“Then and Now” Techniques, Part I

Nov 14 2009

A major challenge to any historical re-creation is the “So what?” or “Why should I care?” test. Part of the success of this effort to re-create early Washington will rely on how to make historical findings compelling and interesting to the public.  In a conversation with Scott Berg, author of a book on Pierre L’Enfant, he pointed out that a large portion of US citizens don’t even know what Washington looks like now. Why would they be interested in seeing the landscape 200 years ago?   These are good questions and material for another post, but this post is to look at “Then and Now” techniques.

Everyone is familiar with the juxtaposition of two photographs, side by side, where the viewer can look back and forth to determine changes.  Perhaps a more powerful solution is to actually combine the two images together, registered on top of each other, allowing one image to peer through the other.  Sergey Larenkov is currently working with this technique to show the changes in Berlin from World War II to present time.  It’s worth looking at his Live Journal. The static technique he uses here is perhaps the strongest.

However, this is a video by him that simply uses a dissolve between the two images.
Very evocative. Within a few minutes you will quickly get the idea.

Another interesting technique is wiping through the image with a slider that allows the viewer to go back-and-forth over an area observing what has changed.  One of the best of these  (that also combines a virtual reality type panorama) is created by Field Of View. They did a split screen of the EuroMast in Rotterdam in both summer and winter.  You can see the website here, but it requires the Shockwave plug-in, which few people have installed.  (Someone needs to create a Flash application for this type of effect.)

This is a static screen grab of the site. Imagine being able to pan the camera, and you can see the landscape change when it goes across the wipe.   What would be interesting to see is the split screen between two time periods, as opposed to two seasons.

What the Imaging Research Center is most interested in, however, is working with location-aware mobile phone applications.  This will be a topic for another post.

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