View Full Version : Maas Digital animates Spirit Mars rover

01 January 2004, 07:50 AM
I just watched the music video Maas Digital did to accompany the media used to describe the Mars Exploration Rover Mission and it's quite cool.

You can check out snippets at:

but I recommend viewing the entire music video because it contains much more and is accompanied by a soundtrack with SFX.

You can view the entire music video here:

You can check out the latest on the Mars Exploration Rover Mission (it landed on Mars tonight around 9pm Pacific!) at:

Very impressive stuff from JPL as well as Maas Digital.

That's it.

01 January 2004, 07:52 AM
Also, check out the Nova special tomorrow night that includes additional rover animation. You can read more here:

01 January 2004, 08:26 AM
It seems that the images received from the lander are being updated mostly on the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's web site at :

Go there for the latest!

Ross Forster
01 January 2004, 01:10 PM
Yeah, I was pretty impressed with the work from Mass when it was first released. Great work.

Excellent news that it landed safely...I just wish Beagle 2 would call home.:cry:


01 January 2004, 01:28 PM
That thing is quite ingenious. I knew it was multi-stage and all, but i didn't realize it took that many stages.
There must a way to minimalize that, and shave off a few bucks :)

Sucks that the beagle failed though..

Ross Forster
01 January 2004, 11:49 AM
Hey:eek: Beagle 2 hasen't failed yet, there are still many opportunities to cantact it with Mars Express.


01 January 2004, 03:21 PM
heh. call me stupid but i felt kind of sorry for the lil thingy at the end. stranded all alone on the planet with the piano playing in the background.


01 January 2004, 08:10 PM
Heh. I fired up the vid and got an "FBI Warning". :eek:

01 January 2004, 08:14 PM
Neato! They used spherical panoramas for the backgrounds! Wunner which software they used to make those.

01 January 2004, 09:19 PM
Its my understanding, for what ever thats worth, that David and Maas Digital does most of their work with LW and software he writes. I may be wrong so please someone correct me if I am.
As for Nova, that first part was preety damn cool. I truely enjoyed it. I hope we see more good stuff in the second part on Tues. Does anybody know if they are going to do a followup when the second rover lands?

01 January 2004, 01:37 AM
Hi guys, it's Dan Maas. You can reach me at (dmaas at, send a link to threads like these so I can respond...

Yeah the lawyers made me put on the "FBI warning." Not my choice.

The backgrounds for the launch from earth were painted together from still photos in Photoshop. The distant Mars terrain is a 360 degree rendering mapped onto a cylinder, and the close-up mars terrain is a polygonal object (with polygonal rocks). I tried using Terragen at one point for this but aliasing was a serious problem.

90% of the elements were created in Lightwave 3D with some assistance from custom plugins (e.g. StarPro ( and RenderMan. I still use Lightwave for modeling and animation but I am moving to RenderMan for rendering. Its motion blur and anti-aliasing are much better than Lightwave.

There is more coming from Nova but I don't think I can discuss it yet.

01 January 2004, 01:41 AM
Pleasure to meet you, Dan.

Out of curiosity, have you head of iMove or Infinite Pictures? I ask because they used to sell software for creating and working with spherical imagery.

Ross Forster
01 January 2004, 02:30 AM
Hello Dan, nice to see you here.

I must admit, the close up shots of the rover, especially when its drilling into the rock are very sweet. Great work.

What map res do you like to work with for the planet shots?


01 January 2004, 05:56 AM
Actually I haven't used any hemisphere or spherical images. Most of my backgrounds are mapped onto rectangular cards, or 360 degree cylinders. These are very easy to paint. When the camera motion covers a wider angle, like in some of the launch shots, I don't spend too much time perfecting the background because motion blur smears it all anyway :)

As for Mars, it wasn't really one model, there was a different model and texture for each shot. The most distant shots use a 5000-pixel-wide mosaic of images from the Viking orbiters (I think this one is available on the web). Closer in I combined the Viking mosaic with textures based on MOC images (lots of these are on the web). A lot of the Mars terrain is "invented" like this because the source data isn't so great for animation purposes (as opposed to the high-quality color images and altitude data available for Earth). You really need a lot of resolution in terrain texture maps, since the pixels get a lot bigger when stretched out close to the camera. A texture that looks great viewed from straight above might look terrible when the camera is down close to it. So I often end up painting in extra detail for situations like that.

I put about 2 months of work into the Rover model. I'm very proud of its level of detail :)

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