Bringing real histories to life through AR
We were commissioned to deliver a bespoke visitor app for Kelmarsh Hall in Northamptonshire, UK. As part of a considerable redevelopment in 2018, the hall opened over a dozen new, interactive rooms to the public, where for the first time the voices of those who worked and lived in this grand house can be heard.
Previously, visitors learned about the history of the hall by attending guided tours, exploring the lives and tastes of those living ‘upstairs’. The opening up on the basement rooms, where the servants lived, now allows visitors to explore at their own pace, to discover the history of the various members of staff and their roles within the house.
Peel Interactive conceived an augmented reality app, as a low-impact solution to bring this fascinating house to life, telling the stories of real servants and residents, who had actually lived there through the years. Four rooms were selected to carry interactive content; each of which was to host a unique augmented character from different periods of the house’s history, from the 1800s to the roaring 20s.
From script to screen
Our in-house scriptwriter developed stories and scripts, in close collaboration with Kelmarsh’s own historians, using archive documents from their collection. Our own Peel Talent agency then cast suitable actors, based not only on their acting ability but also their likeness to the real person they were to portray. Our experience and wide resources for casting meant we were easily able to find the perfect actor to fill each role. Our wardrobe department was then tasked with finding historically correct costumes from a number of different periods, most of which were sourced directly from our own extensive stores.
Once scripts and casting were signed-off, a shoot day was scheduled and a studio space booked, equipped with the latest green screen technology required for the filming. On the day of filming, everything came together for the shoots. Actors arrived, having already received their scripts, to prepare hair and makeup and be fitted into their costumes. Each actor was then filmed performing at least two different scenes to camera, guided by our own experienced director to ensure each actor performed to their best and according to client specifications. This choice of scenes allows the client to switch the content when required, to keep the installation fresh and updated, encouraging return visitors.
Augmented Reality – Making ghosts
In our own studios, Peel Interactive’s talented editors then superimposed each green-screen film onto backgrounds sourced from the feature rooms at Kelmarsh Hall, and our expert programmers inserted them into the narrative programme to create the final app.
Our software allows us to overlay multimedia content like videos, images and animations over real world objects, so the content is launched using the room itself as trigger; simply point your device at the room and an actor will appear as if they were in the same room as you. Natural Feature Tracking (NFT) recognises shape features in practically anything (packages, rooms, structures, photos, patterns or faces) and uses them as markers to deliver and control an augmented reality experience.
Visitors to Kelmarsh Hall can now meet these fascinating characters in each room, like friendly ghosts telling their entertaining tales and delivering educational experiences, with no need for intrusive signage, display boards, large screens or live actors.
In the dining room you can listen to the infamous interior designer Nancy Tree as she explains what life was like in the roaring 1920’s, filled with humour and surprising facts about living a life of luxury.
In the ballroom Richard Christopher Naylor recounts stories of banquets and grand balls during his time at Kelmarsh in the early 1800’s.
Below stairs we reveal how in 1891 the House Steward, James Smith ran a strict household, but also hear about his personal life and what it was like to live and work in a stately home.
Lastly, Welsh born Thomas Duffel describes his days as the family chauffer in the 1900’s.
We were also commissioned to produce a ‘Peppers Ghost’ exhibit, whereby the ‘ghost’ of a servant appears before guests and tells them about his life at Kelmarsh.
Now available in app stores!We created two different versions of the Kelmarsh Hall app:-
An internal app is available on locked down iPad's, complete with tethering and hardwearing cases. The internal app contains all of the app’s content, including multiple games, explorable rooms and most importantly the Augmented Reality (AR) content.
A second app is downloadable form the usual app stores. This app does not contain any AR content as we want to encourage visitors to experience it on site. In addition, technically AR content is launched using the physical spaces within the hall.
The app’s games are all based on accurate historical research carried out by our team and are as follows:-
Dining room – During the Victorian period archery was a popular pastime for the wealthy. We created a game whereby visitors can take part in a virtual archery game on the grounds of Kelmarsh. If you score enough points you are rewarded with little known facts pertaining to archery during this time period.
Ballroom – Etiquette was very important during the 1800’s, so we created a multiple choice question game, where the player is given the chance to brush up on their etiquette. Get too many answers wrong and you may be shunned from polite society!
First Footman’s Bedroom – In the late 1800’s male servants were hired for their height, good looks and strong calf muscles. In the room is a height chart where visitors can measure themselves and input this data into our game. Next you enter your age and sex and we offer you a suitable job at Kelmarsh based on this information.
Oddman’s bedroom – Servants were always required to dress smartly and may have had several changes of clothes depending on their daily duties.