Why: 3D Tracking Concepts…

How To: 3D Tracking Concepts
The Concepts of Tracking

What if … 

On a world essentially like earth … (‘cept for a minor detail or so)

All along the great Slope-Where-Sand-Moves …  (“Pacific” and “Atlantic” come to mind)

And for as long memory holds …

Mysteries have persisted …

Sand … moving in no-wind

Drifting … in sheets up slope and down

Whirling … in slow to settle clouds

Oh yeah, the ‘minor’ detail … no one on this planet can perceive water … yet.

A Tracking Concept: Canine claw tip in fine sand

Definition of a Tracking Concept …

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

Why 3-D Tracking Concepts?

Is a skill kept in use if it provides no helpful benefit? … Tracking is still in use.

Tracks are created by a process, part of which remains unseen … Hidden by the foot … or occurring too fast for the eye.

How does the student learn the unseen?

How do you teach that?

Illustrations are an essential aid to beginning trackers …

Methods of illustration used in the literature of tracking include; line drawings, hand-made examples, track boxes and patches, words, photos, videos, and rarely,  three-dimensional moving images.

Illustrations: Mountain Lion track

Each method works well within its limitations.  The illustration to the right is an example of two different methods used to present the same track.  After a glance are you satisfied that either method demonstrates the process of the track’s creation?  Not even to mention weathering?

In one way the process of drawing is a huge help, it does tend to cause the mind to notice details.  Another benefit is that drawings can be created to emphasize the important details.  A limitation?  It cannot demonstrate entire processes.  Another?  It depends on the knowledge, perception, and accuracy of the illustrator.

Videos of track formation in the real world do capture processes … with other limitations.  The most obvious limitation the foot itself, obscuring the responses of the foot surface and earth beneath as the track is formed.

Complete illustrations of the entire process can now be created on a home computer (all video clips presented on this site were done at home on a Dell laptop) using three-dimensional animated figures, combined with computer simulation of the physics involved.

Tracker learning curve can be long & time required significant … We all trade time from our limited life budgets for knowledge and experience. Each of the overlapping stages in learning to track requires a little more of that resource.  Good thing society understands this?

Learning to identify who made that track? … Doesn’t take long, mostly.

Learning to read the story in one track, pair, or set? … Is subtler, with more layers, so more time must be spent.

Reading trails? … Much progress can be made quickly and it’s a learning process one can spend a lifetime in … You see, it combines all the other layers.

Prediction, the highest learning skill in any discipline … when one uses what they’ve already seen and learned from a track, or a trail to predict where the next track will be, what it will look like, or what the animal was up to … can be used right from the start and developed forever after.

Other limitations may hobble the learning process … And can become more obvious as a student progresses.

Preconceptions; about animal behavior, what layers are revealed in a track or trail, and maybe most limiting, of what the mind can actually perceive.

Available learning materials.

No trespassing boundaries.


It boils down to: “Teacher and student must trade time for knowledge and experience, and sometimes that’s an expensive deal.  Might greater progress be gained and less time traded if three-dimensional moving illustrations demonstrated the processes of track formation?”

Well how do you feel about it?  

Are existing illustrations (superbly done and there’s loads) fully developed, and doing the best possible job of helping the tracking student reach their own goals?

How does the student resolve the need to compromise between making their way thru the world and studying tracking?

What happens to the learning curve when student trackers have a chance to assimilate the skills by seeing the tracking process through the eye of a master tracker?

How many ways are there for that to happen?

The intent …

Comes from looking back at the limitations encountered in the process of learning to track … wondering if there may be a need to create more complete illustrations as learning tools … and is to explore ways to do that, and stir interest in accomplishing the…

Final versions …

A blessing there’s no such critter!  Which is to say this work is open-ended.  Who knows how far it can be nudged?

And, what can be done?  To continue nudging the illustrations of tracking concepts towards their full possible usefulness a sustained group effort, to include the experienced tracking perspectives of many trackers, will make the best progress.  This site is an effort to stir interest among other trackers in accomplishing that.

Perspectives on some questions …

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 have you seen, in any visual medium, and how complete did they seem?

The author believes there is an open area in the literature,  a lack of complete illustrations of track formation processes, aging and how to read them.  Perhaps that has to do with the nature of tracks being constantly changing events that can last for millions of years (dinosaur tracks are still aging)?  And maybe it’s partly because they result from a set of processes, each track an ongoing process of its own, and processes are challenging to illustrate?  Up until this era of powerful home computers amd free software the time and effort required would have been so great that it just wasn’t feasible to fully illustrate the process of track formation, especially if one considers aging.

Is it even possible to simulate and illustrate these processes accurately and do it clearly?  

Yes … If consideration is given to the physical laws involved.

Watched any new movies lately?  How much of that is computer simulation?   “Everything but the actors.”  Are you sure?  So again, yes, presently available technology and software can certainly do the job.

How helpful would it be to provide students with illustrations created to help them build mental search images for tracking related use?  Search Images? … a shortcut the brain naturally employs … The mind relies upon them for example quick identification when scanning the environment, or reading the details in a single track, and in all kinds of other ways.

To see a search image form, watch your own thought process as someone describes something … the author just had that experience as someone was describing how to find a certain turn on off a dirt road.  Then check that image you created for accuracy when you use it…

Has anyone ever pointed out something you’ve never before seen … When you were looking right at it and only seeing everything else?  And the next time you found it easier to notice that same thing?

What would happen to the learning process if three-dimensional moving illustrations could help the mind create search images of tracks and their formation processes?

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

Well, can’t answer that one for anyone else of course.  The author has found it to be a challenge and wonders if accurate communication may be one of humanities weaker skills.

How many ways are there to communicate that express things most clearly?  Three-dimensional animated format can carry all the information, except maybe smell, well, and then there’s what you sense when feel tracking …

Do we even need to see these processes?  

Maybe?  Or not?

Would seeing processes and all their parts as they happen, be a help to beginning trackers?

What do you think?  If yes, would an invisible foot creating a track be useful as a teaching tool?

Are there other worth-the-effort benefits to the use of animated illustrations of track formation processes?

Well, would you think it worth considerable effort to:

… show someone exactly what you see in your mind, and the fine details others may not yet notice?

… provide accurate illustrations of entire processes of track formation, with as much detail as desired, displayed in slow motion, the foot invisible (or not), the entire illustration observable from any angle, and with any degree of magnification?

… clearly illustrate that part of the track formation process you struggled with?  Gaits maybe? … so they could be seen, slowed down, paused, reversed, altered?  (Gotta say, imagining reversed gaits is right up there with Internet Protocols on the list of “Nobody can understand this!”.)

… reduce student learning time … And help instructors work more efficiently?

… demonstrate the track internals forming, as the foot creates them, at any level of detail?

… provide another way to suggest ideas or plant seeds for later thought … For example, would it be useful in getting new trackers thinking about what’s really going on between the layers; beings, environment, emotions, muscles, bones, skin and substrate, from the beginning of their training?

Is there an even better way?

If not now eventually?  Isn’t that within the nature of human progress?

Interested?  Tempted?

Give it a go!  Please, please do!  How many current or future trackers might be glad you did?

If you are a tracker you’ve got knowledge to share.  If not an illustrator, and want to share your insights … Would working with an illustrator be a useful way to accomplish that?

I encourage you to contact the author or even better explore doing this work on your own!  Blender 3D is a good starting place, it’s free … This work will help others and like side-heading (a term coined by Tom Brown, Jr.) with a flashlight at night, it’s sure and certain to get you thinking about tracking from a new perspective every time.

How To: The Concepts Of Tracking

The Concepts Of Tracking

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