Ancient Rome in Virtual Reality
June 11, 2007 1:34 PM   Subscribe

Rome Reborn is a digital model of ancient Rome as it might have appeared on June 21, 320 AD, including the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. More info.
posted by kirkaracha (22 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
The Rome Reborn site is a pain because it's all in Flash, but the still images and video clips under Gallery are pretty cool.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:37 PM on June 11, 2007

Yeh, I dislike the interface, too. I also dislike that it's not dirty enough. But at the same time, it's fairly cool.

I'd like to see something like that for Edinburgh. (Or Teotihuacan, for that matter, but that would require more than a little fabulation...)
posted by lodurr at 1:58 PM on June 11, 2007

The graphics are right out of "Bard's Tale."
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:07 PM on June 11, 2007

I downloaded the source code, but at this rate it's going to take me over a day to build.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 2:09 PM on June 11, 2007 [13 favorites]

Neat idea, but as lodurr says, everything is so clean and crisp, including the air (no cooking fires?) - also, most buildings in the ancient world were "under construction" most of the time, some forever, as resources and time permitted to fix, add or remove.
posted by stbalbach at 2:14 PM on June 11, 2007

What's with the "Copyright Regents of the University of California" that appears everywhere? Surely an institution operated by a state government entity cannot be entitled to copyright protection.
posted by hodyoaten at 2:16 PM on June 11, 2007

Pretty neat. Now can we have such sites (with better interfaces) for Republican Rome, medieval Paris, and nineteenth-century St. Petersburg?
posted by languagehat at 2:25 PM on June 11, 2007

hodyoaten writes "Surely an institution operated by a state government entity cannot be entitled to copyright protection."

Why not? The UC holds copyright on a tremendous amount of material, including most of the source code for one of the most widely-used versions of UNIX. I do believe that there's a big chunk of that code in OS X (under the UC's extremely permissive licensing scheme).

On topic, I was a little disappointed by the quality and detail of these renderings. I suppose they're more interested in accuracy than in appearance, though.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:37 PM on June 11, 2007

memo38 is a project to virtually reconstruct the Wiesbaden Synagogue [pdf], which was destroyed during Kristallnacht. (For some reason, it's another hard-to-navigate site; try the "Rekonstruktion" and "Zeitreise" links.) I have a flickr set with photos from site of the synagogue. It's obviously a much smaller scale project than rebuilding Rome, but I think it really helps to keep the memory alive and drive home the scale of the the destruction.
posted by muckster at 2:46 PM on June 11, 2007

Needs more disease and brutality. Otherwise, pretty neat.
posted by brundlefly at 3:42 PM on June 11, 2007

Some supplementary links:

QTVR panoramas of current-day Roman sites.

"The Internet's oldest Virtual Rome." (This site is what I thought of when I saw the main post's link)., a MOO. (!)

I wonder if anyone thought to do a linked set of panos on the set of the late lamented BBC/HBO series Rome before Cinecitta struck the set.
posted by mwhybark at 4:00 PM on June 11, 2007

Rome was shot in Cinecitta? Awesome! I'll have to rent it.
posted by brundlefly at 4:14 PM on June 11, 2007

I really don't like the videos at all - whoever did them really needs to learn about making the camera moves not jar the eye. Some ease-in, ease-out please? Sheesh, I guess they don't have any film students on that campus...

Otherwise this is frickin' awesome!
posted by zoogleplex at 5:03 PM on June 11, 2007

An instructive (if much more modern) comparison might be what Peter Jackson's team did to evoke Depression-era New York for "King Kong." The production notes on the movie's website describes the challenges of recreating the version of a city that is still within collective memory but could no longer be used as backdrop for the famously fastidious Jackson:
As [New York] has changed so radically in the last 72 years, it was impossible to transform modern New York, so the entire place had to be rebuilt from the ground up. And unlike the totally invented environment of Skull Island, this city has a real-world counterpart and, therefore, had to be constructed within certain confines....

Existing aerial and ground-view photographs from the period provided key reference for artists. These shots were then cross-referenced with a low-resolution digital dataset of present-day New York. Any buildings constructed post 1933 were stripped out, leaving a huge amount of structures to be replaced with data correct for 1933. Since the period photos were black and white, an initial color palette had to be determined by cross-referencing the hues of buildings that still exist from the time. From this starting place, proprietary computer programs began the rebuild the city, adding intricate detail to the low-resolution dataset....

The results, which took over one year to complete:
• 57,468 unique Manhattan buildings were created, which were constructed using 22,011,949 components/cells. Add to that another 32,839 buildings for Queens, Brooklyn and New Jersey, plus 51 "hero" (or starring) buildings....
• Of particular import were the rooftops, as they have changed considerably since the '30s — so even existing period structures could not appear "as is." The roofs are all visible during the film's climactic moments when Kong scales the Empire State Building....
• The city was designed to function in the daytime or at night. When lights are turned on inside one of the buildings, full virtual interiors are visible.
• When superimposed on top of one another, the virtual skyline and the 1933 photographs align almost identically.

According to CG supervisor [Chris] White, "We built over 90,000 buildings, nearly 60,000 of which are unique down to the finest level of detail."
Sample stills: (1) (2) (3) (4)
posted by rob511 at 5:56 PM on June 11, 2007 [2 favorites]

Regarding Rome, Here's a blog entry with some pix. Apparently the set was five acres or more in size. I have a vague recollection of hearing it was built over the same ground as and right after Scorsese's set for Gangs of New York.
posted by mwhybark at 5:59 PM on June 11, 2007

Hey, where's that cafe with tables out in the piazza just outside the Pantheon? I want my cappuccino!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:41 PM on June 11, 2007

Rome was shot in Cinecitta? Awesome! I'll have to rent it.

only if you want to see the best program made.

the FPP is neat, but as a whole, this thread rocks.
posted by Busithoth at 7:27 PM on June 11, 2007

Rome is great. Here's a blog post with some video clips.
posted by muckster at 7:43 PM on June 11, 2007

Neat link, rob511. I was disappointed by King Kong on an artistic/entertainment level, but the reconstruction of old NY is only outshone by the fur simulation used on Kong himself. Crazy stuff. I have to say, though, it's odd that they spent that much time on those things, then did the crappiest compositing I've seen in years to integrate them with the live action. At times it doesn't even look like they matched the lighting.
posted by brundlefly at 10:05 PM on June 11, 2007

Great post! Thanks. Inspired by Rome, I'm on a bit of a Rome kick myself and am currently working my way through Colleen McCullough's Masters of Rome series. 2000 pages down and only 5000 more to go - and yet, even at that massive length, I'm certain that I'll feel bereft when it's over. Most of pop-cult Rome focuses on the Julio-Claudians and later, so the late-Republic stuff covered in Masters of Rome is refreshing.
posted by ereshkigal45 at 10:56 PM on June 11, 2007

of the late lamented BBC/HBO series Rome

Late lamented? ... ... oh goddamn.
posted by dreamsign at 6:35 AM on June 12, 2007

Let me know when it's ported to Quake/Unreal/HL.
posted by brownpau at 7:53 AM on June 12, 2007

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