PlusOne bring Amsterdam's history to life as an animated travel guide

For a new exhibition at the Amsterdam Museum, local creative production studio PlusOne has created a series of seven films that detail the history of the city.

PlusOne worked to a brief that the films should explore four core values of the city: enterprise, free thinking, creativity and citizenship. Each of the seven films is accompanied with a start screen, which loops until an RFID-chip in a booklet carried by visitors activates the content. The films are projected onto big glass screens in the middle of the gallery. Next to this, PlusOne created a videowall of approximately 7x3m.

When the project was finished PlusOne were asked to create a trailer, which features the highlights of the films. This can be seen at the top of this piece.

We sat down with PlusOne's Marcel Vrieswijk to discover how they created the films, which we achieved using a mix of 3ds Max, Cinema 4D and Adobe Creative Suite.

DA: How did you come to work on this project?

MV: "The Amsterdam Museum saw the animation we made for Images for the Future. They liked our approach to storytelling and the way we infused this with design.

DA: What impact did you want the films to have on the viewer, and how did this guide your choice of style and technique?

MV: "We aimed to present films that visualize the DNA of Amsterdam in a clear way, and are intriguing and visually appealing at the same time. We wanted to offer the visitors a different perspective on the images than they are used to.

"To achieve this we chose to add an extra dimension by making the images three-dimensional. Another dimension, sound, was added to make the whole even more appealing. Lifelike sounds and soundtracks that fit the spirit of the age add lustre to the scenes. The challenge was to bring the masterpieces to life without affecting their identity, or rather, their soul.

"We found out that -- in addition to the collection of the Amsterdam Museum -- we could use international collections of artworks, [which were] unlocked by the networks of the museum's curators. We had to come up with an idea to mend this all together, so the films feel like they are related."

DA: Why did the mix of hand-crafted elements and motion graphics suit this project so well?

MV: "We used the latest techniques to tell stories with old masterpieces. As we said, it was a thin line we were walking: we didn’t want to affect the soul of the images. So we used techniques to support the storyline.

"When we delivered our first preview, the curators were blown away. They saw the paintings in a way they’ve never seen them before. The new dimension made them experience something new with something they’ve known for ages."


DA: The trailer contains elements from historical works appear to rotate a little in 3D. Did you use 3D models here or other techniques such as projection mapping? 

MV: "The globe was photographed [from all angles]. We created one big file of all the pieces of texture of the globe and removed the shading and reflections that were in the original photos. After that we modeled it in 3D.

"For the paintings, we used projection mapping. The first step was to divide the painting into layers and fill in some of the parts, which we didn’t have. After that we remodeled the painting in 3D and projected the painting back on it. Sometimes we animated parts of it, for instance flags or smoke."

DA: How did you achieve the shattered-glass effect (below)?

MV: "We modeled and animated the broken pieces, created a material with glass-like properties and added the painting in the background. Later, we chose to make the painting only visible in the refraction of the glass, which resulted in that you only can see the painting when glass passes in front of it."

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