Project Author: International Museum of the Reformation
Production year: 2009
Executive producer: International Museum of the Reformation
Editor: International Museum of the Reformation
Author of the script: International Museum of the Reformation
Contributors to the 3D simulation of Calvin: Project leader: Nadia Magnenat-Thalmann Design and animation: Marlène Arévalo et Nedjma Cadi Motion capture: Etienne Lyard, Niels Nijdam and Maher Ben Moussa Technical support: Ugo Bonanni Actors: Marie-Pierre Duceau-Clertant, Pierre-Alain Clerc and Olivier Bettens Sound recording: Pierre-André Luthy Many thanks also to Jody Hausmann for her help with the project. About MIRALab MIRALab is a research laboratory based at the University of Geneva; it was established in 1989 and is directed by Prof. Nadia Magnenat-Thalmann. The laboratory comprises around twenty researchers from various fields, such as art, engineering, medicine and robotics. MIRALab has produced a number of computer simulations. MIRALab has participated in many European research projects. www.miralab.unige.ch Photos Credits: © Musée international de la Réforme (for the entire exhibition project) and MIRALab-Université de Genève (for the production of Calvin’s simulations sceneries) Réalisatrice : Nadia Magnenat-Thalmann, MIRALab-Université de Genève Design et montage : Marlène Arevalo et Nedjma Cadi, MIRALab-Université de Genève
A Day in the Life of John Calvin
On the occasion of his 500th anniversary, John Calvin has being honoured all over the world: in Europe, South Africa, Korea, the United States, and even Cuba, where a bust of him has been unveiled in Havana!
The exhibition on Calvin organised by the International Museum of the Reformation in Geneva offered visitors an opportunity to “read” Calvin through eight snapshots, taken at different moments of a very full day, which revealed the essence of his charisma, especially the hidden ones: his tenderness, his great modesty, his fierce, at times violent, authority, his desire to create a perfect society and his remarquable talents as a teacher, orator and writer.
The exhibition in short
Bridge the 500 years that separate us from John Calvin
Surpass the overly simplistic representations of the Reformer
Overcome the difficulty of a lack of objects and portraits
Present a reconstruction of an ideal day in John Calvin’s life
Discover eight key moments of his day
See Calvin praying, counselling, teaching and debating
Hear him speak (in words written or pronounced by him)
A more finely shaded Calvin: touching and fearsome, faithful and merciless
A city reconstituted in realistic period detail
A search for realistic iconography
From 4 am (when everyone got up) to 9 pm, via several landmarks of Reformed Geneva (Saint-Pierre Cathedral, the Consistory, the prison, a private house)
Life is harsh, frequently interrupted by epidemics, without comfort, full of physical and moral pain, under constant threat of attack from enemies nearby
The exhibition was designed by the museum designers of Etat des Lieux based on an original concept by Olivier Fatio and Isabelle Graesslé
The 3D films were produced by MIRAlab, a research laboratory at the University of Geneva directed by Prof. Nadia Magnenat-Thalmann
The International Museum of the Reformation, which opened in April 2005 and was awarded the Council of Europe Museum Prize in 2007, presents the history of the Reformation initiated by John Calvin in a lively and engaging manner. With the help of numerous period documents and a rich iconography, the Museum offers a detailed account of the Reformation from its origins to the present. The International Museum of the Reformation is located at the heart of Geneva’s old town, in a magnificent 18th-century patrician townhouse, Maison Mallet, which stands on the very spot where the Reformation was voted in 1536. Occupying 350 m2 of a superb classical-era apartment, the Museum espouses the most modern technologies. The Museum is also connected to the archaeological site under Saint-Pierre Cathedral. Together with the Cathedral towers, these two museums make up “Espace Saint-Pierre”, Geneva’s latest cultural and tourist attraction.
From reality to virtual reality
The virtual reality film sequences portraying Calvin at different times of the day were created by MIRALab Laboratory, at the University of Geneva. These scenes represent various aspects of Calvin’s daily life: we first see him at dawn, for instance, as he says his morning prayers; later we witness an argument with Madame Favre, a contemporary of his who contested his authority.
This project was carried out under the leadership of Prof. Nadia Magnenat-Thalmann by an interdisciplinary team comprising the 3D designers Marlène Arévalo and Nedjma Cadi, as well as a number of scientists. Artists from several different backgrounds also contributed to this project.
The production of the short films involved several different steps, namely:
1) artistic choices and interpretation of existing images of Calvin
MIRALab’s designers began by studying engravings, images and textual descriptions of Calvin. Based on these documents, they made a some artistic choices and tried to answer the following questions: what should Calvin look like? How is he perceived in the 21st century? How could this be translated into three dimensions?
We decided to represent him in the style of an old engraving, while bringing him alive. In a sense, we created an animated engraving, coded in 3D and suitable for today’s world. Our Calvin is not the 16th-century Calvin, and but it is still unmistakeably him. He is a virtual work of art.
2) Creating a 3D model of Calvin:
Based on these engravings, we drafted several versions of Calvin’s head and body. The International Museum of the Reformation chose the version they thought was closest to the known image of Calvin.
3) Creating Calvin’s clothing:
After modelling the head and body, we defined and modelled the clothes and accessories. We drew patterns of the clothes in two dimensions, then we placed them on the body, sewed them virtually, and animated them to follow Calvin’s movements. The simulations are based on the real physical properties of the cloth.
4) Simulation of facial expressions, speech and motion:
Facial expression and speech movements were animated with the help of motion capture technology. We recorded the facial expressions and physical movements of live actors and transposed them onto the virtual Calvin. Since period documents provide no information on body dynamics and expressions, these animated sequences required a large degree of interpretation and interdisciplinary cooperation involving historians, actors, and theologians.