Who Made the Evolution Video?

star32 Million views in 3 days?

First of all, I am a filmmaker, not a spokesman for Yale University Press or Gurche Reconstructions and what I think or say does not necessarily represent the views of the publisher or the artist.

Yale University Press commissioned me to make an animation of John Gurche’s incredibly life-like reconstructions of human ancestors to help promote John’s book, Shaping Humanity, which came out November, 2013.

This short evolution video took me slightly less than actual evolutionary time to make–drawing thousands of “missing links” between John’s reconstructions and tweaking the software (aftereffects, photoshop and twixtor) to create smooth transitions. His sculptures, which he arrives at using anatomical data from dissections of humans and apes, built over casts of actual skulls (like you’ve seen on forensics shows like Quincy and Bones), take considerably longer. This film represents years of work and decades of scientific inquiry.

What we were promoting

John’s book, which is sumptuous, well-written, and fascinating, will answer many of the questions that the poachers who’ve posted our video cannot. He is more than a clever reconstructor of early primates, he’s an intellectual powerhouse. A visionary. The soul and spirit that John Gurche breathes into the faces of our ancestors is what makes this film so powerful.

We had all hoped the film would go viral and John and his publisher would sell lots of books and I would become a sought-after animator (the seamless morphing from one ancestor to the next WAS my idea).

Evolution Video making of screenshot
Shaping Humanity Animation Rendering.

The movie shows still images morphing from one known ancestor to the next, over two  minutes.  We were all sure it would be a hit.  But the YouTube response was less than viral. At first.

“We’ve been robbed!”

Inverse FaceBook mediaNow, TWO YEARS after the book was published, and fueled by a public debate I’ll steer clear of (mostly–see comments here), a version of the film that Inverse, chopped the credits and the watermark off of and called their own, (thanks alot) was posted to FaceBook and has gotten 32 million views in three days.

Intellectual property theft, or just another sort of evolution?

On one hand I’m annoyed that the film has been “taken away” (posted by someone else with no reference to us, the artist/author, filmmaker, musicians), on the other, I am just glad that it’s finally taken off.   I certainly don’t want to complain about 32 million views. Maybe the loss of credit and context was just that tiny little mutation, adaptation, if you will (and I’m not saying you have to), that this film needed to thrive in the collective consciousness.

star“Some primatologists consider the possibility that we are moving toward a species-wide unit, a kind of global organism” writes Gurche in the last chapter of his book, Shaping Humanity

The internet, and social media in particular, bears this theory out (this is me talking now, not John). I propose that this sort of viral social media makes ownership a moot point. Greg McGrath, Richie Stearns, Bing McCoy and I helped John make a great film of his amazing paleo art and Inverse, bless their black little hearts,  just performed the final, all-important step in the assimilation of the information; they stole it from us and delivered it to the hive mind in a form it could digest.Q: “Why does it end on a white man?”  (the debate I’m staying mostly away from).

A: It’s the face of the paleo-artist who recreated, with his own two hands, all the faces that have preceded it. Out of context (as it’s been served up by Inverse) the question is harder to answer and the debate about evolution and race may have helped the edited film go viral. It’s become a sort of collective koan (unanswerable question, dummy). In our version of the film, it is clear that the video was made to promote a book by a particular homo sapiens about why and how he came to be the world’s expert on paleolithic  reconstructions. A whole wing of the Smithsonian Museum is dedicated to his sculptures.  So he seemed like as good a face as any to put there.

starAs the the question of the final evolution of man, I propose that the stolen film, the ongoing debate, the viral phenomenon, the internet, THIS is the continuing evolution of mankind–an endless string of comments, a storm in our our brand-new “hive mind.” It’s perfect! Read the book

We do our best to make sure our work is as good as it can be and we toss it out into the deep water, chum it with some good tags and descriptions and hope for a feeding frenzy. I suppose anyone truly interested in the filmmaking and art could find the version with credits easily enough. Actually, that’s what this post is all about. Here it is.

Please comment.

4 thoughts on “Who Made the Evolution Video?”

    1. Good idea! Some of the early human ancestors in the film actually ARE female. I can’t speak for the artist, but I know that the reconstructions are somewhat dependent on what fossils are available. Also, it takes months to do one head. The models in this film represent years of work and what you propose would take twice that long, if the fossils are even available.

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