The finishing touches are being applied to a 3D recreation of Newcastle’s famous Victoria Theatre.
The University of Newcastle’s IT Innovation Team has spent the past four months poring over newspaper articles and historical artefacts to help them piece together the Perkins Street theatre as it was in 1891.
Having completed the exterior and internal spaces including vestibules, stair cases, stalls area, dress circle, upper circle, private boxes, orchestra pit, and stage area, Gaute Rasmussen and Vendela Pento are now focusing on the performance and lighting details.
“We’ve had to work backwards from the 1921 floor plans, and essentially unwind the 30 years of changes that we know about to get back to 1891,” Mr Rasmussen said.
“We’ve gotten a lot of clues from newspaper articles describing the theatre in the early days, as well as references from other buildings which we know were built in a similar style. Our main point of reference there has been the Villa Alba in Melbourne.”
The project is the first time the IT Innovation Team has recreated an historical building.
As part of their final polish the team is trying to create a semblance of an 1890s performance on the stage.
“Our aim is to make it so that when people step into the virtual reality representation of the theatre they’ll be able to see the curtains go up and see some actors moving around on stage,” Mr Rasmussen said.
“For that we’re using an old photo of a performance, which we’re then breaking down into separate pieces and separate layers so that we can represent it in three dimensions as characters and stage props in the virtual reality experience.”
At the same time, work is underway to arrange a rehearsal, recording and preparation of snippets of concert music performed at the Victoria Theatre to accompany the the virtual reality model. The pieces of music that have been requested include Evangeline’s Song and Dance, Country Girls, Three Little Maids (from the Mikado).
The team hopes to complete the 3D project in the next few weeks.
“We’re doing everything we can to make the experience as magical and truthful to the original as we can,” Mr Rasmussen said.
“We can’t wait to show this off and hopefully make it available to a wider audience.”
Hunter Living Histories chairman Gionni Di Gravio said project exemplified how new technologies could be applied creatively to provide an insight into historical environments.
“Gaute Rasmussen and Vendela Pento have woven a magical spell to recreate the original theatre that is astonishing and impossible to describe without experiencing it within the headset and virtual reality environment,” he said.
Sydney firm Century Venues bought the theatre in late 2015 with plans to return it to its former glory.
Century Venues executive director Greg Khoury said the theatre’s proximity to the East End redevelopment made the restoration project more attractive.
Engineering, pest, acoustic and building-compliance reports conducted last year had demonstrated that the dilapidated theatre was structurally sound.