Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Guest Blog #2: Animating the Past

Our second guest blog features the experiences of Colin Creamer during his participation in the Sustainable Archaeology Animation Unit internship this summer. Colin is a recent graduate of the Loyalist College Animation and New Media program, and was recently hired by Sustainable Archaeology. 

Animating the Past 
By Colin Creamer

As animators we come from an artistic and tech-savvy background and look at the world much differently than archaeologists might. We had very little knowledge of the world of archaeology. When we discovered we could come all the way down to London from Loyalist College in Belleville, to work at a museum, it wasn’t so much the history and knowledge of the past that caught our attention, but more so the opportunity to get hands-on experience with new technologies. At Loyalist College this past year, we were just beginning to get into some of the freeware scanning solutions such as Autodesk’s 123D Catch, an image driven 3D reconstruction platform. It was really cool to see real-life objects come into digital existence. However with this platform, being a beta, you got whatever it gave you and had no real control over the results. Sometimes it worked, but most of the time you would get some deformity that resembles nothing of the original object being scanned. This made the idea of working with the-real-deal industrial grade scanners all the more appealing.

Colin Creamer sets up an artifact scan
After jumping the fence and zipping down to London, we started our work term with the Sustainable Archaeology Animation Unit (SAAU). May 7th 2012 was our first day. We got the tour of the facility, and were in awe as we saw the massive mechanical aisles of the artifact repository sliding across the floor. To think, these shelving units would soon be the home of hundreds of thousands of artifacts in the near future. We would be a part of that process, scanning a variety of artifacts for digital archiving. Unfortunately… there was one problem. Things were only just starting to come together. The scanners would not be arriving for at least another three weeks. So now there’s a room full of animators, but nothing to do. We needed a project to keep us occupied and seeing as we are animators after all, the idea sprouted to create a recreation animation of the Lawson Village site, a 16th century Neutral Iroquoian site, located just outside the facility, next door at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology.

 The animation of the village would give an understanding to interested onlookers. However seeing as none of us animators are archaeologists; in order to pursue this new project, we needed to develop an understanding of what archaeology is and learn as much as we could about the Lawson site. The animation had to appeal to people that have little or no understanding of archaeological findings. Also on the other hand, each archaeologist has their own interpretation of what a village site would look like, and we had to show something that was accurate. Throughout the term we were learning new things little by little. At first, we went out to do some concept art in the site, and draw anything and everything we saw. We also obtained archaeological maps which illustrated the shape of the land as well as features that showed exactly where the long houses and palisade posts resided. This allowed us to build an accurate representation of the site layout. We also went on a field trip to the Ska-Nah-Doht Village and Museum site, to get a better general understanding of how things were thought to have been at the time that the Lawson Site was occupied. All of this research informed how we designed and created the animation.

 Having started with no insight or real knowledge of archaeology, working at the museum on related projects has bridged the gap between two, normally unrelated fields. The experience is continually exposing us to the terminologies and ways of archaeology. This unique mix has allowed us to successfully achieve projects such as the Lawson animation, that both people from inside and out of archaeology can appreciate and enjoy.

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