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Case Studies
Case Study I THEATRON (www.theatron.org)
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Based principally at the University of Warwick,THEATRON, an acronym for Theatre
History in Europe: Architectural and Textual Resources Online, is an award-winning
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European Commission part-funded project which engages in the virtual reconstruction
of famous and historically significant theatres.The project was developed over a three-
year period with a budget of
1.6M, half of which came from the European Union, and
half of which was raised by the project partners.
Between the directors at the University of Warwick and the partner organisations
across Europe, the following plan was devised and followed:
1. To identify and target the theatres that would be modelled
2. To gather architectural and other background details on these theatres
3. To model the theatres in 3D Studio Max
4. To map textures to the models via comprehensive rendering
5. To transform the architectural CAD models into VRML
6. To implement an attractive and intuitive interface for the finished product
The first and second steps were carried out by the heritage experts at the university,
with the initial 3D modelling performed by the German architectural firm Atelier 4D.
These 3D Studio Max files were too large in size for real-time rendering, so they were con-
verted into smaller, optimised VRML files by Drew Baker, a VRML expert at Warwick.The
interfacing and final software design and coding was carried out by another partner organi-
sation, Aebly. One word of advice that THEATRON Project Co-ordinator and Academic
co-Director, Professor Richard Beacham, offered was the importance of a dedicated techni-
cal project manager when embarking on a venture of this scale, with numerous partner
organisations spread across the continent. Given the sequential nature of the work, it was
necessary to time each phase accurately and to plan the timeframe realistically.
THEATRON endorses CosmoPlayer for use as its standard VRML browser, though
other browsers such as Cortona work equally well. Other VRML interfaces may be con-
sidered for the future if the THEATRON project is developed further, among them the
revolutionary Quake gaming system, which would involve the project partners teaming
up with games technology developers to maximise the usability (`playability' in games
terms) of the interface. Other proposed developments include the capacity for multiple
avatars which would be viewable in real-time by other participants and spectators, thus
leading to increased enjoyment, immersion and interactivity.
Among the benefits to the learning process is the inclusion of links to digitised photo-
graphs, audio and other rich media resources such as QTVR panoramas, as well as an on-
line glossary intended to assist students in their self-directed learning. Links to relevant
external sites are included as well. Given the flexibility of the software, it may be adapted
externally to meet a varied range of VR purposes, particularly when it comes to teaching.
Virtual Reality and
Display Technologies
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This case study is based on a telephone interview with Professor Richard Beacham,THEATRON
Project Co-ordinator and Academic co-Director, and member of the School of Theatre Studies at the
University of Warwick, England.The interview took place on 28/11/2002
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See the 2002 Computer World Honors Program for more details:
http://www.cwheroes.org/his_4a_detail.asp?id=412