Tag Archives: Virtual worlds

Summer Solstice 2017

Today is the summer solstice, so I watched the sunrise at Virtual Avebury and then took a walk around the completed simulation. I love going back here, particularly on days like today 🙂

Just as an update, I submitted my dissertation in early May and should be getting the results back very soon – gulp! As long as all is well, I’ll post some parts of my dissertation on this blog, although I’m writing a book chapter from it too, so I’ll need to be careful about not publishing anything I’ll be incorporating in the chapter.

“…their exits and their entrances…”

obelisk foggy sunrise

The Obelisk through the southern entrance

Outside the henge August 2016

Outside

The construction is moving on well, so I think I need to step back, take a breath and think about what I’m learning from all this. It’s easy to get carried away with the research and building as it is so absorbing, but I’ve also realised that I am beginning to develop a different sense of Avebury than I have previously had. I’ve visited the physical place probably more than a hundred times in my life; as I only live 7 miles away it is a place I go to frequently. But constructing a virtual simulation has given me a different perspective, and made me think about some things that have never really struck me before. So these are some thoughts about insides and outsides, and entrances and exits.

Inside the henge August 2016

Inside

 

I’m becoming more and more affected by the difference between being inside and outside the henge in virtual Avebury. In physical world Avebury the outside and inside are not as clearly delineated as there are roads and paths running through the henge and there are several buildings inside it, including a shop and a pub, that block the view across it. In some places it is easy to lose the sense of whether you are inside or outside the henge, but in virtual Avebury the difference is very clear. And that strong sense of being inside or outside has made me realise why the gaps in the ditch and bank system, that are often referred to as entrances, might be so important. The evidence seems to show that the stones in front of the entrances are some of the largest in the complex and that the banks were higher and the ditches deeper as they got close to the entrances, giving them an extra emphasis. There may even have been some wooden supports around the ends of the banks. The act of moving from outside to inside, and the other way round, feels important in virtual Avebury in a way it is harder to comprehend in the present day remains of the henge. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the entrances were for anyone to use; it may have been restricted access for certain people. Or the entrances may not have been for people at all, but for spirits, or light, or something insubstantial. But whatever the gaps in the banks and ditches were for, they certainly feel important, even key, in virtual Avebury.

West entrance closer Aug 2016

West entrance

Another thing that has struck me is that the remaining 3 stones at the entrances today (2 at the southern entrance and 1 at the northern entrance) suggest that the builders chose very large, rectangular stones deliberately. The 2 stones at the southern entrance are set square in the ground, whereas the remaining northern stone is set on one of its points to give the iconic Avebury diamond stone shape. In all the years I have been going to Avebury, it didn’t really strike me that the stones are very similar shapes, and they have been deliberately set to create the rectangular and diamond shapes. It was only when I was modelling and setting them that it really struck me. Seems ridiculous that I have looked at these stones for years, but that I hadn’t fully realised the significance of deliberately turning the northern one through 45 degrees compared to the southern ones.  So, I have set the partner of the northern entrance stone in the same way, as it seems likely to me that they were both set as a pair, as are the southern entrance stones. Then I thought about what to do at the eastern and western entrances. Well, perhaps the northern half of the henge was represented by diamond shapes and the southern by rectangular shapes, so I have set the northern stones at the eastern and western entrances as diamonds and the southern stones as rectangles. Of course, that’s my interpretation, but as long as I’m clear about the distinction between evidence and interpretation, that’s fine. After all, without interpretation we wouldn’t be able to make sense of sites like Avebury at all!

Northern entrance Avebury August 2016

Northern entrance

I think that once I extend the southern and western entrances into the West Kennet and Beckhampton avenues, the nature of them is likely to change again, and I’m thinking about different ways in which that might be represented. For example, leaving the grass short inside the avenues and long outside would give a different feel to having a short grass path outside the avenue and leaving the grass long inside. I’ve been creating paths inside the henge to see how that makes it feel – I think that will be the subject of the next post!

 

An evening stroll

The video below is an update on progress so far (June 2016) in the form of an evening stroll around virtual Avebury to music. I have begun work on a visitor centre/orientation area as I’ve got a couple of conference presentations this month about the project and avatars will be visiting during those presentations. The orientation area is still under construction, as indeed is the rest of the simulation! But I’m making good progress – I’ve started on false horizons (I’ll be fixing the irritating line at the top of the transparent skies on the horizon boards very soon) and have made the first stone. Just a couple of hundred more to go! I’m laying vegetation inside the henge and placing trees and and wild areas outside it, as in this imagined past the inside of the henge is free of trees. I’m creating some paths inside the henge and leaving the avenues with a trodden appearance, but of course this may not have been so. The henge and/or the avenues may have been restricted places.

I’ll make the next post on the blog a more detailed description of the technologies I’m using to create the simulation, both for my use as a record, and if anyone is interested!

P.S. I’ve had a go at making a stereoscopic version of this video for use with Google Cardboard and similar 3D viewers. The video quality is not that great on either the 2D or stereo versions of this video, so I think I need to go back to Camtasia and fiddle with the quality and format settings for capture and export. But, despite that, this is a proof of concept for turning 2D machinima to stereo (not true 3D) video. Works quite well! Thanks for my wonderfully talented son for doing the techy stuff in Adobe After Effects 🙂 Video is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAUryz1LuI8 – just go to You Tube and search for ‘Avebury virtual walkthrough’ on your smart phone, set it playing and put into your Google Cardboard or similar viewer.

Augmented reality; seeing the ditch

The picture below is a trigger picture for an Aurasma augmented reality aura, showing how the ditch at Avebury has changed over 4,500 years. This picture is of the north east quadrant of the ditch by what is now the road to Wroughton. I have taken an image of the same stretch of ditch at virtual Avebury and made the pictures to the same scale and register.

To see the augmented image, go to the App store on your Apple or Android tablet or phone and download the Aurasma app.    Register with a username, password and email address, and then press on ‘discover auras’ and search for lizfal. Press on ‘follow’ and then press the small purple square at the bottom of the page. Your camera viewfinder will open. Find the image in your viewfinder and hold still for a few seconds – you should see the augmented image appear! You have to have a wireless connection or 3G active to be able to see the augmented image.

 

virtual avebury aurasma ditch trigger