Ten Years of Legal Work

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Fat Pencil Studio was founded in 2004, but it wasn't until 2009 that we had our first opportunity to create visual stories for litigation. Since then, we've been lucky enough to work on a fascinating array of projects and meet many dedicated, wonderful legal professionals. Here's a look back at some of our landmark cases from the past decade. We tried to keep it to one per year, but some of our best work from 2019 isn't quite ready to share yet. So we included a couple of extra projects from 2018 as honorable mentions. Enjoy!


2010 - 13th & Everett

13th & Everett

This was our second legal case, and our first opportunity to bring digital 3d models to a courtroom. We reconstructed the scene and were able to help eyewitnesses describe the events from their point of view.


2011 - Wall Defects

wall section

This project offered us a chance to flex our architectural expertise for a legal team needing to explain the complex circumstances causing leaks in a remodeled high school. We also set a studio record for number of layers in a SketchUp model. This "peel-away" wall section was designed to be turned on layer by layer to compare the as-designed vs as-built conditions.


2012 - Underwater Diver

Close-up of underwater diver at work.

This case involved an injury sustained by a commercial diver forced to work in unsafe conditions on an offshore pipeline. This was the first time we used real-time 3d modeling to pose a human figure.


2013 - Trimet Case Settles

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It has been dubbed TriMet's worst tragedy ever. Five pedestrians in a crosswalk were struck by a left turning transit bus. Two young women were killed, while the remaining three survived with moderate to severe injuries. We used photogrammetry to match video footage from the bus to a 3d model, reconstruct the path of the bus through the intersection, and demonstrate a huge blind spot created by the A-pillar and side view mirror. These kind of collisions happen all over the country on a shockingly regular basis. While the TriMet case was the first of this type for Fat Pencil Studio, it was not our last.


2014 - Evidence Thrown out the Window

drug-backpack-viz

This project was a great opportunity to visually compare two different theories and provide a plausible alternative for the defense team. It's a great example of stop-action animation which we use often to explain a sequence of events in criminal cases.


2015 - Morrison Bridge Deck Defects

Morrison Bridge Deck Detail

One of (my) favorite visualizations, a complex case with a wide variety of reference material and a large team involving multiple parties. We were charged with clearly explaining what exactly was failing on the deck and showing why it was happening.


2016 - Animated Balcony Fall

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We were able to start work on this case early and work closely with two expert witnesses to explain defects in a deck railing, and illustrate a man's fall from a third-story balcony one rainy and windy night.


2017 - Scaffolding Fall

head knocker

We needed to show how exactly a man hit his head when trying to descend a ladder from a scaffold. Ultimately, it was the placement of another support that prevented the plaintiff from getting a secure hold on the ladder and caused his fall.


2018 - Bus Sideswipes Bicycle in Las Vegas

bus-bike-4k

This case required accurate modeling of a tour bus and a (very large) Las Vegas intersection. We worked with laser scanned point cloud data and security video footage to reconstruct the collision that led to a man's death. This case also set a record for longest stretch (90 minutes) of live 3d modeling during direct and cross examination.


Cell Phone Data Tells a Story (2018)

Cell Phone Data Interface demo-2

This one gets an honorable mention because we were working with a huge data set, including a couple months worth of of geolocated call records for several individuals. We developed a web-based tool that allowed investigators to filter the data and piece together a story to explain the movements of their client.


Hallway Shooting (2018)

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This one gets an honorable mention because we're STILL working with new ways to visualize and interact with the scene. From point clouds to virtual reality, we are continuing to work with the materials of this case to push the boundaries of what we can do in crime scene visualization. Keep an eye out for continued updates to the story.

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Jannine Hanczarek is a Technical Illustrator at Fat Pencil Studio.