Openhall house with open fire

Published: Monday, 13 May 2013

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Early medieval houses had a large open hall off a passage with doors on both sides of the house which is why they are called open hall houses.

We find it surprising nowadays but these houses had an open fire in the centre of the hall. They were surprisingly warm but the fires had to be very well managed. They had no chimney and the smoke drifted up towards the thatched roof where it was often dispersed by means of small holes at either end of the house right at the top. Here is a very quick impression of the main hall looking from the master's table.

This animation was built in 3ds max and put into Flash. Given a little time it could easily be improved in a number of ways:

  • The shadows could be tweaked
  • Textures whihc have been improved in the latest version are still a bit clumsy in some areas
  • Lighting could be a little more dramatic and still be realistic
  • The smoke particles have been improved but could still be better, random shapes rather than the present spheres with some kind of proper fall off for the transparency, possibly using 3d blob shapes; this would push the rendering times up.
  • The camera should go for a walk. Ideally the user should control its path. Unfortunately, because of the particle system used for the smoke, this last may be impractical at present, although the smoke could easily be removed.

The original with the interesting looking cup on the right hand side is here.

The question arises, why build a house like this with 3d in the first place, wouldn’t a video be better? The possibilities of permitting users to walk thorough old houses choosing their own routes, closely examining the contents as they go and, even better, having control over time and the consequent effects on the buildings, make it worth while.