Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Done (ish)

Hallelujah. Finally sent everything in after a long and frustrating day dealing with a bad internet connection and massive file sizes. At a few minutes to midnight, the countdown for the large file sending service I was using read 2 hours and some; after waiting 2 hours and some it read 1 hour and some, so I went to bed and let it load overnight. I hope everything made it to where it needed to go. There is a lot that I wish we could have captured in the animation, like the more discreet movements of the agents or the objects in the ritual like kero cups and the tills, but I don't have the technical know-how to understand whether that was ever really feasible (or how many more dozens of hours would have been needed to accomplish those tasks). I'd like to continue to fine-tune the ritual model, but perhaps what we need right now is a bit of time to think about it and recharge for next semester. It's been a tremendous learning process and I'm really grateful that I was pushed out of my comfort zone and forced to learn new software and new ways of thinking. This whole thing has encouraged me to think about the way I use different technologies and to recognize their flexibility... almost anything can be done if one has the patience and the chutzpa to go for it.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Final Countdown

This is it. I've been e-mailing with Pengfei, Emily and Diana about coordinating the final put-together, in which the objects and people (grafted with the mo-cap movements) are imported into the CAROSA map, and then the entire animation is carried out and made into a .mov file that I will then edit in iMovie and to which I will add the voiceover/music. The goal is to send the final product in by 4pm Tuesday. It's scary because it feels like there are lots of balls in the air; each person is responsible for crucial steps of the process. Here's to hoping everything goes smoothly. I've got the audio ready to go... with luck, the whole thing will be just under 6 minutes long. One of the biggest issues right now is fixing bugs in the skeleton/mo-cap part of the animation (in other words, ensuring that the agents in the model are performing the actions I did in the mo-cap suit). I'm not a religious person, but if I were, this would be the time to pray. I'll invoke Jediism for now: please oh please, let the force be with us.

Screen capture of the model as is (courtesy of Pengfei Huang):

Sunday, December 13, 2009


It's getting down to the wire. I've been working with Pengfei on creating the right map/grid so that he can more easily code the locations of various activities in the ritual. I've been using the 3D Warehouse to find small objects to use as markers on the map; I even found this great little jagged wall model which I 'exploded' and onto which I added a new texture taken from one of Dr. Erickson's Inca wall images. Sometime early this week, I think the whole group is going to get together to figure out how to finish this thing off once and for all; I'm really looking forward to the moment when it all comes together. In the meantime, I'm recording the voice over in English and looking around for good music to have in the background.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

SketchUp Skills

I spent about five hours the other night trying to figure out how to model terrain in SketchUp. I started by doing a very haphazard, ugly triangle method which made the mountain/field look jagged and unrealistic, then I went for the curved terrace look (which was equally unrealistic but more aesthetically pleasing), and then, after watching a few YouTube tutorials, I figured out how to use the sandbox features to create a smoothed mountainous terrain for the field. I will withhold screenshots here so that I have more new material to show for myself in the presentation on Wednesday. After making this discovery (and, in the fervor of epiphany, continued to play around with the model for a looong time), I sent the model to Pengfei, the graduate student that Dr. Badler got involved with the project. I went in to see him the next day to try to transfer the image from Sketchup to Maya and then Maya to Ogre. At the SIG lab, I learned several things:

1. The field surface on which the "agents" will tread must be perfectly flat in the model
2. Newer versions of OGRE are pretty different from older versions
3. How to increase the order of magnitude of the view of the objects in Maya
4. That the model must be made up of triangles to be able to tag coordinates for CAROSA (and that the smooth feature in SketchUp simply conceals the triangles)

I've been in touch with Diana about modeling props and other items for the model. She showed me a screenshot of a kero cup model and a plow, both of which looked amazing. Things are really shaping up.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


This morning I suited up to do the motion capture for the model of the ploughing ritual. I had written a list of all the discrete movements that might take place during the ritual, from drinking chicha from a kero cup to slicing the throat of a llama, from drunken staggering to rhythmic dancing. It was a process not unlike filming a movie; there are takes, someone yells "action," and sometimes one must do away with inhibitions. A friend who is a DMD major was working in the room where we were doing the motion capture and there were a few embarrassing moments (like when I mimed a man drunkenly urinating).

We are well on our way, I think, to having a really cool model. Brigitte is working o
n putting together the "schedules" of all the agents participating in the ritual (we will have to cap the total number at 20, which is fine but not quite the crowd I had envisioned); I've been researching and writing the script for the animation as well as writing voicover text for the final product. I'm looking forward to hearing Bauer's responses to my questions. Perhaps he will be able to clear up some of the remaining confusions about the ritual, particularly regarding the two different fields and the observation of the sun on the day of the ritual.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Re-Change of Plans

We're back to focusing on the ploughing ritual (though still weaving in the origin myth). I spent the last three and a half hours searching through primary source documents (thank you eHRAF) trying to find an answer to the question of whether the ritual took place at Sausero, Collcampata, or both. From what I can tell, Sausero tends to be associated with Mama Huaco, and the maize from this field is said to be made into chicha for the cult of Mama Huaco. Collcampata, on the other hand, seems to be associated more with Manco Capac and the Sun. There is a version of the origin myth in which Manco Capac is said to adorn himself with silver and gold so that the people on distant mountains can see him glimmering and believe that he is the son of the Sun. I think we can say, then, that Sausero and Collcampata are separate but part of the same ritual; both are included in various account that mention that it is the first plouhing, and I found one account this morning (it referenced the harvest ritual but suggests continuity with the planting) that says that the ceremony started at Sausero and moved to fields of other deities, including Collcampata/the sun. We're getting closer!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Change of Plans

Brigitte and I just met to discuss our project and decided to change our focus slightly. Rather than trying to piece together "factual" information about how the sowing ritual and the anti-zenith relate and coming up with one quasi-definitive rendering of events, we will focus on the origin myth of Mama Huaco and Manco Capac, which will, we think, offer us more interpretive wiggle-room. If we focus on modeling our interpretation of the myth (which is, after all, a myth) based on various accounts and oral histories, we can still insert elements of the corn planting ritual as they relate to the first sowing by Mama Huaco and Manco Capac and discuss Mama Huaco's journey along the ceque/sight line of Quispicancha in relation to the anti-zenith sunset observation on August 18th as described by Zuidema.