Saturday, May 3, 2014

Versailles 3D Review Part 1: Videos

In my research regarding Versailles, I stumbled upon a website that seeks engage youth with the history of Versailles through interactivity and 3d graphics ( Feel free to do some exploring on your own before continuing. 

The “In Video” section ( contains three brief videos about Versailles before the French revolution, Versailles after the French revolution, and the pleasure gardens. The videos are very good at visualizing Versailles using 3D animation and breakdowns throughout its stages of development. At the top corner of every video, a labeled thumbnail of a painting shows the viewer what French monarch was responsible for the changes to Versailles we are learning about in the video. Relevant call-outs labeling the buildings, rooms, monarch, and time period reinforce and sometimes supplement the information in the narration, which, in addition to facilitating learning, helps keep the videos to a minimal length.  At one point, a change in the fa├žade of the Versailles in the animation is compared with this historical painting by an unknown 17 century French painter:

As we approach the modern era, the videos rely more heavily on photos and real-world footage. I found that this multimedia approach to the visuals was a huge boon, both to conveying information about Versailles and retaining attention. 

My main criticism is that the 3d models, though historically accurate and helpful in illustrating the evolution of Versailles, were not exactly inspired… or inspiring.

Here’s a still shot from the video…

Compared to Assassin’s Creed recreation of St. Peter’s Basilica…

Compared to the model in this composited rendering by Zhang Naigang…

History and architecture have the ability to resonate with us emotionally, but you wouldn't know this from the dry narration, stark models, painfully fake lighting, and un-grounded flying shots that eliminate scale in the videos. Considering that one of the goals of Baroque art and architecture, and indeed Versailles, is to forge an emotional connection with the viewer, it seems strange to me that there is no real attempt in the videos to recreate the emotional experience of being at Versailles... or any emotional experience at all.  

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