Skiing Collision Case Study

Attorney Jim Gigax and Kineticorp Forensic Animators, Toby Terpstra and Tomas Owens, discuss a case involving a skiing collision, which resulted in injuries to both parties. Topics covered include case details, diving into the evidence, creating the animation and the outcome for the clients.

Video Transcription

[Jim Gigax]: This young man had jumped — had just made a 360 without looking. He was just flying. Wiped out this gentleman, and came up and was just screaming at him and the person who wiped him out had verbally abused him in the presence of his wife. His life had been fundamentally altered to the negative. My client was a 63-year-old dentist, a very successful dentist. This incident broke his neck and he also had his shoulder ruined and you can have your shoulder reconstructed, but it’s never going to be the same.

[Tomas Owens]: Some of the pieces of information that we had from the beginning were injury locations. So, we know that one person was injured in a specific part of their body and we have any idea of where that contact may have happened. In this case, we had one gentleman who had a broken shoulder and the other one had injuries to his ankle. So, again, two puzzle pieces, I know they have to fit together somehow. Most likely, and all the other evidence led to the fact that this was sort of the contact point of what their impact configuration might have been.

So, we have to start with what physical evidence do we have? Do we have any video reference? Do we have photographs from the time of? And pretty often that’s our biggest resource, is the photographs taken at the time of the accident.

[Toby Terpstra]: So one of the things we didn’t know in this case was where exactly he came to rest. Fortunately, we had a couple photographs. Trying to locate where somebody came to rest in the middle of a ski run, there’s not a whole lot of features. Not a whole lot of landmarks in the middle. You’d be lucky to find something to use as a reference and really there’s nothing other than a berm up above and then the trees in the distance in both of these photographs.

[Tomas]: So, in this case, kind of the logical progression we used was starting with videos and photos, and being able to use photogrammetry to match up specifically where certain photos were taken and matching that up against the evidence that we took [ourselves] being the 3D scan data. So, the fact that we were fortunate enough to visit the actual site gives us a perfect one-to-one relationship of the digital world to the actual scene itself.

[Toby]: We actually took a radar gun out there, too, and measured other people as they were coming down the slope just to get a feeling for what the general traffic might be like. So, this guy is following his friends down in a lot of his YouTube videos… You get a feeling for their style of skiing. It’s useful to be able to understand how they’re moving as they do these jumps and so it becomes a great reference.

[Jim]: We got the clients involved, we had a meeting where we could show this animation to my clients who were in Tennessee and it was done to be admissible and it was a good final product we did get into evidence.

[Tomas]: My job as the animator is to create the most realistic and honest representation of how this person would have moved from A to B. So again the foundation gets us these sort of specific, hard coded positions that we need to be in and then it’s my job to determine the flow of the movement.

[Toby]: There’s a road that cuts through there and it creates kind of a natural berm that the skier was using as a jump and that berm, as you’re approaching it, you can’t see over it depending on where you’re at on the slope from, you know, left to right. So, it is a blind area that he took the jump over. And that visibility is occluded because of that berm or that road that’s cutting through there.

[Tomas]: One of the unique challenges that we faced was getting two characters, two bipedal representations to interact with each other and have physics take over. The fun of problem-solving this was getting to hop to another piece of software that I know would be a solution for this, but integrating that into our current workflow.

[Jim]: You let people who understand physics and are conversant with computer programs that incorporate physics and in turn that generates numbers and then the computer software will take these calculations and data points and that’s all run together to make it almost like a real video.

[It’s] very important for the attorney to put in the time to understand what’s going on, even though you have to rely on other people to do the math. You’ve got to understand how these people did their work in order to be able to explain it to a court so that the work product is admissible.

[Toby]: You don’t want to open yourself up to anything that can be criticized. So, we’re using 3D scan data to understand what the slope looks like and what the visibility is as you come over that berm from the roadway and we’re using everybody’s witness testimonies in conjunction with each other to understand how close other parties may have been. As you play through the animation, as you go through that sequence, it is important to understand how fast he was going and how close these other kids were and establishing the conditions at the time of the incident. What he did with his friends going blindly off this jump was dangerous.

[Jim]: Kineticorp was a key, strategic partner for my client and I, and they were a key part of the successful outcome of that case.