Medieval Hungarian castles come to life in 3D, in 2018. How is this possible? Thanks to 21st century technology, creativity, and a daring team of two professionals, castles in Hungary are revived in front of your eyes.
The creators, Spencer Lindsay and Judith Wellner came to our Budapest Expats social media group looking for castles for a 3D project in special locations around Hungary. Their request really grabbed our attention, so we immediately got in touch with them to talk about this unique project.
Hungary has about hundred castles and ruins of castles all over the country but let’s face it, the country is internationally well-known for the Buda Castle. How come you visited and are making 3D art of the lesser known ones?
Judith: Everybody knows the Buda Castle. It’s always filled with tourists – it’s impossible to truly experience the history while surrounded by the modern accoutrements of comfort like signs, cash machines, espresso bars, etc. – There’s something magical about discovery. About finding places that are still open to be filled with stories. When a world just appears – and we are free to imagine a sense of life. Looking at something as a part of history is interesting. Experiencing a part of the world, a building, a scenery as history with our added, current stories is sublime. Addictive.
Who’s idea was to make 3D art of Hungarian historical venues?
Spencer: A friend of mine is a VFX Director in Hollywood and got me really excited about the possibilities of using drone photography to capture large areas for video games, VR, and AR. He was on a location pre-production trip somewhere in the deserts of South America and they needed to get really good measurements of a large area of land so they could build set extensions before the cast and crew showed up to film. The set extensions were pretty complex and they needed to be really sure what it was going to look like, where the sight lines were, where the sun would be during the day, etc. So my friend bought a small drone and did some flyovers of the landscape, capturing 4K video and 12Mp images. He then took that footage and ran it through a program that I use called Agisoft Photoscan and was able to create very accurate, textured 3D models that the production team could use in planning the location shoot.
After Judith and I finished some work in France last winter, we decided to come to Hungary and see her homeland. I brought my drone with me and we started looking for ruins.
Which Hungarian castles are on your list?
J: When you see some castles in their fully preserved or rebuilt beauty, you’ll feel a moment of amazement, but when you are standing in the presence of a castle in ruins, the story opens up. We are hunting for castles that have this sense of mystery to them. A layer of beautiful decay over what were once magnificent seats of power and influence. Our friend Viktor Erdős who is the most engaging tour guide and Hungarian history expert, has suggested we capture Csókakő, Zsámbéki romtemplom, and Tata next.
Do you already have a favorite venue in Hungary to live and work?
S: Mai Manó Café (Nagymező u.) has been sort of a second home for us here in Budapest. While we are working on our laptops, we meet kindred spirits from all over the world who also want to discover hidden places in Hungary and connect with people outside of the main tourist areas.
The Open Mic scene here in Budapest is also really great. Inspiring.
We live in a beautiful little flat near the Opera right now – with the obvious advantages of living downtown. Not only is it a favorite locale for tourists but it’s also a perfect hub for us to explore the city from. We get chances to meet travelers and locals all the time who are doing interesting things in and around the city.
Judith, I heard you have a personal and romantic story about the castle in Csesznek…
My parents, who have been together for fifty five years, started dating on a hiking trip at Csesznek. (There’s a pun here for Hungarian speakers – might be a bit too edgy to explore in translation.) So, for me, the Csesznek castle has always been this fairy tale place where magical things might happen. My parents have a sense of romance about life that has been really inspiring. Capturing these 3D models of the castle has combined reality and fairy tales together for me. It feels wonderful.
There’s an other interesting project on Budapest’s architecture. Is it based on the same technology?
S: If you’re talking about this project, Judith just showed me that the other day. Very cool. It looks like they’re doing the same thing we did with the building fronts a few weeks ago. Very cool work. It would be great to connect with them.
What’s so interesting to you in Budapest and Hungary?
J: I grew up here but left over twenty years ago. What I’m experiencing now is that the once empty buildings are filled with life. I can sense whiffs of the pre-Berlin wall days (I worked as a journalist then and was one of those snobby intellectuals who’d be sitting in smokey bars talking about art and politics while listening to The Cure). And yet, it’s all so different. A lot of cultural change in a relatively short time.
S: When I first arrived, Budapest was something out of the spy novels I read when I was younger. I imagined the burly bouncers out in front of Szimpla Kert as agents for some nefarious Eastern European secret service agency. After I was here for a few weeks, I started seeing the architecture and fashion of Budapest, started learning some Magyar and became more interested in the history of the place. This lead me to the ruins.
Some of the expats really stick to Budapest. What would you recommend to them?
J: I always thought of myself as a city girl. And I’m realizing that I’ve had some of the best days adventuring out of the city. So, dare to explore. New ideas come up in new environments.
S: Just say yes. Go explore this place. You don’t know how long you’ll be here (even if you think you do). Cars are really easy (and cheap) to rent and the countryside is beautiful here. There are so many amazing things to go see. Pick a spot on the map outside the city that looks interesting and go take a picture of it. That will get you out and then adventure can occur. You just need to get out the door and something will happen.
Spencer, you’ve been to Europe several times but this is your first experience living here. How do you see Central Eastern Europeans?
S: When I first got to Budapest, I was unsettled by how little strangers smiled at me. In California and Florida, people smile all the time. The drawback is that in those places, you never know if the smile is authentic. Here, when someone smiles at you, it means more. I find the conversations we have, once the social barriers have been crossed, are WAY more interesting than casual conversations in the states.
I’m slowly building up my handful of Hungarian words and I hope to be able to ask where the bathroom is at some point soon without Judith’s help.
How can you manage the work – life balance?
J: I really don’t look at it as two separate things. Work is one of the many things in life we do. The moment I separate the two, I feel I’m losing time. I’m accepting a reality in which “life” is valuable and “work” is not.
I grew up in a design studio where work equaled fun; something you stay up until 2 am doing because you forgot to go to sleep. I learned to look at all elements of life (including work) as just life.
S: I’ve never been a terribly good employee. I’m better suited to doing what I think needs to be done at the moment, not following someone else’s plan. So this life; which I have enjoyed now for many years; of doing what I love and getting paid for it, has very little friction as far as a work-life balance because “work” and “life” are entwined. I would love it if everyone could have this.
What makes you excited in life?
J: Meeting new people – learning about them – why they do what they do. Creating things that make people feel something. Finding some sense of truth. Argentine tango. Perfect croissants.
S: Fresh air in my face. Discovering something new and exciting. Being in a creative space. Seeing people enjoy my work.
What are your future plans?
Continuing to find unique methods of capturing the world around us and displaying it in new and interesting ways. In addition to providing services for our corporate clients, we’re interested in funded projects that teach conservation of the natural world and projects that promote positive societal change.
Spencer has spent the past four years building photogrammetry and volumetric capture pipelines for Magic Leap in Florida and California. He’s very sorry, but orbital rail guns will make a crater where he stands if he shows you any of it. Such is the business of doing creative work for a well funded startup.
Before Magic Leap, Spencer spent 12 years building interactive experiences for clients like the Apple, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Wieden+Kennedy, Intel, and others.
Before that, Spencer was a Technical Art Director for Rockstar Games, Angel Studios, Midway, and Atari Games.
Before that, Spencer was a satellite communications and crypto tech in the US Navy.
Before that, Spencer was a recalcitrant teen in Monterey, California.
Before that, Spencer was a tiny baby in Tachikawa Japan.
Judith is an IMEA Award winning actor, producer, model, visual artist and freelance writer. She was the co-founder of the Bay Area-based theatre company Red & Black Stage and has worked on TV, film and theatre projects, as well as in the Silicon Valley tech world as an art director/creative producer for over 20 years.
She earned her M.A. at the Drama Department of the University of Bristol, UK in Television Studies and her M.A. in Communications at ELTE University, Budapest.
Judith grew up in Budapest in a graphic design and photo studio and started working on applied art projects soon after she got her first camera at the age of six. Her fascination with art, technology and communication has led her to study and live in France, the UK, The Netherlands, the US and Hungary.
The last few years, she has fallen in love with the world of VR/AR and its potential in igniting empathy – thus attracting audiences/customers in a new way.