Today we wanted to answer some common questions we've seen in response. Thanks for reading.

    Kickstarter announced that it's prohibiting product renderings in the Hardware and Product Design categories, but "rendering" can mean a lot of things. What does Kickstarter mean?

    To clarify, we mean photorealistic renderings of a product concept. Technical drawings, CAD designs, sketches, and other parts of the design process will continue to be allowed. Seeing the guts of the creative process is important. We love that stuff. However renderings that could be mistaken for finished products are prohibited.

    Do the new guidelines mean that Kickstarter will only accept Hardware and Product Design projects with finished products?

    Not at all. We simply ask creators to share with backers exactly what’s been done so far, show how the product currently works, and explain how it will be completed. In short, we expect creators to show their work. Backers have shown that they're happy to get involved in projects that are in earlier stages when the creator is clear about the remaining work and their ability to complete it.

    Do the new guidelines apply beyond Hardware and Product Design projects that are developing new products?

    No. The new guidelines only apply to Hardware and Product Design projects that are developing new products. These guidelines do not apply to Design projects like the LowLine and +Pool or Hardware projects like Stompy: The Giant Rideable Walking Robot. Why? They aren’t developing new products that backers are expecting in their mailboxes.

    How will Kickstarter know whether something is a simulation or rendering?

    We may not know. We do only a quick review to make sure a project meets our guidelines. If an obvious simulation or photorealistic rendering is spotted during that review, that project will not be allowed to launch. If a simulation or photorealistic rendering is discovered after a project launches, that project will be canceled. Everyone should continue to use their best judgment when deciding whether or not to back a project.

    Kickstarter announced that Hardware and Product Design rewards could only be offered in single quantities. What if my product works best as a pair or as a set of five?

    As we noted in the announcement, sensible sets are fine. If your piece of hardware is best offered as a set of five, that's okay, however you couldn’t also offer it as a single piece. Creators will have to decide what works best for their project.

    Final thoughts?

    We created Kickstarter so more creative work could exist in the world, and last week's changes are in service of that mission. We're confident that these updates will lead to an even better Kickstarter. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, and thanks for being a part of it!

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