'Dinosaur Revolution' speculates on how dinosaurs lived

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Chatham University associate professor of biology Michael Habib is no stranger to TV shows about dinosaurs. In 2009, he was among the experts interviewed in Discovery Channel's "Clash of the Dinosaurs," about dinosaur physiology.

He'll be back on screen in the Sept. 11 episodes of Discovery's latest, "Dinosaur Revolution" (9-11 p.m. Sunday and Sept. 11), but his larger role was behind the scenes.

" 'Dinosaur Revolution' is much more about the dinosaurs' lives and dinosaur behaviors, what they might have done," Mr. Habib said. "It's much less of a typical documentary and more of a story, more of an in-the-field mockup."

"Dinosaur Revolution" is sparsely narrated with lengthy segments of computer-animated dinosaurs in their natural habitats.

'Dinosaur Revolution'

When: 9-11 p.m. Sunday and Sept. 11, Discovery Channel.

"Myself and the other individuals interviewed appear on screen in short intermissions between the longer sequences," Mr. Habib said. "It doesn't bounce back and forth the way it does in a more typical natural science documentary."

In addition to the Chatham professor, "Dinosaur Revolution" also includes commentary from another Pittsburgher: Matt Lamanna, paleontologist at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

Mr. Habib said he was brought onto the project by his friend, "Dinosaur Revolution" art director David Krentz, whom Mr. Habib calls one of his favorite "paleo-artists" -- an artist who creates illustrations of extinct organisms.

Although Mr. Habib spent a day being interviewed for "Dinosaur Revolution," he said his larger contribution was acting as a consultant on the project for almost two years. Producers would send him rough drafts of the computer animation and he'd give notes on what was accurate or what needed to be changed.

"I would often do response sketches of my own or annotate their sketches," he said. "One of the nice things about living in the digital age is you can do stuff remotely."

Mr. Habib consulted on scene development, anatomical accuracy and general advice on what animals might have existed in any particular scene producers were looking to create.

"They'd say, 'We need a medium-size Pterosaur that ate fish and lived in the early Cretaceous,' and I'd get them a list they could use," he said, noting that "Dinosaur Revolution" producers strove for accuracy and didn't rely solely on a Google image search, a mistake some producers make that can introduce inaccuracies into film productions. "They think, no one knows the difference, but you'd be amazed how often kids know the difference.

"Never underestimate the accuracy of the checking ability of a small child on a show that involves dinosaurs," Mr. Habib said, chuckling. "I'll just throw that advice out there for the [entertainment] industry in general."

Mr. Habib suggested one sequence involving a Pterosaur that couldn't be prepared in time for the Discovery airing but may be included on a DVD release or in a sequel.

He blogs about his work on dinosaur studies with a colleague at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles at http://h2vp.blogspot.com.


A version of this story first appeared in Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. TV writer Rob Owen: rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook.


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