Skull of Zuul crurivastator. Brian Boyle © Royal Ontario Museum
A remarkably well-preserved ankylosaur, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Zuul the Gatekeeper from Ghostbusters, was recently on display at the ROM. Discovered in Hill County, Montana in 2014 by ROM paleontologists, Zuul (pronounced “zool”) crurivastator (cre-eh-vas-TATE-or) is one of the most complete skeletons ever found for an ankylosaur. Due to its long, clubbed tail, Zuul has been aptly classified as an armoured dinosaur, joining the ranks of other members of the ankylosaurus species that lived in the Cretaceous period approximately 76 million years ago. Ankylosaurs were known to use their sturdy clubbed tails as defense mechanisms when faced with predatory opponents. The hands-on, interactive exhibit named Zuul: Life of an Armoured Dinosaur was on display from December 15, 2018 to May 20, 2019. Creating a Dinosaur Display In preparation for the highly anticipated exhibit, the ROM needed an expert team of experienced 3D sculptors and modelers to design, model, and construct the 3D displays that were used as the basis for the physical reconstruction of the dinosaur. That’s where Applied Precision 3D  prevailed. The 3D modeling project started in October 2018 and was set to be completed by the opening date of the exhibit, just over two months later. With limited time and a strict deadline, the team worked diligently to artificially recreate the remains of this scientific wonder. Aside from the time pressures, one of the most challenging aspects of this project was attempting to recreate or at least compensate for some of the missing portions of the dinosaur. Although Zuul is considered to be one of the most complete dinosaur remains ever to be discovered, a few components were either missing or far beyond the point of restoration. To help make up for this, the 3D experts at Applied Precision worked closely alongside the museum’s resident paleontologists and dinosaur bone restoration experts to design and create the most lifelike model of Zuul possible. True-to-Life 3D Sculpting Onsite crews worked tirelessly to ensure that every last detail was precisely replicated right down to the last scale. The project was successfully completed in time for the planned opening. After extensive planning, preparation, and marketing campaigns, the exhibit was opened to the general public and was met with much-warranted awe and wonder from guests of all ages. Using the state-of-the-art ZBrush software package and other specialized digital 3D tools, Applied Precision 3D was able to complete their assignment successfully well-ahead of schedule. Digital 3D sculpting tools and features, such as customizable brushes, played a significant role in shaping, texturing, and painting the unique nuances of the virtual 3D model to make it as true to life as possible. As a result, ROM patrons were swept away on an exciting hands-on and interactive journey through time to truly understand how these magnificent creatures lived. In addition to helping restore Zuul, Applied Precision 3D has also provided highly specialized 3D digitizing and modeling for museums and sculptors across North America. For more information about Zuul: Life of an Armoured Dinosaur and the role Applied Precision played in helping it come together, please contact us.