The Norman Castle at Dunham Massey

In the grounds of Dunham Massey is a mound, which is interpreted as the remains of a Norman motte and bailey castle. Nothing remains of this small castle, no indication of what it might have looked like survives in records.

So, it was open-season on how we depicted it! Archaeological and historical reconstruction can be a very inexact art and science and you may well ask why anyone even bothers in such cases. Well, it is debateable, but there are always clues and impressions, and knowledge from other more complete sites that offer help in these projects. It's worth it just to get a glimpse into the past, an impression through that tiny crack in the door that archaeology offers. The movie 'Timeline' has some nice moments about this.

But for our mini-epic we chose to give it the appearance of an old painting, an impressionistic and somewhat romanticised depiction of a small Norman castle.


On the left you can see a screengrab of the scene setup.
As always, it's the art of illusion - build as much as you
might need to see, but no more. So in many respects it
resembles again a table-top diorama with enough ground
to move the camera across and provide a horizon, the
castle of course, and some random rounded shapes to
represent a wood on the far right.

Crucial to achieving some of the effect was to add drifting smoke, first generally across the scene, but also as smoke from a fire within the castle courtyard, adding a sense of life and things happening.

Below are two screengrabs illustrating the setups used to do the general drifting smoke (on top), and then the fire in the castle. I could describe the minute detail that goes into a simulation like this, but you may lose the will to live, so suffice to say the tools allow us to create particles that we design to render as smoke, and wind and turbulence to simulate the movement of air that pushes them around.

We decided to have a sky that we could more easily control during compositing (assembling all the layers right at the end), so we rendered the main elements with texture and mist for distance, but made the sky from the layers you can see below.


... and no castle is complete without a flag! A simple rectangle, attached to the flagpole, with a wind and turbulence control attached to it.

Is it any wonder we don't get out much?


Finally, we combine and blend all these elements, adjusting brightness and contrast and edge quality to get that final look that we envisaged.

As ever, run your mouse cursor over the image on the left to see before and after. The plain view is the raw 3D model with its textures, and the final is of course with all those cloud and smoke layers....and not forgetting the flag!

It's fun seeing it all come together, and knowing that our plan worked out. That's days of work to bring ten seconds of cgi to your screens on a Sunday evening!

Click Here for The Final Shot