Longhouse 2.1 was originally intended as a preliminary introduction to our 10 Loyalist College Animation interns to basic archaeological research and visualization of archaeological material. As Sustainable Archaeology is located directly within the Museum of Ontario Archaeology, the students had direct exposure to the partially reconstructed Lawson Neutral Iroquoian Longhouse Village.
Additionally they were within driving distance to the Ska-Nah-Doht Village & Museum, a reconstructed Early Iroquoian Longhouse Village site which provided an excellent example of different architectural styles as well as interpretive visions.
The students had the opportunity to physically experience the reconstructed spaces, understand the materials used in the reconstruction and get a sense of the sound, light and atmospherics produced in such a building.
Following traditional Film & TV methodology, the students used these physical references and the archaeological data from the Lawson site to start envisioning what a 3D representation of a Longhouse would look like.
In representing what essentially was a reinterpretation of the archaeological data, the risk of this process is that there are multiple voices and competing visions as each artist, from the initial physical longhouse construction to the reimagined 3D representation is being played out visually.
Yet an opportunity exists that the assets, what we like to call them in 3D lingo, are easily moved, reconfigured or even reinterpreted allowing for a more user centric approach. Even in the two artists renderings above, little details like the direction of the support slats on the bench seating are different, each representing a different interpretation of the physical reconstruction of the longhouses visited. Within 3D space, these tests can be played out with little effort, thus representing an opportunity for public stakeholders to engage with the archaeological record through their own perceptions.
Additional 3D models were made to represent the typical material potentially in daily use within and around a longhouse. These assets then become props within the greater phenomenological experience, however through 3D scanning artifacts from the actual archaeological landscape can now inhabit the virtual archaeological landscape as well.
Construction on the virtual longhouse became an interpretation of the existing physical reconstructed houses, the visual historical material and some archaeological data. Again, the purpose was not to accurately recreate a longhouse per se, but to see what process these trained animators would use to reconstructed a longhouse within the 3D space.
As the models began to materialize, the students started asking the same questions posed by Wright, Kapches and Snow. Additionally, the challenges to model the objects in 3D also determine the visual outcomes or interpretation of the subject matter in question.
Modeling within 3D space sometimes lacks the randomness that real life constantly provides. Assets are replicated, such as the cedar shingles in the image above and thus, the interpretation looses some of the key features we would assume to be present in a typical longhouse construction.
The final product, although representative of the subject matter, is in essence a copy of a copy.
This was a wonderful initial first run for the students and the archaeologists alike. It provide a unique opportunity for the SA to see the production process from a traditional 3D animation methodology and it initiated the very same questions archaeologists would ask themselves when visualizing the archaeological record. It also provided a jumping off spot to explore the necessity of having real-time, user defined and engaged content delivery systems.
The exercise provide the assets needed to continue the development process. In Longhouse 2.2, we move into the real-time, user discovery environment. It also represents a major pivot towards a sustainable and interactive approach to 3D visualization of archaeological material.