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Bringing the Battle of Bannockburn to life for the 21st century

28 September 2012

                   Motion Capture soldiers

A first glimpse into the behind-the-scenes work to bring the story of the Battle of Bannockburn to life for visitors like never before has been released today (28th September 2012). The first motion capture battle sequence is revealed on www.battleofbannockburn.com.

The work is part of the Battle of Bannockburn project, which sees the National Trust for Scotland and Historic Scotland working together to transform visitor facilities on the site of the historic battle, in time for the 700th anniversary in 2014.

The project’s interpretative designers Bright White Ltd are working with the combination of an Academic Advisory Panel featuring some of the UK’s top historians and state-of-the-art 3D technology to produce a new interpretation of the battle, to be launched at the world-class visitor centre in 2014.

The new motion capture video reveals the first ‘making of’ footage of fight sequences used to create the sparring medieval warriors featured in the online teaser trailer. The victorious axeman featured is Charlie Allan from the Clanranald Trust who has been working on the fight choreography for the project, and has previously worked on over 180 movie productions including roles in the movies Gladiator, Robin Hood and most recently, Snow White and the Huntsman.

The footage gives an insight into the cutting-edge technology and expertise that will allow people visiting Bannockburn to experience medieval battle in a completely new way.   

The Academic Advisory Panel, including historians Dr Fiona Watson, Prof. Michael Prestwich, Prof. Edward J. Cowan, Prof. Richard Oram, Dr Michael Penman, Scott McMaster and archaeologists Dr Tony Pollard and Derek Alexander are advising on the development of scripts, story boards and character profiles, playing a crucial role in authenticating the complex history of the battle for the production process.

Bright White Ltd are working with the Centre for Digital Documentation and Visualisation (CDDV), a joint partnership between Glasgow School of Art's Digital Design Studio (DDS) and Historic Scotland, with the added expertise of Centre Screen Productions, to develop the knowledge of the Academic Advisory Panel to create the scenes of men-at-arms preparing for and engaging in battle using DDS’ state-of-the-art motion capture technology. This will bring the realities and brutalities of medieval battle to life for 21st century audiences in the most realistic way possible.

The motion capture technique used is similar to that which famously brought the character ‘Gollum’ to life in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and provides a degree of realism that could not be achieved using traditional filming methods. Reenactors use replica weapons to engage in a real fight provoking genuine reactions, and by means of digital enhancement the swords and lances are shown striking and penetrating armour and flesh.

Motion capture can only feature three or fewer people at a time, so for the more complex battle sequences featuring a cast of thousands, motion-capture data will be combined and post-production effects employed, to create the intense spectacle of a full-scale battlefield.

David McAllister, Project Director, National Trust for Scotland said:

“The work of our Academic Panel and Bright White Ltd is providing the ultimate combination for us to achieve the main aim of the Bannockburn project - to educate audiences on the facts behind the story as accurately and compellingly as possible. You know the myths, but we want the new visitor centre to be the place where you can get the facts. The Trust takes pride in ensuring that the story of the battle is told in a way which gives every visitor the chance to enjoy the experience while paying respect to this critical point in Scottish history.”

Chris Walker, Managing Director, Bright White Ltd said:  “The Academic Panel are providing invaluable support to the project, enabling us to understand the richer historical context to bring a high level of authenticity to the new interpretation of the battle. Every element of the audio visual production, from the props and scenery to the story and appearance of the characters is being carefully assessed by these experts. We are currently working on the final scripts and storyboards that will be developed in to action sequences using motion capture technology and create the new visitor experience.”

Dr Paul Chapman, Director of CDDV and Deputy Director of the DDS, said: “The CDDV are proud to be part of this highly innovative and exciting Battle of Bannockburn project. Our state of the art motion capture and computer graphics expertise provides the project with the ingredients for a highly immersive battle and unparalleled visitor experience.”

Prof. Michael Prestwich, member of the Academic Advisory Panel, said: “We are very proud to be a part of the Battle of Bannockburn project and able to bring our expertise to ensuring that the new interpretation tells the story as accurately as possible. Some heated debates have been brought to the forefront, most prominently where the battle was fought, and it has been a very interesting and eye opening experience.”

Dr. Fiona Watson, member of the Academic Advisory Panel, said: "It is a privilege to be involved in the transformation of such an important national heritage site. It has been hard work trying to agree on a story that is accessible to everyone, but there is no doubt that what will be revealed in 2014 will be very exciting indeed"

Colin McLean, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland said: “Seeing the Battle of Bannockburn come to life before your eyes is an amazing feat of cutting-edge technology. It is bound to captivate a new generation of visitors as they debate the history that unfolded there. While our heritage has its roots firmly in the past, we need to embrace modern techniques, such as these, to inspire and engage people, if we want to ensure its future survival.”

The Battle of Bannockburn project is funded by generous support from the Scottish Government and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

For Information

To see the motion capture video please access: http://www.battleofbannockburn.com/Video/View/See-behind-the-scenes/

More info on motion capture images:

The two fighters wore special suits containing optical markers that would enable their positions to be clearly seen and ‘tracked’ by DDS’ state of the art motion capture system. Even the weapons and shields were clad with markers.

The movements of the fighters and their weapons were then sampled many times per second during a pre-rehearsed fighting sequence. The collected data was then processed and mapped to two 3D computer generated warriors so that each 3D model performed exactly the same actions as the real-life actor.

For more information and images: please contact Heather Macpherson at the National Trust for Scotland on 07544539283 or hmacpherson@nts.org.uk

Notes for editors

1. The Battle of Bannockburn Project is a joint venture by the National Trust for Scotland and Historic Scotland, on behalf of the Scottish Government, to provide a new visitor centre and experience for one of the most significant battles in Scotland’s history for the 700th anniversary in the 2014.
2. The new Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre will use state of the art installations to interpret and explain the circumstances that led up to this pivotal event in our history and its consequences. The Scottish Government has committed £5 million, through Historic Scotland, and £4.1 million has been awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
3. The design team include:  
• Architectural Team – Reiach and Hall with Sinclair Knight Merz (Engineer), Turner and Townsend (QS) and KJ Tait (M&E Engineers)
• Interpretation: Concept and Design – Bright White Ltd
• Landscape Architects – Ian White Associates
• 3D Media Research, Development and Realisation - Centre for Digital Documentation and Visualisation (CDDV)
• Contractors – Mansell Construction Services Ltd

4. Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government charged with safeguarding the nation’s historic environment. The agency is fully accountable to Scottish Ministers and through them to the Scottish Parliament. For more information visit www.historic-scotland.gov.uk
5. The National Trust for Scotland is one of Scotland’s leading conservation charities, which relies on the financial support of its members to fund its important work of caring for the natural and cultural heritage of Scotland for everyone to enjoy.
6. Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) sustains and transforms a wide range of heritage for present and future generations to take part in, learn from and enjoy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. To date it has invested £536 million in Scotland’s heritage.
7. Register for media release email alerts from www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/news. If you wish to unsubscribe at any time, please email hs.website@scotland.gsi.gov.uk.


For further information


Lesley Brown
Communications and Media Officer
Communications and Media
0131 668 8603 or 07920 768 096
lesley.brown@scotland.gsi.gov.uk