If you missed it, check out part one of our interview with Caitlin Burns, Transmedia Producer for Starlight Runner Entertainment. Caitlin's career has featured work on such franchises as Avatar, The Pirates of the Caribbean, Tron Legacy, Halo, and more. Her latest project is a 3D broadcast series called Battle Castle on The History Channel.
As a bonus, today's interview also features Maija Leivo, Series Producer for Battle Castle. Maija will share even more detail about the 3D aspects of the series. Grab hold of your swords, shields, and pitchforks, fellow MTBS citizens - it's time to talk about Battle Castle!
If you will forgive the pun, I understand you are going to go Medieval on our as*. What is Battle Castle and how can people see it?
Battle Castle is a documentary series that is on History Channel in Canada; it is 6 episodes of 3-D ready (but still 2-D enjoyable) Castles come to life. Describing the building, siege and battle for these magnificent fortresses, Medieval Media Inc. is bringing to life the events that made these fortresses legendary. By using modern research, not only will the audience see the architecture, land and events (like some really cool explorations of undermining), but they will see some viscerally powerful stories from the lives of historical figures.
Battle Castle is now airing in Canada on History Television. It will be broadcast in the UK later this spring and distribution is through BBC Worldwide. We’ve heard from lots of our fans in other countries and we will be announcing airdates in more territories soon.
Since I’m based in New York, I have to make do with the interactive website at battlecastle.tv, the online (tablet friendly) game Masters of Constantinople (www.mastersofconstantinople.com), and the 3-D animated web videos that compliment each full episode. Since I live in New York, I can get online and play all the games, play around on battlecastle.tv and watch the fabulous motion videos, but I have to wait for the show here in the United States.
Did you have a personal interest in medieval history before getting involved with Battle Castle? What were you and your team trying to accomplish when crafting the series?
I’ve always been fascinated by history and mythology, and there are plenty of castles and historical figures that have become legendary. From the Teutonic Knights in Poland to King John and King Richard in England, these are people who have become myths in their own right and learning about their real histories, the people and places they built and fought over and lived in - it’s fascinating.
With Battle Castle, we brought together a very strong effort to be historically accurate on all platforms, bringing in Dan Snow and building from his phenomenal expertise, and married that to the really powerful stories that already existed in these castles to bring exciting narratives to life with modern techniques to visualize the Medieval world.
I understand that each episode focuses on a separate castle and story. Where are the castles located, and what made them so different from each other that each could get their own episode?
The six castles are located throughout Europe and the Holy Land. As far north as Wales, with Conwy Castle and all the way down to Crac des Chevaliers in modern Syria.
They each represent different styles of Castle-building and highlight different eras in the grand tapestry of Medieval Castles. Each also gives a strong, different viewpoint into the motivations and reasonings why these fortresses were built and why their defense was of tantamount importance. Sometimes a castle is just the best possible example of a type of architecture, but mostly, a historical figure or an amazing event like the Battle of Tannenberg really captivated the creators.
Which castle or episode was the most interesting to you, and why?
I was personally very interested in Malbork, which is in modern-day Poland. I’ve always had an interest in secret societies and the great holy orders of the Middle Ages - the Teutonic Knights being one. The events that surround the Battle of Tannenberg and the expansion into that part of Europe is so rich with secrets, plots and double crosses that sometimes a castle wall isn’t quite enough to hold your enemies at bay.
Maija, as the Series Producer of Battle Castle, I understand you can share some details about the 3D aspect of the series. I think a big draw is that it has a stereoscopic 3D version. How many episodes are in 3D, and were they actually shot in 3D, or is this a 2D/3D conversion?
One episode, Battle Castle: Dover was shot completely in 3D, although we shot some footage at every castle with our stereoscopic gear. This material is shot in 3D. Very little of our material is converted.
For interested readers (and 3D viewers), what will they get out of the series in 3D that they wouldn't in 2D? What gets added to the experience - if anything?
Castles lend themselves beautifully to a three-dimensional worldview. Inherently, castles are about defense in depth. Layers make them better. That is also true of seeing the castles in 3D. In a way, a 3D film is even better than being there.
Because of the nature of a documentary storytelling, we draw your eyes to a particular feature and explain it. You could be there yourself, but without the informational context, you may not even know what you are looking at, or its military function.
When will the 3D versions of Battle Castle see the light of day, and will they be viewable by true 3D Ready HDTVs and displays, or be limited to anaglyph formats?
We are currently working with our 3D broadcast partners to bring a 3D version of Battle Castle to public viewing. It is intended for 3D ready televisions and displays. Those are the formats that best present the images we have created.
In the meantime we offer some of these images and footage in anaglyph to inspire the general public about the potential of this technology to change the way we see the world.
Cailtin, you mentioned a video game component to Battle Castle. How did you use video games as an educational tool?
We knew that Battle Castle is more than a TV Series and that the research and history of these castles would be able to fill more than six hours of television - we wanted to give the audience several ways to explore the world of Battle Castle.
Knowing that there is a lot of really great history and stories, the browser-based and tablet compatible Masters of Constantinople is a fictional tale that allows the player to learn about the castles as well as dive deeper into Medieval history. This compliments the episodes and allows audiences (in Canada and abroad) to weave their way through history and enter into the Battle Castle.
While I know these games are (sadly) not in stereoscopic 3D, we are moving to a future of stereoscopic 3D tablets, smartphones, and desktop monitors. While these releases may not be the perfect fit, how would you describe the ultimate medieval 3D gaming experience?
It’s hard to pick one experience that would be the “ideal” game to encompass all of medieval history. I personally love an RTS where I can build and develop a kingdom, but I also would really love to play a first-person shooter where I had to follow a liege on a campaign with thrilling battles. There are so many different kinds of games that can be improved with the beautiful animation, graphics and the lushness that 3-D production can provide.
Of course, if I had to make something up to answer, I’ll go for the gusto. I’d love a sandbox RPG where I can explore the Crusades from the point of view of either Europeans or Islamists, and get to explore the contested lands in battle, diplomacy and constantly shifting borders. The history is lush, the castles are incredible, and the conflicts are epic.
At last year's 3D Entertainment Summit, James Cameron remarked that he thought the 3D settings for Avatar were a little too modest, and he should have taken things further. A big criticism of 2D/3D conversions amongst our members is that the 3D results tend to be very flat with hairline levels of separation between the left and right view - this has grown true of natively shot 3D movies as well. You continue to work with different types of 3D content - do you think 3D filmmakers and game developers need to throw out the rulebook and take bigger visual risks? Why or why not?
Well, having gotten a chance to look at the sheer breadth of design and detail that went into Avatar, I know that there was a profound amount of work on the plants, animals, environment and tech, including the ship that took humans from Earth to Pandora - it’s easier to see how the limitation of only showing the most important parts of the story can feel a bit modest. Every blade of grass on Pandora was an original creation and the reality is that most of those components only got a few seconds of screen time. I’m confident that in the sequels, Cameron and his design team will be taking the world further, and allowing for an even more epic scope of visuals.
What sometimes bothers me in movies is that 3-D forces my perspective. Having played plenty of 3-D console games, I’m spoiled enough to want to explore the screen and follow my eyes where they want to go rather than where the camera focuses the view. I think that there’s a lot that can be learned between the two media, but there’s a reality that these issues have been what have fueled artistic development from time immemorial. The idea that there’s a clear rulebook for new technology and filmmaking or game making is somewhat funny when you think just how young all these art forms are. If there is one, it should be treated more as “guidelines” because every story and every creation will be a new innovation on the existing forms in new ways.
Last question for you! You've probably seen a lot of stories cross your desk for both movies and video games. Which would you have liked to see in 3D, and why?
There are a lot of smaller projects that I would have loved to see explored in 3D and in more stereoscopic methods. I feel like the projects that I have worked on that have been in 3-D have reasons to be. The creators largely intended to show their worlds in these ways and have considered how to add the magic of the technology with the spell their story weaves.
I would love to see some of the more living-history and real world pieces get the 3-D treatment. I would love to walk around a turn of the century town, or be able to solve a mystery that allows me to interface with characters in their presence, to look behind their backs and see if their fingers are crossed. All the little nuances that one can get from a more theatrical experience in real life, that can be explored now that 3-D is becoming more familiar a tool to creators in all industries. 3-D can allow you to explore a world that defies your experience or imagination in a way that is almost real, I can’t wait to see what world, real or imagined, crosses my path next.