Fort Vancouver Mobile - A video overview

Courtesy of: Research Assistant Aaron May of Washington State University Vancouver's Creative Media and Digital Culture program. Produced in 2011.

Video highlights from the apps (36-minute version)

This montage provides a sampling of some of the video media in the Fort Vancouver Mobile apps. This app is much more than just a video distribution system, but these videos show the variety of content, from expositional segments to new journalism to those intended to prompt the development of interactive narratives.

Friday, November 4, 2011

"Call to Action" designation

The Fort Vancouver National Historic Site recently designated the Fort Vancouver Mobile project as one of its two national "A Call to Action" projects. As the National Park Service prepares for its second century, it is refreshing its goals and refocusing its mission. As part of that, this document outlines those objectives, including No. 10, dubbed "Arts Afire," as a means to "showcase the meaning of parks to new audiences through dance, music, visual arts, writing, and social media. To do so we will launch 25 artist-led expeditions that involve youth in creating new expressions of the park experience through fresh perspectives and new technology."
The FVM project, as part of that effort, is described this way: "A partnership between FOVA and the Creative Media and Digital Culture (CMDC) Department at Washington State University Vancouver, is utilizing the talents of student and professor digital artists and storytellers to create a free smartphone app that helps connect visitors to the significance of this national park. Recognized as a nationally significant program through the recent awarding of a NEH Digital Start-up Grant, it is in its second year of 1) utilizing the talents of students and professors in digital humanities and 2) engaging the digital humanities and arts community to connect the public to park stories in new, creative new ways. The program reaches out to youth through the digital arts and humanities, creating new, collaborative interpretations of the park through young eyes, using current and cutting-edge arts and technology. It provides direct and sustained interaction with park staff both inside the classroom and the park, especially interpretive and resource specialists. In 2012, through partnership with the park, the CMDC Digital Storytelling course will focus students' learning entirely on developing a new component that explores the woman's experience at Fort Vancouver through film, digital art, animation, photography, spoken word, creative writing, and other media -- supported by park subject matter specialists in interpretation, history, and archaeology. This course will utilize park resources onsite and immerse participants in the park experience and cultivate a deeper understanding of the park's natural, cultural, and historic resources."

Friday, October 14, 2011

Two iDMAa presentations today on mobile media and the FVM project

I'm in Savannah, Georgia, today at the International Digital Media and Arts Association conference, with the rest of the Washington State University Vancouver faculty in the Creative Media and Digital Culture program, including several of the FVM project contributors: Dene Grigar, John Barber, Will Luers, Michael Rabby and Aaron May.
Our group presented a panel on "Teaching Mobile Design" in the morning, and then I presented an individual talk in the afternoon on "Net Locality: Exploring New Ways of Storytelling and Learning with Mobile Devices at a National Historic Site." Both went wonderfully, as did John Barber's individual talk on "Thoughts Toward Situation-Centered Mobile Apps Usability." We all spread the word widely about the CMDC program and the Fort Vancouver Mobile project, and several people approached me throughout the day to talk about FVM, from across the country and even abroad, including a professor from the School of Digital Media at Sripatum University in Thailand.

Friday, September 30, 2011

FVM app back in the App Store (for iPhones / iPads)

We had to switch Apple accounts for the FVM app, which caused the Apple version of the app to disappear from the App Store for a couple of weeks. Argh! ... But the app is back now. If you have an Apple device, please download the app and let us know what you think.

Logos of our biggest sponsors

The Fort Vancouver Mobile project would not have been possible without the generous support of all of the many volunteers but also these primary financial sponsors. Just thought I would say thank you, again!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Photos from the Kanaka video shoot

Fort Vancouver's chief ranger Greg Shine sent a few images from the video shoot on Friday. Here they are! ... Thanks, Greg!

Frank van Waardenburg as William Kaulehelehe in sermon scene

Videographer Troy Wayrynen filming actors Sandy Bunda and Randy Chang approaching the makeshift church

Working on close-ups with Dale Magsayo

Sandwich boards that closed down part of the site for our filming

The cast and crew, from left to right: Brett Oppegaard, Troy Wayrynen, Dale Magsayo, Sandy Bunda, Randy Chang, Deva Yamashiro, Chayton Barnes, Robert Barnes, Frank van Waardenburg (holding his granddaughter Fallon), Greg Shine and Kapuanani Antonio.

Monday, September 26, 2011

WSU Vancouver historian gets FVM tour

Dr. Steve Fountain, a WSU Vancouver historian, who has been consulting on this project, took a full-fledged look at the Kanaka module last week on site. He made many positive comments about the FVM app, and he raised ideas about how such apps could be used in tandem with the release of scholarly books, for marketing as well as for providing deeper context about geographical spaces in which the physical environment adds to or enhances understandings of place in conjunction with digital media.

NEH meetings and Phase 2 of the FVM project

With the Kanaka module in the final stages of polish, we are turning our attention more now to the second phase of development in the Fort Vancouver Mobile project, a module about women and domestic life in The Village in the mid-1800s. Dr. Dene Grigar, the director of the Creative Media and Digital Culture program at WSU Vancouver, is the principal investigator on that module, and she is in Washington, D.C., this week to talk to National Endowment for the Humanities staff members supporting our work as part of a $50,000 Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant. Dr. Grigar is participating in a NEH workshop about the grant and also preparing a pitch for a Summer Institute for Advanced Topics in the Digital Humanities at WSU Vancouver. She also is keeping a separate blog about the women and domestic life module here.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Kanaka video production just about wrapped up

Friday was a busy day for the FVM project. Videographer Troy Wayrynen and I shot the final round of footage for the Kanaka module version that is scheduled for a full release (the interactive narrative already has been through proof-of-concept and prototyping stages, and is being beta tested now). We plan to edit that footage and integrate it with another session of media production from a few months ago, that one focused on recreation, such as hula dancing, at the site. The goal is to create a video that illustrates the conflict Hawaiians had (and many people still do today) between spending Sunday as a day off for recreation, or for spiritual pursuits. Letters from various sources in the 1840s noted that the protagonist of the Kanaka module, William Kaulehelehe, had a tough time convincing his fellow "Sandwich Islanders" to spend their lone day off each week in his makeshift place of worship. So we are reflecting that piece of history with this segment. Chief Ranger Greg Shine once again gave the FVM project all of the support it needed, including the help of many other National Park Service staff members at the Fort Vancouver National Historic site. All of the on-screen talent came from the ranks of the Ke Kukui Foundation, the region's top Hawaiian/Polynesian arts and culture organization, led by Deva Yamashiro. Visitors to the set this time included the Fort Vancouver Superintendent, Tracy Fortmann, and a team of Columbian news reporters, led by veteran writer Tom Vogt.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Forrest Burger and KBTC

Our longtime supporter and key partner in the Fort Vancouver Mobile project, Forrest Burger, recently accepted the local production manager job at the KBTC public television station in Tacoma. Forrest has had a distinguished journalism career, including working for CNN Tokyo and "60 Minutes" in New York, and we feel very fortunate to have collaborated with him so much on the FVM project. He helped in countless ways and always went above-and-beyond for this project, from providing technical advice and testing gear to the superb work he has performed for FVM behind the camera (as the lead videographer on several FVM videos that are yet to be released, as part of The Village opening module). His new job includes being responsible for the overall production of local programming on KBTC, including creating public affairs and documentary programs. We don't know fully yet what that means for his future involvement with the FVM project, but we do know that Tacoma will be lucky to have him at the helm.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Apple App Store account in transition

We have decided to move our Apple FVM app from a personal iTunes account to an organizational account, so if you see it missing from the App Store for a few days, you will know why. Apparently, Apple does not allow direct transfers, so we had to delete the app in the store and resubmit it with the new account. Will keep you posted on the new link, when it appears.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hudson's Bay Company grant program is suspended

I recently came across an old call for historic preservation/interpretation grant proposals for the Hudson's Bay Company, which operated Fort Vancouver more than 150 years ago. So I wrote the company a note about the FVM project, and the response was not promising. A nameless employee at The HBC wrote back that the grant program had been suspended, and that it only funded projects within Canada, when it was operating. But the person did ask for the project web site. So maybe the door is not completely closed.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Added to the list: The Old Apple Tree story

With two modules nearly completed (Kanaka and Kane), one module about 3/4th of the way done (Village Opening), and a fourth module well underway (women and domestic life), we have been thinking about what will be next for the Fort Vancouver Mobile project.
Brady Berkenmeier and Allen Anderson, the creative drivers of the Kane module, are ready to begin work on another phase. The Old Apple Tree story has been put through significant preproduction work. So it made sense for us to return to The Old Apple Tree story for the fifth FVM module, with Berkenmeier and Anderson leading the effort.
This piece originally was developed as part of a (DTC 354) Digital Storytelling class at Washington State University Vancouver in the fall of 2010, also the origins of the Kane module. Berkenmeier was a member of that class, and he worked with the students who developed The Old Apple Tree story to the point it is now. He therefore was the logical choice to help bring that core of an idea (har har) to fruition. He has many ideas already for the module and said he will begin soon on the framework.

Kane module is nearly ready for beta testing

Brady Berkenmeier and Allen Anderson and I spent a few hours testing the Kane module on Tuesday, and it is expected to be ready for beta testing by Sept. 17, when Fort Vancouver has its largest event of the year, Campfires and Candlelight.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Welcome, bienvenue, bienvenido, National Park Service Digital Media Webinar participants!

Greg Shine of the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site said you might be stopping by today. ... So let me add just a bit more to what I wrote below for this group. Digital media, especially through mobile devices, creates many new opportunities. It is not magic, though, and digital media does not get created through wizardry. Digital media is the result of a process, often a complicated and creative process, and to help you visualize this activity, here are two illustrations taken from the Elements of User Experience work by Jesse James Garrett. Both of these graphics helped me in the beginning of the Fort Vancouver Mobile project, as launching points, and I suspect they also might help you in whatever you want to accomplish. More details on each of the labels are available through Garrett's sites and books.

If I can be of any further help to you or your project, please feel free to contact me anytime via the email on the upper right-hand side of this page.

- Brett

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

10 tips for making great mobile place-based media

Greg Shine, Chief Ranger at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, and I have been working on this FVM project for a couple of years now. He asked me recently what were my top tips for people considering starting such a project in other places. He wanted to share those, along with his tips, as part of the National Park Service's first Digital Media Webinar at the Washington D.C.-area training center, which is being attended right now, as I type, by Shine as well as by more than 90 employees from throughout national parks in the U.S. & territories (such as Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Guam).

Here is what I wrote:

1. Make friends. No one person can create a high-quality mobile app alone, no matter how talented. The process just requires too many things to be done, in too many different fields, with too much expertise needed. Sweat equity builds these mobile apps, and the payoff for friends is the fun of collaborating together on a cool project.

2. Focus on something small and achievable. Ambitions will grow, no doubt, in the process, but the original idea should be something that a small team can build and celebrate as a success. Mobile devices can do it all – text, images, audio, video, animation, plus interactivity with contextual awareness – but an app creator will do best by starting with a series of small goals, and gradually chipping away at the bigger dream.

3. Stay focused on that original goal. It will be tempting to follow the siren call of mobile app possibilities. Just remember, something inspired you to build the mobile app for your site. Whatever that was, keep your eyes on it. Build it. When you are done, there always can be a Phase 2.

4. Don’t skimp on the backend. While the least interesting part of the mobile app is the invisible coding that makes it work, think of that component like the engine of a car. If your Ferrari of an idea can’t make it out of the driveway, then it’s just as valuable as your garden Gnome. Such backend work on a mobile app is much more complicated than even your programmer probably understands, because of the interactions it creates with non-coded physical space. Whatever your most conservative estimate is for programming costs and time, triple it. Then, triple that.

5. Avoid old patterns. A mobile app offers radically new opportunities. Explore them. Porting a wayside sign onto a mobile screen, for example, is no different in ambition than the companies in the mid-1990s who thought it was innovative to transfer their tri-fold brochures, as is, onto a web site.

6. Get to know your visitors. Take the time, do the research, and get to know your users in as much depth as possible. It is not just sufficient to know what users do at your site, because they very well may be following the rat maze you have created. Instead, try starting with a blank slate, and asking visitors what they would like to be doing at the site, and how, and let your imagination and your mobile app try to respond to those ideas.

7. Challenge all of your assumptions. The world of mediated spaces has changed so significantly during the past decade, with the mass adoption of mobile devices, and the growing abilities of them, that almost any habitual interpretive process you have could be outdated. Systematically test what you are doing. Don’t just assume it is working. Find out what actually is making connections with visitors, what isn’t, and what your visitors want right now and in the future. Move resources away from the past and toward the future. Serve your users, not your habits.

8. Quality is more important than quantity. It might be easy and seemingly helpful to dump all of your desktop-oriented web pages into the mobile device. But if those pages do not look good or work well on the device, then your users will develop a negative perception of your app and site. It might be difficult to create a small, yet high-quality object, on the mobile device, such as a high-res image, aligned with the physical space, and pushed to the user at a specific geolocated place, ripe for intellectual engagement. But which do you think would have a greater positive impact?

9. A professional app requires professional contributors, with professional equipment. It might be tempting to bring along cousin Billy, and niece Billyette, with the camcorder and a box of tapes, and try to reenact a scene from history in your backyard. And it certainly would be cheaper and less hassle. But the difference between that approach and a partnership with professional actors, videographers, costumers, editors, script writers, etc., is the difference between a Ken Burns’-like documentary aesthetic and a hack’s YouTube channel.

10. Do something fun. Don’t create a mobile app because you think you have to, or it should be done. Don’t assign it to somebody, or create an elaborate bureaucracy to handle the “mobile” issue. Find some aspect of your interpretation that you really think would be exciting as a mobile app. Work in that inspired space, of wanting this new piece of digital media to exist, because you want it to exist. If this project becomes just another chore, or task, to check off, everyone loses. If this project expresses something you passionately want to share with your visitors, because you know they want it, too, then you should start today. There is a lot of work, a lot of agony, and a lot of glory ahead of you.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Updates about the growing FVM audience

Just a quick note to document that this Fort Vancouver Mobile blog surpassed 5,000 overall page views last month (July 2011), the biggest month yet (more than 700 page views in July alone). The beta version of the location-based app has been downloaded now by hundreds of people, according to market statistics, and anecdotally, we are getting all sorts of interesting feedback. A 13-year-old girl approached fort staff last week with suggestions for expansion of the app. A visitor to the site yesterday suggested to a friend in Spanish to "descargand" ("download") the app on Twitter, and even included the #fvmobile hashtag. Very cool!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Columbian "cheers" the FVM project

The local newspaper's weekly list of good and bad in the community featured the Fort Vancouver Mobile project, saying:

"Cheers: To a new smartphone app that shows smartphone users images, maps, audio and video about a portion of Fort Vancouver. The application was developed by students in Washington State University Vancouver’s creative media & digital culture program. So far the app covers only the area outside the stockade known as the village, but assistant professor Brett Oppegaard, who oversaw its development, hopes it will be expanded."

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Kanaka module videos have been re-encoded

Forrest Burger of RiverBend Productions recently re-encoded the Kanaka module videos through a Matrox video encoder, which kept the file sizes roughly the same (to avoid buffering) but significantly increased the quality level of the imagery. The results look good, and that encoding process will be our new standard. ... Thanks, Forrest!

Kane's Wanderings animations

The voice talents of Ben Coder, a Fort Vancouver National Historic Site park ranger, have been added to the Paul Kane animations, produced by Brady Berkenmeier and Allen Anderson. Here is the context of the module and previous versions, and here are the latest drafts:

Animation 1-Good Audio from Brady Berkenmeier on Vimeo.

Animation 2-Good Audio from Brady Berkenmeier on Vimeo.

Animation 3-Good Audio from Brady Berkenmeier on Vimeo.

Animation 4-Good Audio from Brady Berkenmeier on Vimeo.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Another beta testing opportunity ... Thursday morning, July 28

After a very busy beta testing session yesterday, July 25, that lasted almost the entire day (with the sunburn to prove it), I will be offering one more guided Fort Vancouver Mobile best testing session for the Kanaka module on Thursday morning, July 28, from 9 a.m. to noon. No RSVP needed. Just come by The Village (west of the stockade, between the bastion and the Land Bridge) during that time and find me in the area.

The next round of beta testing, probably starting in late August or early September, will be on the Kane's Wanderings module, which is nearly complete. More details to be announced on that soon.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Columbian makes notice of the FVM project

As part of a July 19 story about Fort Vancouver's annual archaeology field school, writer Tom Vogt also added this helpful sidebar about the Fort Vancouver Mobile project. Thanks, Tom!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

FVM on the local Fox News channel

Just found out that a short piece about the project ran on Fox News at 4:37 p.m. Monday, July 18:

Here's a link to the clip

Monday, July 18, 2011

Women & Domestic Life at the Village of Fort Vancouver

Dr. Dene Grigar has been working diligently on a new module for the Fort Vancouver Mobile project based on the women and domestic life at Fort Vancouver, funded by a National Endowment for the Humanities Digital Start-Up grant. She is keeping a separate blog on her process and product here. It is an impressive bit of documentation, including a bibliography, project updates and project details.

Friday, July 15, 2011

WSU News creates a video story about the FVM project

Matt Haugen from WSU News was given a demo of the FVM app a few weeks ago, and here is the story he produced from that experience:

From: "UREL.WSU.News"
Date: Mon, 18 Jul 2011 10:42:10 -0700
Subject: WSU VANCOUVER NEWS: WSU mobile app offers interactive experience for Fort Vancouver visitors


WSU mobile app offers interactive experience for Fort Vancouver visitors

Brett Oppegaard, assistant professor, 360-546-9788,

Media contact:
Matt Haugen, WSU News, 509-335-0487,

Editor’s note: A video version of this story can be found HERE:

VANCOUVER, Wash. – The future is to immerse yourself in the past. A smart phone application (app) is providing visitors to the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site with a new way to experience history.

Designed by The Creative Media & Digital Culture Program at Washington State University Vancouver, the mobile app shows users images, maps, audio and video related to where they are at the site. Still in its infancy, the app covers a small area called “The Village,” which recreates living conditions from when the fort was active.

WSU Vancouver assistant professor Brett Oppegaard said the app is joining an ever-converging world of history and technology.

“Any of the media that we can present digitally can be packaged into this app and then put onto a phone… The user can access it when they need it, when they want to learn about something in particular,” he said.

Research assistant Brady Berkenmeier said the technology opens the fort to visitors in entirely new ways.

“It’s different than an audio tour; it’s different than a wayside sign," he said. "It’s an interactive way to learn about history… I think it’s the future of this historic site.”

Working with the National Park Service, Oppegaard said he hopes the mobile app can be expanded to more areas of the fort and used as a model for apps at parks across the nation.

To learn more about the mobile app, click here

See an earlier article here.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

WSU News article about the FVM project from 2010

Apparently I missed this one when it came out, but I found it recently. So here it is. It was triggered by the 2010 Clark County Historical Promotion Grant awarded to the project.

Friday, July 1, 2011

More Paul Kane animation drafts

Brady Berkenmeier, the PI for the Kane's Wanderings module, has sent a few more draft animations (with scratch audio; we will be recording the new audio sometime in the next few weeks). This extends the earlier work he and graphic designer Allen Anderson have done.

The segments are shorter and more location-oriented, per the app design. They also are part of a clever locative game Berkenmeier designer, in which users try to piece back together Kane's journal pages by walking around The Village area. One aspect of the animation that I am really enjoying is picturing these historical characters once again moving around the setting the way it looked in their time period, without the highway, the railroad, the airport, etc., in the background. Instead, they can see, as the people of that period did, Mount Hood and the Columbia River right at their doorsteps. We also have been in regular contact with the Chinook tribe, of which Casanov was chief, in order to fill out the story more, and get more of a broader perspective into the piece (not just Kane's words). That's still a work in progress.

These are drafts, and we are open to suggestions, so please comment at will:

Animation1RoughDraft from Brady Berkenmeier on Vimeo.

Animation2RoughDraft from Brady Berkenmeier on Vimeo.

Animation3RoughDraft from Brady Berkenmeier on Vimeo.

Animation4RoughDraft from Brady Berkenmeier on Vimeo.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The wayside signs in The Village

Two wayside signs are in The Village. These are well done and provide a good comparison of what the wayside sign format (similar to a wall text) offers in terms of density of content, versus what a mobile device at the same place can offer visitors. It also is interesting to compare what information is on the sign, versus what information is in the app, in the same place.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

When an outdoor app is tested in a rainstorm ...

The first open beta test for the Fort Vancouver Mobile project, as part of the historic site's annual Brigade Encampment on June 18, was yet another reminder to us of how weather dependent use of an outdoor mobile app can be.
Friday, June 17, was an unseasonably hot day. I spent a few hours at the site, making sure the app was primed and ready for testing, and came home with a sunburn. The glare from the intense sun, particularly around noon, made seeing the mobile screen tough at times, but that was a minor usability issue in comparison to what testers dealt with the next day.
Typically, in the Northwest, the skies are gray, and there is sporadic rain. But there usually are clearings, too. On Saturday, the weather was pretty much drizzle to downpour throughout the testing period, which I finally pulled the plug on about 1:30 p.m., after the lunch crowd left the site.
Special thanks are due, by the way, to: Brady Berkenmeier (PI of the Kane's Wanderings module), who helped throughout the day; to Dene Grigar and John Barber of the Creative Media and Digital Culture program at WSU Vancouver for their direct support as well; and to the fort staff, including Chief Ranger Greg Shine and volunteer coordinator Kimm Fox-Middleton, for making our test as comfortable as possible, considering the conditions, including providing a historic tent for us to work under.
The marketing of the beta test seemed to work well this time, with many reTweets and several pieces of direct correspondence generated by the various announcements. Greg even remarked that the mobile app launch was the most talked about part of the Brigade Encampment on the historic site's Facebook page.
A 5K run weaved through the historic site about 10 a.m., and many people (of the hundreds that jogged by) slowed down to look at what we were doing before continuing the run. That was more great exposure for the project.
Those who did test the app during the Brigade Encampment were exceedingly positive about the experience. Yet the rain sleeting sideways, the misting of the screens, the cold fingers trying to manipulate the app, and the difficulty in taking notes as well as conducting paper surveys in such an environment, overall seemed to me to be out of context with what would be typical use. So when the sun returns, or at least the rain stops, we'll be back out there. ...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Open public beta test (10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 18)

We are conducting our first round of open public beta testing on the Fort Vancouver Mobile app this weekend, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday in The Village at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. All other beta tests to this point have been by invitation only. If you are interested and available, just show up and give the app a try (with Android or Apple devices). The test likely will take about 30 minutes, and there is a concurrent special event called the Brigade Encampment, that is a lot of fun, too. 

Hope to see you there, 

- Brett Oppegaard

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Beta test today with the WSU Vancouver Mobile Tech Research Initiative

About 20 WSU Vancouver students and faculty members visited The Village today to beta test the FVM app (thanks again to Forrest Burger, Brady Berkenmeier, Nick Hill and Troy Wayrynen for helping with the test, and to Dene Grigar and John Barber for bringing this group to the site).
This was the first time we have tested the PhoneGap app as downloaded from the Android market and Apple App Store, and we had virtually no problems getting the app on the phones this time (Yeah!). We did, though, have GPS location issues that need to be quickly addressed (not so Yeah!). Many of the different handsets did not seem to pick up the first GPS location, and that acted as a gateway (since the later locations are linked in sequential order), keeping the other locations from being properly tested. We do have a debugging bar in the app at this point that allows users to skip obstacles like that, but the debugging skip also seemed to throw off the narrative flow for the users, and deteriorate the immersion in the story. The more one skipped an obstacle, it seemed, the less interested they became in overcoming the next obstacle. In fact, none of the users in this test ended up at the final video scene, completing the Kanaka module (while almost all of the users in previous beta tests completed the app). It's not clear yet to me what the dynamics were with this group that caused the dramatic swing, but I have written comments from the group to analyze and reflect upon. The geolocation ability, essential to the app, also needs a lot of serious attention at this point.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

FVM app iterations are flowing

In the spirit of Clay Shirky's "Publish, then filter" chapter in "Here Comes Everybody," the Fort Vancouver Mobile app team already has produced several iterations that improve the original program. We primarily uploaded the first version of the app for easier testing on site (rather than having to email apk links to potential users, they now can just download the app from the markets). There is about an 18-hour lag in the Android market right now, and it takes about a week for the new Apple versions to appear. Using this "publish, then filter" strategy has allowed us to find several bugs on phone models that we don't personally own among the team members, and to see the ways in which different handsets handle the same coding. At this point, two updates of the original Android app have been posted, and one new Apple version, with additional updates in the pipeline for both as I type. So please make sure to update your app regularly to get the best quality version available.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Building a partnership with the Texas Tech Usability Research Laboratory

I am in Lubbock, Texas, meeting with the Texas Tech Usability Research Lab's director, Dr. Brian Still, about the mobile usability testing we will be doing on the Fort Vancouver Mobile project, as part of a partnership funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities Digital Start-Up Grant. The Texas Tech lab has a national reputation for its rigorous usability tests, usually for corporate clients. We are hoping to work on our testing project in the fall. I will post details on this later, but our goals are to create tests that not only inform this particular project but also have external value with other projects focusing on mobile place-based media, or net locality.

Paul Kane module in process

The lead designer of the Kane's Wanderings module, Brady Berkenmeier, and his animation partner, Allen Anderson, have sent some updates of the piece, including a storyboard, and a brief sample of what this animation might look like. Here is a progression of developments:

I'll start posting the top on the top, from here, with the gradual progression pieces below:

NewestKaneBadAudio from Brady Berkenmeier on Vimeo.

Here are the changes, from start to just before this last one:


The end of the first segment of drafts, from about a month ago:

The next generation, first draft:

Kane Prototype Animation from Brady Berkenmeier on Vimeo.

TNG second draft

Unfinished Kane Animation from Brady Berkenmeier on Vimeo.

Another segment completed:

KaneRoughDraftBadAudio from Brady Berkenmeier on Vimeo.

A preview of the module should be ready in time for the June 18 soft launch at the Brigade Encampment.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

FVM app in the two big markets, Android and Apple

Thanks again Nick (and project manager, Joe, of course) for getting the FVM app through the Apple App Store process.

Here are the initial screen shots for both the Android and Apple versions of the app:



To download these, just go to the market and search for "Fort Vancouver," or you also can use the links on this blog in the upper right. Still a lot of work to do before the soft launch at the fort's Brigade Encampment on June 18, but this has been a major step and should really make beta testing much more efficient. Congrats, again, Nick and Joe!

FVM app accepted by the App Store!

Nick Hill just let me know that the Apple version of the FVM app was accepted by the App Store last night, so the Apple submission process, despite the dire warnings of the length of delay, was six days. Not 16 hours, like the Android Market took, of course, but six days is not a terribly long time to wait. Our next test regarding the submission process is to see how long it takes to update the app. We'll try that in about a week, once we get another big batch of media coded. The FVM app should appear in the App Store, Nick was told, within 24 hours. We'll keep an eye out for it, and post the URL as soon as it is available.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Kanaka walk-through

I am publishing this as a separate page as well, to make it easier to find, and updates will be posted there. But I thought I might as well put it in the main stream, too:

The "Kanaka" module, focusing on the Hawaiian influence in the cultural development of the Pacific Northwest, has led us through the evolutionary stages of this FVM project from the proof of concept to the prototype to the start-up phase, which we are in now. It tells the story of a Hawaiian pastor, William Kaulehelehe, who was lured to the site to proselytize to fellow Hawaiians. His experience, though, becomes much more complex, as he gets involved in an international dispute between the Americans and the British over territorial boundaries, a tale that includes aspects of colonialism and imperialism as well as the harsh realities of life as a pioneer. The walk-through is here (spoiler alert: that document will show the media embedded at the site; I recommend that you go through the piece first at the fort, if possible, to experience the work as intended, with the physical relationships to the place, and then coming back to this for deeper examination; the videos from this walk-through also are posted below; those, too, were built to align with the physical space but are here for remote examination):

Shifting the perspective from expositional to narrative:

Introducing the Hawaiian story:

William Kaulehelehe arrives at Fort Vancouver

Missing his media connections, Kaulehelehe writes a 19th century letter to the editor

Kaulehelehe's long and loyal service to the Brits in this area ends, when the Americans arrive

Friday, May 13, 2011

FVM Android is on the market!

The Fort Vancouver Mobile app now is on the Android market. Just open the Android market on your phone and search for "Fort Vancouver" to get to the download page. Even though this is just the bare bones beta version of the app, with a few bugs still to fix, we wanted to get it on the market for easier testing on site during the next few weeks before the soft launch (so we can have users directly download the app and use it on site). It's a very exciting moment for us, and I want to make sure Joe Oppegaard gets the credit he deserves for all of the behind-the-scenes work and coding labor on this. Thanks, Joe! ... He has toiled for many, many months now, and essentially created the app twice (once in Java, and now, in JavaScript, incorporating Phone Gap). He also is a co-owner of the rapidly growing Seattle-based web design firm Montana Banana, so he has been incredibly busy and gracious to include this in his schedule. Within a few moments of this FVM app being posted, it already had been downloaded 50 times. This step is going to make the app much more accessible, and it should help us start the summer on another positive note. ... Nick Hill, by the way, has submitted the app to the Apple App Store as well, which can be an extremely challenging process. I will post any updates on that part of the process as soon as I get them.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Village opening videos are pretty much wrapped up

Jon Nelson and Forrest Burger are doing the final edits of the Village Opening module, which documents the opening of the new area of the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site as well as gives users behind-the-scenes access to the fort's archaeological collection. Hope to post some samples soon.

FVM app submitted to the Apple App Store / Android Market

Nick Hill just wrote to say that he submitted the FVM app to the Apple App Store tonight. Joe Oppegaard is doing the same for the Android Market. It's a big day in FVM land. Thanks, guys!

VancouverArtsLive coverage of FVM at the WSU Vancouver Research Showcase 2011

Brady Berkenmeier and I are given some screen time in this VAL segment to talk about the FVM project:

We are at about the 20 minute mark, through the 23 minute mark.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Phone Gap / HTML5 switch

This could be a really long post about the decision Joe Oppegaard, Nick Hill and I made a couple of weeks ago to drop a 90 percent complete Android (Java) app and rebuild the entire program, plus a lot more, in JavaScript using Phone Gap, a HTML5 app platform. But I will stick to the condensed version, and if you want to know about anything else specifically, just post a comment, and I'll respond.
To begin with, when we started the Fort Vancouver Mobile project, app building required the programmer to work within the native language of the phone (Java for Android, and Objective-C for the iPhone). Working with those languages, as you might guess, is not easy, and working with both is like learning French and Japanese at the same time. So we were engaged in the very laborious project of writing an Android app in Java, and then, through a porting process, basically rewriting the app entirely in Objective-C. We did not even bring up the Blackberry and Windows7 users in any serious discussion, because of the additional resources it would have taken to write the same app in those languages as well.
So, as we approached the soft public launch of the app on June 18, we still were wrangling with some of the technical issues of both platforms, when we learned of new HTML5 developments, including Phone Gap, that (and this is the new and exciting part) allow access to the phone's hardware, such as the GPS locator (our app would be essentially worthless without a GPS location element). HTML5 is a great improvement on HTML, of course, but HTML5 with a wrapper platform like Phone Gap, suddenly gave us the opportunity to code the app in one language, JavaScript, that our programmers were professional adept at, and also for that app to work with the mobile hardware across the four main platforms in the U.S. today: Android, Apple, Blackberry and Win7. In the long run, we think this is going to be very, very good for the FVM project, reducing programming time and increasing consistency across platforms and enabling leading edge technology, including slicker interfaces. In the short term, this has been like taking two steps back to take three steps forward (sorry for the cliche, but that's an apt location-based media metaphor for this situation). There have been some glitches in this transition. But we still have faith in the strategy. Our first test was with the R.A. Long High School students (see earlier blog post). We are working on a large-scale demo in three weeks with WSU Vancouver's Creative Media and Digital Culture's Mobile Tech Research Initiative. We want this to be on the Android Market and the Apple App Store in time for the open testing at the fort's Brigade Encampment on June 18. Will keep you posted on how it is going here.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Sam Robinson of the Chinook Tribal Council gets a FVM demo

Sam Robinson, vice chairman of the Chinook Tribal Council, spent Wednesday afternoon at the fort, beta testing the FVM app. Robinson and I have been talking about ways to include the Chinook stories and perspectives in the app, and this was a great initial step in building a potential partnership. He seemed particularly excited about the potential for using the app to revive and teach Chinook Wawa, the primary language spoken in The Village in the mid-19th century.   

R.A. Long High School beta test is complete

Several students from R.A. Long High School, chaperoned by teacher-librarian Joan Enders, took some time out of their Fort Vancouver National Historic Site field trip schedule on Tuesday to give the FVM app a beta test. This was the first time we had tested the iPhone version of the app with members of the public, and it also marked the debut of the Android version using a new underlying mobile framework called Phone Gap. In fact, both versions are now using Phone Gap, in an effort to broaden the accessibility of the app to not only Android and Apple users but also, eventually, to Blackberry and Windows7 users, too. I will post a separate entry on this significant backend switch, but, going back to the beta test, the Phone Gap versions demonstrated a couple of major programming issues to overcome in the next few weeks: 1. The Android version did not load and play the video segments properly. 2. The iPhone version did not geolocate the media properly. 3. Because the iPhone version required the devices to be prepared as provisional testing devices (as part of Apple's heavy use restrictions), and because the students hadn't done that before arriving, and because there is no WiFi in the area we are testing (to do that on site), we were unable to install the iPhone version on the phones of the students who had those models.
So, Apple developer Nick Hill, is going to go ahead and submit the beta app to the Apple App Store, in an effort to allow us to get the app on iPhones for more testing at the site, without having to go through the contortions of testing on devices provisionally. Android developer Joe Oppegaard, in turn, is going to submit the Android version to the Android market as well, just to get both of these into places where we can easily get the apps on the phones of users in a timely manner. To compensate at the time, research assistant Brady Berkenmeier heroically led the iPhone users around in a cluster, allowing them all to experience the app on Nick Hill's prepped device. A couple of the Android-using students reverted back to the original version of the app, which was written in the native Android language and tested on Android devices, and they essentially formed a second cluster, in which those students were able to see a representative presentation of the app at this point. Afterward, many of the students said they will be eager to come back and try the app again, in its more polished form, and added their names to our email mailing list.

Equipment kit is ready, case has been built

After many, many months of raising funds and talking about specialty equipment and comparing such equipment, and getting a custom case built, we finally have collected the basic audio/video kit for FVM productions this summer.
That kit includes a Canon XF100 camera, a Sachtler tripod, a boom mic, two lapel mics, a mixer, a separate audio recorder, a cart and a variety of other accessories that should raise the quality and efficiency of our audio/video media. We bought the first batch of equipment from B&H Photo in New York but used a local vendor for the second batch, Pro Photo Supply, in Portland, Ore. B&H was fine, but there were a couple of mistakes with our orders, and the shipping back and forth to fix those was a hassle. ProPhoto not only let us handle and test the camera before buying it, which, of course, B&H would never do, but it also beat B&H's prices and made our buying decisions easier to manage, because we could use first-hand experience.
To help to protect and organize the equipment, we also had a custom case built by Bauer Cases of Vancouver. This, too, was a great experience with a local company. Here is the image Bauer gave us of the case before it was built:

And here is what it looks like built:

This case actually holds all of our Stage 1-2 equipment, except the cart and the tripod, which should make organizing the audio/video productions very easy. We'll find out more about this organizational approach in action this summer. The next phase of equipment purchasing is the lighting system. Will post more about that, as the needs develop.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

FVM featured in the Northwest Cultural Resources Institute report

This quarter's Northwest Cultural Resources Institute report features the Fort Vancouver Mobile project on its front page:

Thanks, NCRI!

A belated mention of Doug and Rory Futz

Last fall, Doug Futz, a doctoral student in landscape architecture at the University of Colorado, made a major side trip (of several hundred miles) to drive to Fort Vancouver with his son, Rory, and check out the Fort Vancouver Mobile project. Doug was working on the development of augmented material within his program, and within his field, and wanted to talk to us about what we were doing. We had a great conversation and spent the day together, including lunch with Chief Ranger Greg Shine. Doug even made a short cameo in one of our video clips as the boom mic operator. Rory also helped with an off-screen prompt during filming of another piece. I just realized today that I hadn't written any of this down on the blog, and Doug had sent me a note a while ago saying that he was changing direction on his dissertation, because of the difficulties in fitting this kind of work into his field (not his interest in it). I suspect that augmented reality eventually will be welcomed into landscape architecture and many other fields that today might be hesitant to open arms to it. I hope Doug eventually gets his chance to study AR in this context, because the ideas he shared with us were thoughtful and compelling and certainly would interest a lot of people, if published.  

WSU News Service tries out the FVM app

Matthew Haugen, a video journalist for WSU News Service in Pullman, came by Fort Vancouver last week to give the FVM app a try and to create a video story for the news service about the project.
Matt seemed surprised and pleased when the app actually asked him to participate in the experience, rather than just pushing him along some predetermined trail. He asked about the media we created -- again, this is virtually all original media, video, text, images (minus a few interwoven historical pictures) -- and the integration of WSU Vancouver students. Research assistant Brady Berkenmeier was helping with the tour, and that gave him a chance to talk about the project from a student's perspective (thanks again, Brady!). I'm not sure how long the process will take for Matt to produce the piece, but I'll post it here when it's on the wire. Thanks for your interest, Matt!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Washington State University Foundation representative checks out the FVM project

Brady Berkenmeier and I gave a FVM app demo today to Chrissy Shelton, special gifts officer from the Washington State University Foundation. She seemed to enjoy the experience a lot, remarking that she was particularly impressed with the interactivity, as the app was "asking me what I thought," the high-quality video reenactments (she recently had taken an audio-only tour at another site and found it rather, um, tedious), and the involvement of students, such as Berkenmeier, in the direct production of such digital media. Lots of positive feedback. Thanks, Chrissy!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

ClarkCountyBlog covers the NEH grant news

Even while the details still are coming in from the National Endowment for the Humanities, local blogger Jeff Bunch and his ClarkCountyBlog already have jumped on this story and published a piece on the NEH Grant news for the FVM project. Very impressive timeliness, Jeff.  Not only a great chance for us to spread the word, also a clear example of how social media connections can lead to quick news items of community importance.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

National Endowment for the Humanities $50,000 grant

More details will be coming on this soon, but I wanted to post it here first: The Fort Vancouver Mobile project recently was notified that it is one of the very few digital humanities projects in the country during this granting cycle to receive a Digital Start-Up Grant of $50,000.

Friday, April 15, 2011

More publicity for the FVM project

Brady Berkenmeier and I talked for several minutes about the FVM project on camera as part of a live stream at the WSU Vancouver Research Showcase, via At this point, it does not appear that the footage was captured for on-demand viewing, but if that changes, I'll post here.

R.A Long High School students prepping for a FVM demo

Joan Enders, a teacher-librarian at Robert A. Long High School in Longview, visited the fort this week and took a FVM demo in preparation for the bus loads of students coming to the national historic site in early May, many of whom want to give the FVM app a whirl. We still will be about six weeks away from the public launch, but the nearly completed Android version of the app provoked Enders to remark to her husband that they needed to upgrade to smartphones, and that she was really excited to get the students to have this experience. Now, we're just working out the logistical issues of getting the beta app in their hands.

More FVM in the news

Brady Berkenmeier continues to be a great ambassador for the Fort Vancouver Mobile project, through his direct work but also in his efforts to spread the word. Brady is the coda of today's Columbian story on the WSU Vancouver Research Showcase, which also features a photograph of FVM web developer Nick Hill in the background of the lead photograph.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

First draft of Kane animation

As we talked as a group last month about the details and imagery of the Fort Vancouver Mobile module we wanted to produce on Paul Kane and his "wanderings" through the fort area, research assistant Brady Berkenmeier started to brainstorm how the story might look as an animation. That really caught the interest of everyone in the room, and Berkenmeier went to work. Here is his draft (sound is rough, and just for placement purposes):


What do you think of this as a production direction (we're not so much interested, at this point, in an artistic critique of the rough cut)?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Dr. Robert McCoy took a FVM tour recently

Dr. Robert McCoy, an associate professor of history at Washington State University, visited the Fort Vancouver Mobile display at the Research Showcase in Pullman last month and was interested to learn more. So he made a point of getting a FVM tour when he drove through Vancouver last week. McCoy, a public historian, specializes in memory and the creation of historical narratives. We had a great conversation about the project, and we plan to talk more in the coming months about potential collaboration possibilities.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

New partnership with XID Services

XID Services Inc. has joined our development team to collaborate on a free plant identification system at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site to be delivered through the Fort Vancouver Mobile app. 
In short, this company, led by Dr. Richard Old of Pullman, Wash., will provide a rich database of all of the plants on site, and a touch-based plant identification interface. Dr. Old has been the weed identification specialist for Cooperative Extension Service at Washington State University since 1976. The rest of the FVM team will help to parse the vast amounts of XID data down to this specific site and customize this part of the app to meet the needs of the visitors to the fort. Old's system allows customization of text and images, which gives the potential for site-based imagery and detailed information about the plants (from weeds to trees) and their historical connections to the site. Welcome to the team, Richard!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

FVM on Feet on the Street

Research assistant Brady Berkenmeier and the Fort Vancouver Mobile project were featured recently on the KLTV Longview Public Access program Feet on the Street:

Thanks for spreading the word, Brady!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

R.A. Long High School planning a Fort Vancouver Mobile field trip

We still are trying to work out the logistics, but it looks like a group of more than 100 students from R.A. Long High School in Longview, Wash., will be coming to the fort on May 3 with the intention of trying out the Fort Vancouver Mobile app. The app still will be in the last stages of beta testing at that point (with a broad release set to coincide with the Brigade Encampment in mid-June), but we are excited about the idea of getting a group of this size to all experiment with the app at once, and to see how it functions under those conditions.

WSU Pullman Research Showcase / WSU Vancouver Research Showcase

The Fort Vancouver Mobile project will be shared with the greater academic community at two Washington State University research showcases in the coming weeks. 

The first, at WSU Pullman on March 25, will be part of a larger presentation by the Creative Media and Digital Culture program. This is going to be an impressive display of all sorts of projects, no doubt (the plans for the multi-tiered video wall are amazing), including examples by students and faculty throughout the program.

The Fort Vancouver Mobile project also will be on display on its home court of WSU Vancouver during the school's annual research showcase on April 14.

The Canon XF100 HD it is ...

After many weeks of research and testing, and much discussion, Forrest Burger and Troy Wayrynen came to a consensus and recommended that the Fort Vancouver Mobile project purchase the Canon XF100 for its next phase of development. 

This was a tough decision, with three great cameras to choose from (and many more that were eliminated during earlier discussions). 

The final two contenders were the Panasonic GH2 (a digital SLR) and the Canon XF100. Forrest and Troy spent a lot of time on this project, and we are very thankful for that effort. ... Forrest even produced a short video clip to compare the final two:

FVM Camera Tests from Forrest Burger on Vimeo.

As you can see, the GH2 can give a much greater focus to the primary subject in the video, blurring out the background much better than the Canon. It even arguably presents a better overall picture, although the Canon was not calibrated in as much depth as the GH2 before testing, making the comparison potentially unfair. 

The Canon is more of a self-contained unit, though, which better fits the needs of this project. For one, that means much less accessories to buy (and almost as importantly, to keep track of), and out of the case, this camera would be easier for either videographer to pick up and just start using, without a lot of trying to remember what part did what. While the GH2 and Digital SLRs in general provide a distinct film look that is very alluring, they also require different lenses, and separate sound equipment, and more post-production work that makes shooting in two-person teams cumbersome and adds significant time and complexity to the editing process. 

With the project's budget for the camera at $5,000, paid for by a Clark County Historical Promotion Grant, this camera was in-between the lower-end equipment, $2,500 and less, and the higher-end equipment, $7,500 and up, which is somewhat of an awkward spot to be with commercial quality aspirations. This camera's cost, $3,000, though, allows us to buy other accessories that will improve the quality, including filters and a Canon WD-H58w 0.8x Wide Converter Lens, without sacrificing much in terms of end product. We also are purchasing a high-quality tripod, in the range of $1,200, and a separate sound recorder, which should help dramatically improve the overall quality of our mobile media. 

In the end, after all of the examination and evaluation, Forrest and Troy said, the Canon XF100 seemed a clear choice for this project. So that is the direction we will go. ... I'll post some comparison footage, when we get the camera for good and start using it with this project. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

An analog model for this project and beyond

The Fort Vancouver Mobile project is breaking ground in many ways related to interactive and immersive storytelling with mobile devices, but my hope is to keep pushing our thinking into even broader realms. I ran across this program at Barnard College, called Reacting to the Past games, in which users play different roles and respond in uniquely personal ways to a historic moment. I have participated in similar events, such as the Model United Nations program. And I think the next big leap for us to make in this field of mobile storytelling is to launch users into life-like roles within a nonfiction historical context. That will take a lot more work, of course, and much more grant money to pull off professionally. But that is the vision I'm following.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Interactive response coding completed

Just heard from Android developer Joe that the coding for the call and response parts of the FVM app is complete, and he has set up a spartan web page to track how that is working.
Eventually, we plan to have a beautiful companion site, or part of a site, to showcase such responses in a public viewing space.
So, for example, when a user is asked in the app what archaeology field school members found in the dig pit, a common response during beta testing has been: "A dinosaur bone" (hint: a dinosaur bone was not found there). That response now will flow into a feed of other responses by users, such as "a cannon" and "a mast," (other things that also were not found there; if you want to know what was, try out the app by becoming a beta tester). These responses, plus user-generated images and videos from other interactive portions of the app, will help to become ways that users can expand their FVM experience outside of the fort grounds and share it with others.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Choosing the right camera for this kind of mobile work

Now that we have the experience of producing several videos (and still images) for the Fort Vancouver Mobile project, and another Historical Promotion Grant from the Clark County Commissioners, the time is right to buy a camera and accessories for our future research. We have used borrowed equipment to date, and we think that dedicated equipment is better long-term for the videographers involved and for the sustainability of the project. A video camera is next on our list.   
Tom Turner, of T.Videography, generously consulted on the audio equipment purchases we made last year, and a key consideration in this next purchase is that the new camera works well with all of the various microphones, recording accessories and the mixer that we already have.

Videographers Troy Wayrynen and Forrest Burger have volunteered to research the various cameras within our budget ($5,000, plus $2,000 for accessories) and have narrowed the field to these contenders:

* Canon XF100

Comments from Forrest:
"This camera is interesting, for sure.  Probably the nicest thing about it is the codec it records in...50mb sec, 4.2.2. color space.  My EX1 records in 4.2.0 and do the DSLR's.  That means not quite as much color rendition. That mainly comes into play during green screen work.  So, even though the XF100 only has one chip, the colors should be pretty good."

Lumix GH2

From Forrest:
"I know Troy was pretty high on the (Panasonic) AF100 early on and so was I.  I continue to be since my GH2 has a very similar chip in it.  I think that could be a nice fit for the types of things we're talking about doing.  XLR inputs, focus assist, ND filters, the ability to put really long telephoto lenses on it...all the things you want out of an affordable cinema style camcorder.  But, not necessarily a run and gun type camera that the (Canon) XF100 would be. The XF100 would be more user friendly to a wider user base. ... the (Panasonic) AF100 would produce superior results.  The (Lumix) GH2 produces as nice a picture as the AF100, but with certain workarounds. ...  I continue to be blown away by this little camera, even with its shortcomings (no XLR inputs)."
And ...
"As much as I like the ergonomics of the (Canon) 60D, I have stopped using it for critical shooting and am now working exclusively with the GH2 for paid gigs. The (Canon) 5DMKII and 7D will also experience the same moire issues as the 60D. I use my Sony EX1 when I need a "real" video camera. The 5DMII will most likely be the king in low light due to its full frame sensor, but it can be a bear to focus.  I did an interview yesterday with the (Lumix) GH2, and although my depth of field was wider than it would have been with the 5DMII, the interviewee stayed in focus. That's a big deal when you're working on limited budgets with bare bones crews. The XF100 may fit the bill for our camera, but the low light part is something I believe we need to look very closely at. Also, does it have a "video" look to it or a more "film" look?  The DSLRs definitely have a "film" look about them that I, and many others, love."

Nikon D7000 DSLR

From Forrest:
"Things to consider with Canon and (potentially) Nikon...moire, it can really bite you.  You don't see it when you're shooting but, alas, it can pop up in the editing suite to your dismay and disappointment.  You have to be very careful with what people wear, shooting brick walls, wood siding concrete. Here is a quick test I did this morning with my 60D and GH2. ... In the case of re-purposing content for bigger screens this one issue alone can be very important.  The moire is even more dramatic when you watch the video full screen. ... "
60D vs GH2 moire test
"I'm fairly confident the XF100 will not experience quite as much moire as the Canon DSLR's, but keep in mind, all camcorders/DSLR's will experience some level of moire.  I don't have access to a D7000, but here are a couple of links from some tests I found in a quick search."
D7000 vs. Canon T2i Moire Test (T2i and 7D share same chip)  

As a final note, Forrest added: "For ALL of these cameras we will need lights. Lighting is king in video (and stills), and as much as the DLSRs require less light input, they still need some help to get great images. Without good lighting you risk getting muddy images that even intense color correction cannot fully rectify."
That is something to keep in mind for future grant proposals. Next step in the camera decision, test each contender, in the most difficult lighting conditions at Fort Vancouver: The Blacksmith's Shop. Will post an update in the coming weeks.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Porting to the iPhone has begun ...

The free Fort Vancouver Mobile app is being built in Android's Java-based programming language, but with the funding provided by the Clark County Commissioners recently, through a Historical Promotion Grant, we also have begun porting the app into Apple's Objective C, for an iPhone/iPad version (Nick Hill has joined the team for this part of the production). Android and Apple mobile devices are the two leaders in the field right now in the United States. We expect to have both versions available to the public by the first special event of the tourist season, the Brigade Encampment.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Update on FVM story development and release plans

A core group of Fort Vancouver Mobile developers met recently and put together production plans for the next few months, including a staggered release of content and a consolidated launch party to coincide with the annual Brigade Encampment at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site on June 18, 2011.

The Android module related to William Kaulehelehe and the influence of Hawaiians on the cultural development of the Pacific Northwest is nearly complete. It has been through extensive beta testing already and is nearing the stage when it will be converted into an iPhone version as well.

The Village Opening module, an expositional exploration of the site, aimed at newcomers, has a developed concept and is partially constructed.

The module about the lives of women in The Village and the one that recounts Paul Kane's Wanderings also are nearing production phases.

In addition, we are working on getting more production equipment, including a camera and hard storage cases, as part of the 2011 Historical Promotion Grant funded by the Clark County Commissioners.