The process for recreating Kilcolman Castle for the web was a multi-faceted and time-consuming one. After research and numerous discussions with archaeologists and art historians, sketches were drawn up of each level of the tower house and built to scale in Autodesk Maya using geometric shapes made up of four-sided polygons. What makes this task difficult is the fact that all that remains of the castle are the first- and second-level vault and stairwell with adjacent garderobe chamber and small rooms, which reach up to the fourth level. Another wall on the third level remains with “Raleigh’s Window” still intact.
The castle was recreated, including missing floors, great hall and ground-floor parlor, using a method called Boolean Differencing, whereby specific shapes such as windows and doorways are cut out from the walls of each level. Textures are created in Adobe Photoshop and projected onto the outer and inner walls of the tower house while “bump maps” are also applied to give the flat surfaces the illusion of texture. Lighting is added later and is used to give the scene realism while making sure everything is visible in the final render.
A virtual camera is created in Maya software and a virtual tour is animated using a series of key frames. The computer will render the animation through the camera’s lens, compiling all the light, shadows, textures, reflections, and other details into a series of frames that make up the final animation.
Without interior details, of course, a tour of the castle would be rather stale. We used reference video and images of original artifacts, physical recreations of nearby castles, and historic prints and paintings to create the digital objects that fill the living spaces of the castle. Often we used the editing tools in Photoshop to pull textures directly from the borrowed images to use on the digital replicas. For example, HD video of several real objects (facsimiles of early modern pieces) was used. One object in particular, a wooden cupboard displaying silver platters, was recreated by extruding faces of a polygonal cube to create the basic shape, then refining the edges by adjusting the vertices where the polygon edges meet. Similar to wrapping a present, the polygonal object was then wrapped with a texture map created in Photoshop. A screenshot from the HD video was blended into the texture map so that the actual carvings from the real cupboard are now integrated into the digital 3D model of Kilcolman Castle.
Other software used in the creation of the website itself include Adobe Dreamweaver, Adobe Photoshop and Adobe After Effects.
Funding, software and hardware for this project were provided by ECU and its University Multimedia Center.
-- Wesley Owens, ECU, 5/2012 (edited by Thomas Herron 1/17/2014)