Tag Archive | 3D Modelling

Interactive Exhibit – Video

Bit of a delay since my last post, my apologies! As I get back into the swing of things, I hope my posts become a bit more regular.

Just a quick post today – a short video showing off my project for the Interactive Exhibit Design. Fellow PhD Candidate Steve Marti recorded and produced a series of videos showing off the class projects. Here’s mine:

Be sure to check out my classmate’s projects by clicking here (and scrolling to the bottom).

Interactive Exhibit – Final Thoughts

Having presented our exhibits to the class this past Wednesday, we were asked to provide a brief reflection on our projects. While I was happy with how it turned out, there are definitely some things I’d like to change for any future versions.


On the physical model, I think a list of the buildings would have helped viewers orient themselves to the layout of the camp. While each of the buildings are mentioned in the video, I’m not sure that it was clear which building the video was talking about.

One of the difficulties I encountered was the limited amount of time I had to share the history of the PoW camp. With the Makey-Makey, I was limited to five buttons and I just wasn’t able to tell as much as I would have liked in five videos (totaling five minutes).

As for my model, I found that Sketchup, or at least the computer I was using, was not able to handle the detail I had hoped to include. As I added more features to the model, I noticed that SketchUp began to slow down considerably. For example, turning on the shadow feature caused the computer to take a significant time to load an individual scene, and trying to export a twenty second video with shadows would have taken about twelve hours. Needless to say, I opted for the shadowless option, which only took five minutes!

While not the easiest of tasks, I would have liked to import the model into a better engine, perhaps something like the CryEngine. As the creators of this model of 17th Century London have demonstrated in the historic reconstruction of London, it definitely has the potential to bring the camp to life! However, I have a feeling that would require quite a bit of work.

Nonetheless, I hope that I’ve demonstrated one rather simply way of exhibiting a historic site that no longer exists!

Interactive Exhibit – The Final Product

Today, the Interactive Exhibit Design class is presenting exhibits. For those who are unable to attend, I thought I’d let you know how it turned out.

I have to say I am pretty happy with the way the bunkhouses look with Sketchup’s shadow/fog settings turned on (even if they did slow the computer down to an impossible-to-do-anything level). Note the most unusual of the camp prisoners, a black bear, in the middle.

Image4As I was writing this, I realized that I’ve made a few changes to the scenes below, but they give an idea of how it looks.



Now for a view of the physical model with the text panels.

photo 1

Now you may be asking, “how is this interactive?” If you look closely at the image above, you will notice a series of five black dots. These are actually buttons that are hooked up to a Makey-Makey hidden below. The Makey-Makey is controlled with a Max patch so that when a button is pushed, it triggers an attached computer to play a video of that specific area of the camp. All together, it looks something like this…


Interactive Exhibit – An Insider’s Look

As of yesterday afternoon, my exhibit is up and running without any hitches! As I was going through my images, I found that I still had some that I hadn’t shown yet.

One aspect that I wanted to show in some detail was the interior of the buildings. This, however, is rather complicated as, for the most part, I have no idea what the interiors looked like. That being said, the architectural plan that I had for my bunkhouse provides a sense of the interior layout and I tried my hand at a re-creation.

I did include a brief interior view in the previous version of my model but I had used some stereotypical bunkbeds obtained from Sketchup’s Warehouse. As I was going through my photo archives, I rembered that I had a photo of the bunkbeds at Riding Mountain, taken while the camp was under construction and the bunkbeds were stacked outside. From this, I was able to create the model below. The texture for the bedding was adapted from a photograph of a WWII Canadian-army issue blanket.

Untitled1 copy

Another building that I had some information about was the mess hall. In a recently acquired collection of photographs from the PoW camp in Sherbrooke, Quebec, I have a picture of the interior of the same type of mess hall used at Riding Mountain. Making some estimations regarding the dimensions, I built myself a basic table and bench. I also cropped out a not-so-happy PoW and included him in the model to provide some sense of scale.


Stay tuned in the next few days as I post some images of the final stage of my model!

Interactive Exhibit – Details are the Devil

While I knew I wanted to add some detail to my model, I had to narrow down what would be noticeable and, arguably more important, what I was actually able to model.

While they may not be the most glamorous or exciting, clothes lines were a necessity and they camp and they also offered me the opportunity to show off some of the uniforms and other items of clothing the PoWs would have been wearing at the camp. Fortunately, I did some research at the Canadian War Museum a few years ago and photographed, among others, some PoW uniforms with their distinctive red “target” on the backs. After a little bit of work, I was able to come up with this:

Screenshot_Mar23a copy

As wood-carving was a popular activity at the camp, some of the PoWs tried their hand at building their own furniture and garden fences to decorate their bunkhouses. From historic photographs of the camp, I was able to re-create some of the benches and fences that welcomed visitors to the PoW bunkhouses. Combined with the clothes lines, I think they help give a better sense of what the camp looked like in 1944.

Untitled 3 copy

Another aspect that was missing from my previous model was signs of any trees at the site. While nearly every tree around the camp had been removed in an effort to reduce the danger of a forest fire, the Parks Bureau wanted spruce to regenerate in the area and therefore a number of spruce trees were spared the axe. Luckily, I can make out the position of most of these trees from the aerial photograph and, using an existing model from Sketchup’s Warehouse, this is how it turned out!

Screenshot_Mar23j copy


Interactive Exhibit – Back to the Digital Model

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve last updated this so I thought I had better show what I have been up to!

With the physical model complete, the next step was to work on my digital model. Using my existing model as a base, I wanted to add more detail in order to make the camp a little more exciting and realistic. I also finally found a better picture of the style of building used for the kitchen and mess hall so I had to build that one again from scratch.

One of the first steps was to adjust the terrain. Google does provide data for terrain but due to the rather large scale used, it represents a very general representation of elevation. Because of this, my buildings would have one door in line with the ground while another would be three feet above the ground. Luckily, you can fiddle with that in Sketchup.

Terrain is usually hidden but once you turn on “Hidden Geometry,” you can start fiddling with the ground contours. As you can see from the image below, the ground is structured in a series of triangles. You can, however, add detail so that the triangles are smaller and only alter a specific section.


Adding detail to Google’s terrain.

Once this was completed, my buildings were now in line with the terrain!


PoW Bunkhouse with adjusted terrain.

Another of Sketchup’s tools is the ability to add fog and shadows. Fairly self-explanatory, fog helps hide the boundaries of the area that I’m working on while I’ve found shadows to help provide a little more of a realistic feel to the model.

Screenshot_Mar12a copy

Model of PoW camp with Fog and Shadows.

Fourth Symposium of Environmental Historians of Southern Ontario

I am happy to say that I will be presenting at the Fourth Symposium of Environmental Historians of Southern Ontario this Saturday (March 22, 2014). The University of Toronto, with support from NiCHE, is hosting the event which will be focusing on energy and forestry. I will be presenting some of my research about PoWs in Riding Mountain, with a focus on using HGIS and other digital methods to provide some new perspectives about life at the camp. The rest of the speakers are as follows:

Panel 1 – Energy and the Environment – 1:00 – 2:45pm 

Chris Conway, PhD candidate, History & Philosophy of Science & Technology, University of Toronto
“‘What is taken for granted’: Rethinking Electricity and the Environment in Ontario, 1974-1983.”

Stacy Nation-Knapper, PhD candidate, History, York University
“Sen’k’lip, Salmon, and Inundation: Indigenous Experiences of Columbia River Plateau Hydroelectric Development.”

Ruth Sandwell, Associate Professor, OISE, University of Toronto
“Artificial Lighting: How Manufactured Gas, Kerosene, and Electricity Made (and Polluted) the Modern World.”

Panel 2 – Forests and National Identity in Canada – 3:00 – 4:45pm

Michael O’Hagan, PhD candidate, History, Western University
“‘In the Midst of the Canadian Bush’: Mapping Prisoners of War in Riding Mountain National Park.”

Sinead Earley, PhD candidate, Geography, Queen’s University
“Forest Knowledge (re)Rooted: The Sopron Division of Hungarian Forestry at the University of British Columbia, 1956-1961.”

Joanna Dean, Associate Professor, History, Carleton University
“Crabapple Centennial.”

If you are interested in attending or are looking for more information, please click here.

Interactive Exhibit – Making Progress

If anyone had told me in my undergrad that I would be building a foam and paper model as part of my PhD coursework, I’m sure I would have thought they were crazy. However, here I am, building a scale replica of a PoW camp in an attempt to make an interactive exhibit.

I have now finished the physical model of the camp. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the model is on a foam board overlain with an aerial photograph of the site. The buildings were scaled to size and built with a foam frame. I then copied the textures from my digital model, scaled them down, and produced a fold- and cut-out version that could be wrapped around the frames.

Buildings_north edit

Now with all the buildings finished, the model is starting to take shape.

photo 3

One of the next steps is to add buttons to the model. These buttons will trigger 360° views and videos that will explain the history of the camp and help users understand what life was like for German PoWs and their guards in Riding Mountain National Park.

Interactive Model of a PoW Camp!

Well I finally settled on a project for my Interactive Exhibit Design class: an interactive model of the prisoner of war camp in Riding Mountain National Park. Having created a digital model of the camp last semester, I wanted to incorporate that work into something that could theoretically be used for a public display. Here’s the plan…

photo 3

I am currently building a physical model of the site (about 1/500 scale) on a 20″ x 30″ foam board. The buildings are also being built from foam board and are “wrapped” in the textures from my 3D model. A number of buttons will be strategically placed throughout the map and the idea is that users will be able to push one of these buttons, triggering a 360° video/viewer (on a nearby screen) of the model from that viewpoint. This will hopefully allow users to get the camp layout and provide a little more immersion than a stand-alone model.

As of right now, the plan for the interactive portion will use buttons hooked up to a Makey-Makey and Max 6 which should provide me with everything I need. Time (and skills) permitting, I’d also like to see if I can provide a way to switch between “historic” (using the model) and a modern (using photographs taken at the site) 360° views.

photo 1

The first of my buildings

Stay tuned for more updates!

Next Project – Interactive Exhibit Design

This semester I am taking a Interactive Exhibit Design course in which each student designs and creates an interactive exhibit of any shape or form. At the moment, I have two ideas for my project and I’m going to share my first (more on the second later).

I am always looking at new ways of presenting the history of PoWs in Riding Mountain National Park. While there has been increased attention regarding the labour project’s history, there remains no display in the Wasagaming townsite. This, I hope, will change sometime in the near future. As I began building a 3D model for my Digital History assignment last semester, I began thinking of ways that would allow me to incorporate the model into some type of interactive display. Rather than just stick with the traditional physical model/diorama, this course presents an excellent opportunity to turn a traditional display into something a little more exciting.

The next question is which direction I want to take it. As space (and resources) are limited, one option is to have an entirely computer-based exhibit. In this case, the project would take the form of a simple program for a SMART Board or traditional computer station. I’m thinking the screen would display a bird’s-eye view of the camp layout as it appeared in 1944. By clicking one of the buildings, a video of the 3D model and historic photographs would then provide a virtual tour of that specific building, indicating its purpose and history. I would also try to work in other non-building related elements, like PoW stories, dugout canoes, and camp pets, into the exhibit as well to provide a sense of what life was like for PoWs at Riding Mountain.

Image-Dec8c copy

Another option would be to create a physical reconstruction of the camp as well. Looking at my experience with the demographics interested in the camp’s history, most aren’t tech savvy. By creating a scale model of the site, hopefully I can bridge the gap a bit. Still have to work out the details on how I want to build it.

But wait – why stop there? Why not both?! If I’m feeling really ambitious, I’m thinking of how I can combine a physical model with a digital reconstruction. One idea is to have the buildings function essentially as buttons (or sensors) that people can press (or do some wort of action), which would then trigger a virtual tour on an nearby screen. I think this physical/digital reconstruction would help bridge generation gaps and allow both the tech-savvy and the not-so-tech-savvy visitors to learn more about the history of PoWs in Riding Mountain National Park.

Any ideas, comments, or suggestions?