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The Vikings
Explore a Viking Village

Want to "walk" through a real Viking village? The sequences below from the NOVA film "The Vikings" offer a fascinating and unprecedented look at Birka, a medieval Viking village that archeologists recently excavated near modern-day Stockholm. The video clips come from footage that Swedish filmmakers Mikael Agaton and Lars Rengfelt shot of a 1:30 scale model of Birka now housed in the Museum of National Antiquities in Stockholm. See the various clips to learn more about the model and how it was made and filmed.

You'll need one of the (free) software plugins - QuickTime or RealPlayer - to be able to view the clips. If you already have the software, choose a media format to view a clip. Note: all of the clips are silent.

Construction Construction
QuickTime | RealVideo
Swedish Television had its own model builders construct the mini village. Working from the archeologists' maps and sketches, the designers built the model in sections so it could be moved into a film studio. All told, the model took six to eight months to complete.

Archeology Archeology
QuickTime | RealVideo
The model builders relied on the results of a five-year archeological investigation of Birka that ended in 1995. The fieldwork provided a much clearer idea of the layout of buildings and streets than had been known before, a layout that the model faithfully recreates.

Design Design
QuickTime | RealVideo
Certain streets in the model village were designed especially with filmmaking in mind. Notice the extraordinary attention to detail and the powerful sense you get of "walking" through the village at the eye level of a person scaled down 30 times in size. To get these sequences, the filmmakers spent three to four days filming the model.

Equipment Equipment
QuickTime | RealVideo
The filmmakers used a jib arm, also known as a camera crane, with a remote-controlled digital beta video camera fitted with a so-called snorkel lens. This rig allowed the filmmakers to guide the camera through the village without, Rengfelt notes, "wrecking the buildings."

Harbor Harbor
QuickTime | RealVideo
In designing the harbor scene, the model's builders adhered to the same exacting standards they used in designing the village—crafting the authentically rendered Viking boats on the same 1:30 scale, extending the jetties into real water, and paying careful attention to the most minute details.

Compositing Compositing
QuickTime | RealVideo
To get sequences like this, the filmmakers shot the actors against blue screens and, with one monitor displaying the previously shot footage of the model, instructed them to walk around virtual objects and perform other maneuvers as if they were 30 times smaller and actually standing within the model village. Agaton and Rengfelt then composited together the two images—model and models—into what you see here.

People People
QuickTime | RealVideo
To size the actors down to the 1:30 scale, Agaton and Rengfelt had to move the camera 30 times farther away than it had been during the model shooting, making the actors appear tiny in any given frame. "For some shots," says Rengfelt, "we had to move out into the corridor."

Photos: © Sveriges TV.

Explore a Viking Village | Who Were the Vikings?
Secrets of Norse Ships | The Viking Diaspora
Write Your Name in Runes | Build a Tree-Ring Timeline
Resources | Transcript | Site Map | The Vikings Home

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