I’m not advocating amalgamation with Australia. I’m proud to be a New Zealander, and proud of our differences, including our separate histories and approaches to world affairs. But ANZAC day is upon us, and the reason we have a dawn parade is simple: at dawn on April 25th, Australian forces stormed ashore on Turkey’s Gallipoli Peninsular.
The New Zealanders came ashore later that same day, well after dawn. From that point, the invaders could be classified as a truly ANZAC (Australia New Zealand Army Corps) force.
In transit to Gallipoli, and during training in Egypt, the Kiwis and Australians indulged a friendly rivalry. OK, at times, unfriendly rivalry. But once they faced the Turks together on those twisted and barren slopes of Western Turkey, a healthier regard developed between the two country’s soldiers. I’m not sure, after digesting several tomes on the subject over the years, that Gallipoli started NZ on a path to self awareness (in my opinion, the fact we were so quick to jump, completely unprepared, into World War Two mitigates against that proposition) but Gallipoli did engage New Zealanders in a common cause with Australians on a large scale.
And what’s all that got to do with Apple? Not all that much, except that the Australian Broadcasting Corporation has launched a website that seeks to graphically show, in 3D, how the opening shots of what became the ANZAC sector at Gallipoli unfolded on April 25th, 1915.
A lot of the work was done on Macs.
Sam Doust, Creative Director, ABC (Innovation Division) told me the project was begun not that long ago – just last November. He remarked the idea of following one day in detail gives you a lot of scope, in historical events, to develop an idea along these lines, hinting that as the ABC expands into broadband delivery, this could be just the start of a new era of exciting projects that can bring history to life.
Actor Hugo Weaving, who voiced many of the readings of letters and diary entries, was simply asked if he’d like to be involved. He said yes straight away. (As I said to Sam, you can’t imagine this happening in Hollywood.)
The ABC’s Gallipoli: the First Day used a spatially based database developed by the University of Sydney’s Archaeological Computing Laboratory. The whole project was done on desktops, with the Unity 3D web-game software being considered initially before settling on Flash (the Flash work was done on PCs); the 3D Models were supplied by Plastic Wax Pty Ltd, who agreed to work to the diminutive budget. On the Macs, the primary software used was Cinema 4D (with Maya used to create the models) and Net Render was used to create the render farm.
Work was split between Macs and PCs in the development stages but the final rendering was run on a render farm of eight Macs (just laptops) networked together. Sam gave Adobe Air a lot of praise – it’s a bit like Adobe’s PDF format. While the PDF format was conceived to bring type and images together in shareable, cross platform documents, Air does a similar job for multimedia content.
You might like to think of this informational site as an insight not just into history, but into Web 3, as Web 3 promises so much more cinematic interactivity. This technology is already being put into browsers, for example into Apple Safari v4 Public Beta.
When you arrive at the site, you’ll see five postcards representing different entry points into the site: a Quick Tour that explains how to use it, the Australian early morning landing in 3D (it harnesses Google Earth technology), a Campaign Overview, a Personnel section and another for Military Hardware.
Of the sections, none of these will please the military obsessives except the 3D fly-throughs. They really do show pretty explicitly why the campaign began and continued so disastrously. The terrain would be daunting for any well-equipped army even today, and this was far from a well-equipped army. What’s amazing is they clung onto the terrain they took in those first 24 hours for nine months more.
To be fair, the Turks weren’t exactly well equipped either, but coped with the invasion well … they beat us. In fact, there was only one good thing about the entire campaign – our withdrawal in defeat. It was faultless. But I digress.
The basis of the site is a sophisticated 3D map of Anzac Cove built using topographical data from a year after the battle. You can move around in the landscape – along beaches, up cliffs, over hills – creating the feeling of actually being there as the day unfolds. You can – virtually – visit where the nascent Maori Battalion (as Pioneers) was billeted for a while, for example, near the feature named The Sphinx by the troops.
The personnel section is interesting because it contains footage of some of the veterans talking, including New Zealander Tony Fagan – I wish you could tell from the list which names have video attached instead of having to click through all of them to see. But that’s a minor quibble, and when more content gets added in, the site will develop into an even richer experience with a hope that a downloadable version can be produced to run offline one day.
The campaign overview is succinct, but surprisingly detailed once you delve – if you want a graphic picture of why Gallipoli unfolded like it did, this will inform many an amateur historian and student. It’s classy.