Why: 3D Tracking Concepts…

How To: 3D Tracking Concepts
The Concepts of Tracking

A Tracking Concept Illustrated: Canine claw tip in fine sand

What is a Tracking Concept?

(as used here) … Any aspect of reading the tracks and trail of any being or object, across any surface, including methods, definitions, track structures, or movements.

Why 3-D Tracking Concepts? (long version)

Through time and from one human generation to the next, is a skill kept in use if it provides no real benefit? … Tracking is still in use.

There are traditional forms of teaching tracking passed from one generation to the next for at least the last 20-30,000 years, and probably longer, evolving until finely honed … What would it be like if computer simulations added something useful to the old ways?

Like maybe helping the students learn a bit faster?

After all, how long is the learning curve for mastering the art of tracking?

What if it could be reduced by clearly demonstrating the processes of track formation … In motion … And without the foot obscuring formation of the track internals?

And though current illustrations of tracking concepts are excellent … Do they take full advantage of the technology and software presently available? … Well, how many illustrations of the entire process of a track being made have you seen?

It is now possible to accurately simulate the processes of track formation on a home computer in three-dimensional (3-D) animated format … Without formal training … And to create simulations that reveal the processes of interaction between foot and substrate, and the formation of track internals.

Can one simulate and illustrate processes accurately and clearly?  Yes … If consideration is given to the physical laws involved …

Animated illustrations can be created from these simulations … And the software used does incorporate the laws of physics.

Mental search images … The mind relies upon them, so would it be helpful to provide students with illustrations created to help them build those search images?

“Search Image” … As used here means the mental image you use when scanning your environment for that object … Or when reading the details in a single track … A kind of shortcut the brain naturally employs.

Could three-dimensional moving illustrations help the mind create search images of tracks and their formation processes?

If so, wouldn’t more complete search images make learning, assimilation, and track interpretation  easier, more efficient, and more complete?

How many ways are there to communicate?   Which ones express things most clearly?  Three-dimensional animated format is pretty darn useful! 

When was the last time you succeeded at expressing exactly what you see in your mind, exactly as you see it?

Do illustrations of tracking concepts in 3-D format already exist? … Yes, with a scientific focus on the interpretation of dinosaur tracks and pathways.

   To explore these you might begin by searching the internet using the terms “ichnology” and “neoichnology”.

  A collection of recent articles on the subject can be found in the book “Dinosaur Tracks: The Next Steps (Life of the Past), by Peter J. Falkingham (Editor), Daniel Marty (Editor), Annette Richter (Editor).

Tracks … Result from a set of processes … Each track a process of its own …

The processes of reading tracks, track formation and aging are already  illustrated and fully discussed in the literature … As still-life glimpses of constantly changing events that can last for millions of  years (Dinosaur tracks are still aging) … Processes can sometimes be illustrated most clearly by accurate simulations of their full three-dimensional time-related changes.

Illustrations Are An Essential Aid to Beginning Trackers …

The methods of illustration used most include; dirt time, drawings, hand-made examples, track boxes, words, photos, and videos.

Each method of illustration works well within its limitations.  Here are examples of the limitations of a photo and a drawing of the same track.

Making Details Obvious

Drawings and photos depend on light and shadow to emphasize and define the object.  It is not possible to light a real track so that all the features are clearly visible at once … No way.  So one photo usually can’t reveal the whole story in a single track. (Doesn’t help much when the author/photographer clips off the outer edges of the track, and lays the ruler on a track feature!)

The process of drawing is a huge help to reading tracks because the mind has to to notice details in order to draw them.  Drawings can be created in such a way as to emphasize fine detail.

Can these two methods of illustration demonstrate processes in action?  How well do those efforts succeed?

Videos of track formation in the real world do capture processes … with limitations.  The most obvious is the foot itself obscuring the response of the earth and the foot surface as the track is made.

Does We Need To See These Processes? … Maybe, maybe not …

Would seeing them help beginning trackers?  What do you think?  If yes, how useful would an invisible foot be as a teaching tool?

That is being explored on this website.  Using 3D modeling software to simulate a foot and substrate (sand here) the foot can be animated to move however desired, and the physics of the foot and sand interacting can be simulated using the principles of physics to control their interaction.

And using 3D printing one can “print” a three-dimensional copy of that track.  Link to 3dprinting.com a website providing tutorials:

Are There Worth-The-Effort Benefits From Use of Animated Illustrations of Track Formation Processes?

The ability to show someone exactly what you see in your mind, the fine details others may not notice?

Accurate illustrations of entire processes of track formation, with as much detail as desired, displayed in slow motion, the foot invisible, the entire illustration observable from any angle, and with any degree of magnification.

Which part of the track formation process do you wish was illustrated so it is utterly clear to someone else?

What concepts did you struggle with most as you learned to track.  Gaits maybe? … This medium can be used to illustrate them, slow them down, pause them at any chosen point, while seeing the tracks.

Reduced learning time for students … And less frustration for instructors.

A clear way to exactly demonstrate the track internals forming, as the foot creates them.

Another way to suggest ideas or plant seeds for later thought … For example: would it be useful to get new trackers thinking about what’s really going on between the muscles, bones, skin and substrate from the beginning of their training.


I encourage you to contact the author or explore doing this work on your own!  Blender 3D is a good starting place, it’s free … Doing this work is helping others and it sure to get you thinking about tracking from a new perspective.

How To: The Concepts Of Tracking

The Concepts Of Tracking

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