Culture

To a bard – celebrate Burns Night with a twist

Ditch the haggis! Forget the neeps! It's time to celebrate Burns night a little differently this year

“O wad some power the giftie gie us to see oursels as ithers see us,” opined Robert Burns in the 18th century.

Well, if Scotland’s national bard was alive today he’d be delighted, perhaps overwhelmed, by the foray around his birthday.

Burns Unbroke is a multi-arts festival showcasing artists and performers through their interpretations of his life and work. The event features work from 30 visual artists across 11 galleries, opening in Edinburgh on Burns Night (January 25).

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But that’s not the only interpretation of the Ploughman Poet to land this Burns Night.

A team at Liverpool’s John Moores University (LJMU) have created a groundbreaking new animated facial reconstruction of Burns reciting one of his own poems, to be screened on Burns Night at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh.

The work was created in collaboration with the Scots poet Rab Wilson, the University of Dundee and Dimensional Imaging (DI4D) in Glasgow.

This is the first time the Face Lab team from LJMU have worked collaboratively to produce a real-life animation of one of their facial reconstructions.

Face Lab combines art and science to recreate the faces of figures from the past using a 3D computerised craniofacial depiction system, digital modelling software and haptic (touch) technology.

The team first started work on the project in 2010, with LJMU joining in 2016, to recreate Burns’ face using the latest 3D digital technology from a partial cast of his skull, along with Burns documentation, portraits, silhouettes and written descriptions.

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Rab Wilson was recorded reciting Burns’ poem ‘To a Mouse’ using DI4D’s Facial Motion Capture System at the 3D Visualisation Unit in the University of Dundee. In collaboration with DI4D, Rab’s facial animation was tracked and then transferred to the 3D digital model of Robert Burns. Rab’s voice was then added to the final animation. This process required specialist animation skills, facial expression knowledge, craniofacial expertise and the latest digital, CGI and motion capture technology.

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Director of LJMU Face Lab, Professor Caroline Wilkinson, said: “This real-life animation of Robert Burns has brought the poetry of this Scots Bard back to life for generations to come. It will help to promote Scottish culture and to visualise his charismatic and creative personality.

“To see Burns reciting his own poetry was a remarkable moment.”

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