Meet Emil Juul Clevin, a recent design graduate of the Game Art, Design and Development programme at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts’ School of Design (KADK). In his graduation project, ‘Hammershus – A Journey Through Time’, Emil Juul Clevin looked at Hammershus in Bornholm and set out to design a new way of interpreting this ruined castle. Using virtual reality, he created an unusually tangible, vibrant experience of a piece of Danish history.
Please provide a brief introduction to your final project – what is it all about?
My final project, ‘Hammershus – A Journey Through Time’ is a virtual-reality experience, where you can travel back in time and see what the Hammershus ruined castle looked like as an intact castle in the late 16th century. Using a VR headset and a remote control, visitors can explore the surroundings and the castle in a 3D environment and get a feeling of being there.
The project is an instructive and entertaining element for museums and visitor centres, who are getting a brand new way of conveying history. It can help to increase our understanding of a historic site.
What motivated you to embark upon this project in particular?
Mainly I wanted to create a visual experience in a 3D environment with the tools I had learned at the School of Design.
I was inspired by a similar project in a small town called Jelling – the capital of Denmark during the Viking era. During this project “Kongernes Jelling” (The Kings´Jelling, ed.), which I worked on during an internship at Serious Games Interactive, we used the technical approach to production and the use of virtual reality as a medium for conveying history. Virtual Reality has become a very popular medium. Its strength lies in creating an immersive feeling, which works really well with my time-travel concept.
Did you collaborate with anyone in the process?
Since the point of my project is to reproduce a historic place, it was important for the visual setting to be produced as accurately as possible in terms of the historic and geographic elements. Research and data-gathering were crucial for the production of the project and its credibility.
From the Bornholm Nature Agency, I obtained a section of a 3D laser-scanned model of the castle ruins to model from. From Map Supplies at the Danish Geodata Agency, I obtained a topographic relief map of the area to assist me with generating the landscape. I obtained relevant architectural history articles with reconstruction attempts from the Agency for Castles and Palaces and from the Chief Archaeologist at Bornholm Museum.
Where can your final project be used?
Since the project is entertaining and instructive, it can be used, for example, at the new Hammershus visitors centre. The goal is to enhance the value of a visit with one of the newest forms of exhibition technologies and to provide a spatial and architectural historical understanding of the site for visitors.
The project can also generate interest, especially among the younger generation, by conveying the experience of Hammershus through a virtual environment, to which they are already accustomed from the world of computer games.
What sort of development potential do you think the project has?
There is so much development potential in the project! One should see the virtual environment as a basic platform, where you can add interactive game mechanics, integrate animated characters and a “voiceover” narrative that points out specific events, and a guided tour with facts about the place and its inhabitants.
The immediate target audience consists of visitors to the Hammershus visitors centre, but the project could also be used in educational contexts for schools and/or museums. The overall project could also be sold as a concept experience to be created for other historic sites in Denmark/the world. For example, imagine “witnessing” the Battle of Copenhagen or the Normandy Landings!
What are the most enjoyable and the most difficult aspects of designing the way you do?
For this project, it was particularly interesting to build landscapes and buildings from the ground up, and to take photos of the actual place and use those photos as unique textures. It was also fascinating to base the project on the aforementioned research and data-gathering, before coming up with my own interpretation.
The most challenging part was to constantly assess the project’s “scope”. In other words, what I could accomplish in purely technical terms to arrive at the most effective approach within a limited period of time. It is not common to design a virtual world in this way by oneself.
Where do you see yourself career-wise in five years’ time?
I would love to be working as a games designer: more specifically, as an environment artist or level designer in a medium-sized games development company.