The Commissariat 3D Reconstruction Project Virtual Museum of Canada
The Bytown Herald
Volume 1, No 1. 24 May 1832 français | home | feedback | credits  
about the project | the animation | still photo gallery | the transcript  


The Commissariat 3D Reconstruction Project is a ten-minute animation that depicts the Rideau Canal’s picturesque Ottawa Locks site and the Commissariat Building (now the Bytown Museum), as they appeared when the Canal first opened in 1832.

The guided tour takes the viewer along with Lt. Colonel John By and Lord Dalhousie on the two men’s first tour of the completed locks in late May 1832.  Colonel By was the Royal Engineer in charge of the Canal construction, and Bytown (early Ottawa), was named after him.  Lord Dalhousie was the Governor-In-Chief of Canada and Colonel By reported to him.  For more information about Ottawa’s early history, please visit the Bytown Museum’s web site.

We undertook this project in the hopes of not only creating a leading-edge animation for viewers of all ages, but also to demonstrate how heritage and new technology can benefit each other.

The Commissariat Reconstruction Project is the culmination of over two years of work.  Early discussions between the Bytown Museum and National Research Council Canada resulted in a successful bid to the Virtual Museum of Canada.

The Bytown Museum staff, working with Parks Canada historians undertook the necessary research for the project.  Over the summers of 2004 and 2005, two teams of four students worked on the animation.  The 3D artists employed came largely from the 3D program at Miramichi Community College in New Brunswick as well as Algonquin Community College in Ottawa. 

The final animation is slightly over ten minutes long, twice as long as originally planned requiring 18,500 frames, with some frames taking 12 minutes each to render.  The project required two 3D Software packages.  The first summer (2004) was primarily CAD modeling with Vectorworks.  The locks, buildings, Sapper Bridge, most tools, pulleys, cranks, etc. were built in the CAD cycle.  The topology was also constructed in the first summer using Cinema 4D.  Although both packages fall under the Nemetschek suite tools, the reason for their use falls under a broader requirement.  Both packages are Macintosh and PC compatible, broadening the hardware base for future use.

The summer of 2005 was the animation and special effects phase of the project.  All students worked on a master file that was now a Cinema 4D file.

Technically there were only two phases to this project, but the rendering process could be called phase three.  In this case, four dual processor G5 Macintoshes were used.  Due to the relatively short time available for final processing, the G5’s could be slaved together using Cinema 4D’s Net Render to process as a single computer over the network.  This was very important to the project as 3D artists could see overnight what would normally take two days.  Once the scene was given final approval, it could render for several days on any available machine.  The process was a significant time saver in the assembly stage of the project.

We hope you enjoy the Commissariat 3D Reconstruction Project!  If you have any comments or questions about the project, just click here.  We would love to hear from you!

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