Come face-to-face with Bannockburn characters

24 Jan 2014

In late 2012, people from across the UK volunteered to be transformed into the men and women who found themselves swept up in the events at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314. Today, the six chosen folk came face-to-face with their state-of-the-art digital characters for the first time at the brand new Visitor Centre.

Interpretation designers Bright White Ltd worked closely with an Academic Advisory Panel featuring some of the UK’s top historians to develop concepts, scripts and storyboards for the new centre, including real and fictional people connected with the events that shaped the 2-day-long battle to form its ‘Character Stations’.

The Character Stations are the first phase of the new visitor experience to be revealed to the public. Ten characters from both Robert the Bruce and Edward II’s armies feature using digital technology in real-life dimensions, with gesture recognition technology to interact with visitors.

They help visitors to learn more about the weaponry, tactics and techniques involved in the battle, as well as the people taking part, their skills, motivations, allegiances and personal stories.

With realism and authenticity key to the concept, Bright White initiated a public call to find people from the regions that made up the different units which formed the armies from across the UK to volunteer to have their faces scanned and developed into 14th century folk.

The story told at the centre shows the diversity of people involved in the historic events of the battle, challenging the perception that Bannockburn was simply Scotland versus England. In reality, a range of nationalities were involved - Scots fought on the English side, while Welsh archers and Irish footsoldiers were important to the English.

The six selected volunteers had their faces laser scanned by expert 3D modellers at the Centre for Digital Documentation and Visualisation (CDDV), the partnership between The Glasgow School of Art's Digital Design Studio (DDS) and Historic Scotland, developing 3D visualisations for the Project.

Using motion capture technology, a range of facial expressions were captured and the 3D modelling process then added more detailed facial features. Later, actors recorded voiceovers for the dialogue, also recorded using motion capture to add in more complex movements. The resulting characters are gritty and real, displaying psychological effects of war and the full gamut of human emotions.

Robert the Bruce’s side:
·     Philip Wilson, 35 from Edinburgh is Sir James Douglas, a Scottish Knight with a personal vendetta against Edward I for killing his father, and one of Robert the Bruce’s trusted lieutenants. Voiceover by David Hayman.
·     Annemarie Hamilton, 38 from Stirling, is Margaret Malherbe, a local woman from Stirling connected to Robert the Bruce’s camp who stood at distance from the battle to give the impression of greater numbers. Voiceover by Suzanne Teed.
·     Ranald Shepherd, 49 from Aberdeen, is Malcolm Turnbull, a local farmer who volunteered for battle, with determination to protect his land. Morale was high amongst this group who felt confident in their battle tactics, the use of schiltrons or circular formations of spearmen is a famous association with the Scots victory. Voiceover by Barrie Frame.

Edward II’s side:
·     Emily Chadwick, 28 from Lancashire is Juliana Coldingham, a Scottish spy sent to gather information from Stirling to inform the Edward II’s army. Spies were essential to the wars and usually male which indicates a strong female character. Voiceover by Fenella Kerr.
·     John Logan, 15 from Glasgow, is John Fitzrobert, a Page from the garrison of English-held Berwick castle who has no real experience of the horrors of medieval war and hopes in due course to become a knight himself. Voiceover by Oliver Graham.
·     Brian Wilkinson, 40 from South Wales is Dafydd ap Cynwrig, a Welsh Archer. A professional soldier, with a mercenary attitude. The English lords ruling in Wales had a duty to provide archers, however the Welsh were bitter against Edward I who had conquered their country in 1282-3. Voiceover by Aled Pugh.

There was a mixture of shock and awe as the volunteers met their characters for the first time. Philip Wilson, the face of Sir James Douglas, found it surreal to see himself with battle scars, he said: “It was amazing to hear actor David Hayman’s voice, especially as he becomes more menacing, capturing the famously dark persona of the ‘Black Douglas’. It was chilling, I felt like I was afraid of myself.”

The Character Stations feature in the Centre’s ‘Prepare for Battle’ room, where visitors are transported back to 1314, the night before the battle. There is the opportunity to wander between both camps interacting with the real people preparing for battle, while witnessing some of the physical preparations including battle training, surrounded by 270 degree, massive 3D screens, for a truly immersive experience.


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