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A scene from the “On-A-Slant” video project

36 NDSUmagazine

NEW TOOLS, NEW POSSIBILITIES

Like a swooping, soaring hawk, the “virtual” camera assumes a birds-eye view for the opening scene of the “On-A-Slant” video.

The camera, like a curious bird, takes viewers for a lilting ride far above the simulated Mandan earth lodge village. The aerial view begins from afar, scan- ning the sweeping vistas of the Heart and Missouri river landscape. As it nears the earth mound village, the camera flits and floats from the river, where a man paddles a bullboat, to the roof of an earthen lodge where children loll on the timbers. It pauses to examine votive poles, corn-drying racks and the exterior accoutrements of several lodges.

With the music of Native American flutist Keith Bear setting the tone, the camera alights on the ground and ushers guests inside select earth lodges. Once inside the lodge, the pace slows. Viewers have time to take in details such as the central fire pit and cooking area, sleeping quarters lined with ani- mal skins and makeshift corral area where horses were kept indoors in case of harsh weather or Sioux raids.

The “On-A-Slant” video producers labored to give viewers a true sense of being inside a cluster of Mandan earth lodges in 1776. The video was produced on two separate digital recorders – one for the right eye and one for the left eye. Thus, the video projector incorporates two DVD players, one for the right eye and one for the left. That means people who watch the movie need those funky black plastic-rimmed 3-D glasses.

The “On-A-Slant” video is perhaps the most high profile of the NDSU Archaeology Tech Lab’s work thus far. Other projects in the works include:

  • Development of a computer game tentatively called “Virtual Archaeologist”

for high school and college students. The game allows students to experience an archaeologist’s world while on a dig – excavating, analyzing and interpret- ing artifacts.

  • Development of “Virtual Dancer,” an interactive archaeological/aerobic

dance video to help curb the growing problem of diabetes among Native Americans. The computer game was the brainchild of elders from the White Earth Band of Chippewa. They wanted to keep alive traditional dances, and encourage vigorous exercise for children. The game would meld demonstra- tions of traditional dances, archaeological information, native music and diabetes prevention education. Completion of the project hinges on whether the lab receives a $3.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

  • Development of a program that would allow visitors at national parks or

historic sites to use their PDAs to view a digital simulation of what once existed on the very spot they are standing. The technology would bring artifacts out of museums and onto handheld computer screens, allowing park visitors to relate the artifacts to the present-day environment around them. Data also would be available about the region’s flora, fauna and geology. Production will start this summer, contingent on a National Science Foundation grant.

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