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Virtual Access to Landscapes and Historic Gardens at Linked Locations

Objective

The objective of this proposal for a Take Up Action - Trial is to:
- improve methods of digital recording and remote display of Historic Gardens and Landscape Parks;
- provide an overview not usually achievable at ground level and to increase and broaden public access;

and a model for the implementation of comparative digital display of related locations and information across Europe to increase understanding of landscape history, design and culture.

This objective will be achieved by: publishing comparative on-line and real-time Digital Video of two Historic Gardens of European importance to Visitor Information systems on-site, on the partner site and on the Web; & digitally mapping the gardens in a computer based three-dimensional spatial information system with VRML to enable simultaneous access to non-visual information, e.g. local plant-names keyed to Latin. The result will serve as a model for other built environment sites of international and comparative importance.

Objectives:
The primary objective of the Valhalla Project is to digitally present Historic Gardens and Landscape Parks, on-site and on the Web. The purpose is to provide a site overview not usually achievable at ground level and to increase and to broaden public access; and also to enable historic garden staff to exchange skills and knowledge by using real-time video and video conferencing. In conjunction the project will trial a facility for the comparative digital display of related locations and information across Europe, in order to facilitate improved public understanding of landscape history, design and culture. To achieve this it is necessary to improve methods of digital recording and display of Historic Gardens and Landscape Parks. In so doing it is also then possible to use these digital records to enhance flexible visitor management so conserving more fragile locations; and to enable visitors including the disabled to plan bespoke routes; thereby improving the manageability, marketability and visitor interpretation of an Historic Site.

Work description:
The objectives of this Take Up Action - Trial will be achieved through 6 workpackages:
1. On-Site Historic Gardens Tasks
2. Webcams & 3D Spatial Information System (GIS)
3. Linked Camera Imagery and Spatial Information System Output (VRML)
4. Evaluation and Measurement of Results
5. Project Management
6. Dissemination and Exploitation

The first 2 work-packages:
. place real-time controllable digital video cameras within two Historic Gardens;
. direct the video output to the Visitor Information Centre and Gardens Office;
. implement video conferencing linked to the real-time video between the two locations for use by garden staff;
. and map information about plants, trees and hard landscape features into a GIS, from which a 3D web based model is generated, to enable comparative identification of the elements visible in the video.

Common plant names in French and English are indexed in Latin.

Work-package 3 adds:
World Wide Web access to a subset of the same video and 3D (VRML) information as available on site and hence enables the comparative study of similar information within both gardens from a Web Browser, so broadening public access to this part of European cultural heritage;
visitor interpretation and responsive Garden Staff site management facilities, to empower staff to keep the information in the GIS up to date;
edited video highlights of the project, and comparative video features of the two gardens culled from the video output, on Digital Video Disc (DVD) and in compressed form on the Web Site.

Work-package 4 comprises the evaluation and dissemination stage. In this Work-package expert garden staff from a wide range of European Historic Gardens, together with specialist and generalist focus groups, are brought together both physically and virtually to exchange views, to evaluate the outcome, and appraise the benefits and difficulties of broader implementation.

Work-package 5 is that of the project's management.

Work-package 6 addresses dissemination and exploitation. The proceedings, the evaluation and analysis, and the resulting reports will be added to the public Web Site, which contains the comparative study of both gardens.

Milestones:

The Valhalla Project will deliver:
. enhanced digital information for exchange between garden staff at remote locations;
. improved visitor interpretation of Historic Gardens as Video and on DVD;
. responsive visitor management to minimise visitor damage to fragile locations.

A methodology for digital recording and retrieval of information describing the ephemeral and seasonal changes in Historic Gardens.
A visualisable web site linking two comparable European Historic Gardens.
Evaluation, appraisal of benefits and difficulties, by seminars of users from expert to the general public.
Apart from project management and evaluation there have been three main elements to the Valhalla project, comprehensively united in the Website. These are those of:
- Recording information about the gardens, including discussions and expertise;
- A server based spatial information system that includes 'models' of the gardens that link through to a database - enabling the identification of the content of the video images and database searches on-line;
- Video Cameras that provide a controllable real-time overview of the gardens.

The following outcomes have been achieved, and most are in regular use:
1) Recording Locational Garden Information 3D information about the gardens, instances of plants, and accessibility has been recorded digitally in a GIS. This GIS data is used to: generate the 3D VRML models of the gardens; locate archived images that contain specific plants in one or more gardens; calculate the locations of a plant to direct the cameras in one or more gardens to point at each instance of the same plant; and enable bespoke searches for specific information such as accessibility;
2) Directable Live Web Video Motorised pan, tilt, zoom Video cameras have been mounted at each site controlled by a web based interface to give a real-time overview of the gardens, or focus on specific locations. The web interface gives point and click map control with a slider bar for zoom, allows entry of pan, tilt and zoom coordinates; and allows storage of start and end points for later scripted repeats at specified times. The camera feed is compressed in motion-JPEG format to provide a clear real-time web based image, and these motion-JPEG files are also archived in 5 minute clips throughout the day for later search, retrieval and review. These files are retrieved online and stored at a central server using an automated ftp script running overnight when bandwidth is freed due to inadequate light for the cameras.

Automated Active Imagemaps Interactive 3D 'models' of the gardens have been generated from the GIS in VRML. Instances in the models are hyper-linked through to the database. The field of view and zoom of the model are normally synchronized with the current camera control parameters, so providing a matching 'hyper-linked informative keyplan' for the current camera image visible on the web. The model is also controllable to match the view of archived video clips or other (historic) images and generate coordinate information. The resulting tagged images are retrievable by searching the database for instances of plants or other objects. The model may be used to generate coordinates to script the camera to give a specific tour of the garden at a schedulable time, while avoiding issues of contention through conflicting demands for real-time camera control. Automated Camera Control Script Selected camera coordinates with date, time and duration are stored in the database. This data is used to generate a Script to control the camera to take specific sequences of images at set times. This "Calendar' control of the cameras is necessary to select and archive video highlights from the cameras at the highest quality possible for later reuse, without incurring insuperable data storage problems. A real-time mpeg2 encoder is controlled from the script and the resulting highlights are stored with the metadata tagged locational information from the script, and then written to DVD on site, to avoid bandwidth problems of on-line transmission of such large files to the central server.
5) Comparative Historic Gardens Web trial The website contains an explanation of the project; together with comparative information about the two gardens. It contains: live video images of both gardens; live video images with synchronized explanatory VRML models, giving access to hyperlinked information about plants visible in the images; a selection of the archived video clips; a search mechanism to compare archived clips from both gardens; discussion and frequently asked questions. The site is based on active server pages.
6) Live Expert Commentary The private section of the website contains the live camera controls, together with project specific files and work under development. Using the live camera controls Staff have been able to video conference between the two gardens, and so share experience online "virtually", while controlling the remote cameras and discussing the view from the other garden.

Funding Scheme

ACM - Preparatory, accompanying and support measures

Coordinator

UNIVERSITY OF THE WEST OF ENGLAND, BRISTOL
Address
Coldharbour Lane
BS16 1QY Bristol
United Kingdom

Participants (3)

GARDENERS EXCHANGE TRUST
United Kingdom
Address
Bellingham Farmhouse, Sevenhampton
SN6 7QA Swindon
GASCOYNE CECIL STATES
United Kingdom
Address
Hatfield House
AL9 5NQ Hatfield
SOCIETE CIVILE IMMOBILIERE DU CHATEAU DE VILLANDRY
France
Address
Chateau De Villandry
37510 Villandry