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Issue: Volume 36 Issue 7: (Nov/Dec 2013)

Portfolio - Dana Berry


Dana Berry is not your everyday computer graphics artist/ animator. He’s been around since digital imaging was in its infancy. Clutching a bachelor’s degree in fine art with coursework in astronomy and a newly minted MFA in film production, Berry landed his first big job as a digital artist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in the late 1980s, where he helped establish the Astronomy Visualization Laboratory for NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. His beautifully rendered images and animations have been used continuously by NASA to help educate the public and the media about space science for the past 25 years. His illustrations have appeared on the covers of numerous magazines, including Discover, Astronomy, Sky and Telescope, Nature, the New York Times, and, most recently, National Geographic Magazine. His work uniquely parlays his expertise in visual imaging and art direction, with an adoration of all things scientific, particularly astronomy.

A milestone in Berry’s career came when he was tapped to create new animated content for the restored 25th Anniversary Edition of Carl Sagan’s original Cosmos series. Later, he developed, created, produced, wrote, and directed three original documentary specials for the National Geographic Channel, including Hubble’s Amazing Universe, the Emmy Award-Nominated Alien Earths, and its sequel, Finding the Next Earth.

Earth Like Moon Worlds Adrift War of the Worlds New look at Saturn

CLOCKWISE from top left:
Earth-like Moon: This scene of a hypothetical Earth-like world was generated in Maya with texture maps from Hubble images and from scans of cracked asphalt.
Worlds Adrift: This image of a planet-size body in eternal night, wandering into a super massive black hole, was made in Maya.
New Look at Saturn: Saturn and its rings as seen above its North Pole, generated entirely in Maya using texture maps derived from NASA’s Cassini mission photography.
War of the Worlds: This scene of Martian invaders was made for Berry’s book Race to Mars.

Berry currently works as a freelance producer, director, and artist, and most recently was hired by NASA to create art and animations for its latest LADEE Moon Mission. Insofar as the space program has evolved over the time span of Berry’s career, so have computer graphics. When he entered the field, Berry’s tools were centered around an SGI Iris 3130, a machine the size of a refrigerator. Today, Berry utilizes a more powerful desktop computer with Autodesk Maya software at the core of his 3D graphics pipeline. But Maya is more than a software tool for Berry – from the warped edge of a massive black hole, to the very frontiers of time and space, Maya has been Berry’s main portal to the universe.

Daedalus LADEE Wrecking Worlds, Making Moons

CLOCKWISE from top left:
Daedalus: The Daedalus spacecraft appears flying past an Earth-like world. This scene was derived from art generated in Maya and Adobe Photoshop.
LADEE: The spacecraft and the moon were generated in Maya, with texture maps derived from photographs of the actual spacecraft. The moon features are based on LRO and Clementine data.
Wrecking Worlds, Making Moons: The planets and ejecta stream were modeled and rendered separately in Maya. Texture maps were derived from photos of rocks, and the ejecta combines Maya shatter elements with ink-on-paper splatters.

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