Post 5: 3DM – Rationale for the Case Study and Experienced Challenges

In the last post related to the the AFF621: 3D computer modeling assignment, I discussed how the remaining features of early monastic settlements and graveyards are of great archaeological interest, and of historical importance. Thus, it makes sense to allow for new insights on the arrival and development of Christianity in Ireland, but also to use new technologies and tools to create models and simulations of past existences from material evidence and visible features.

My case study is based on the Round Towers of Ireland.

The round towers in Ireland are a relatively understudied phenomenon. While popular tradition denotes that round towers were built as protective sanctuaries for the monks and their treasures against the raids of the Scandinavian Norsemen, there are varied debates as to their original functions. Nonetheless, they are widely acclaimed to be a fine example of Irish medieval engineering.

The following 3D model of Clonmacnoise round tower by Discovery Programme 3D-ICONS is certainly one inspiration to create 3D models of round towers to get the full feature of a round tower. Photographs of round towers only give one view of a tower and so we often do not get to realise the architecture of these buildings as medieval engineering achievements.



However, finding measurement calculations for round towers is difficult and even if found measurements are varied by different sources. Kilmacduagh round tower was chosen for this case study as its measurements were calculated while being renovated in 1879, by Thomas Deane on behalf of the Board of Works (Cochrane 234). These measurements were documented by Cochrane in 1904. It is a good example of architectural achievement, it is the tallest round tower still standing in Ireland at 34 metres high, and is unusual in that its doorway is located over 7 metres above ground level.



Kilmacduagh High Cross and Round Tower. Image Source: Jennifer Boyer

3ds Max 2014 software was used to create a round tower model.

I began my 3D modeling experience by trying to read 3ds Max 2012 book by Kelly Murdock, although, this became confusing. When it comes to learning new technologies, I tend to learn more from visual tutorials than from reading, thus, I turned to You Tube and sought out some beginner tutorials. A particular favourite is the series of tutorials by Roy J. “3ds Max For New Users.

It made sense for me to work in metres, thus, I had to calculate the different measurements into a metric scheme, as I used some measurements calculations that were calculated in  feet and inches, while others were in metres. So, I set up the measurements unit system through the 3ds Max customise tab. 

I used a tapered cylinder and cone to create the tower and conical cap, using the calculated measurements.




I then added two offsets to the tower as indicated by Cochrane’s article, and converted the tower to an editable poly to insert the doorway. I added a plane shape with noise to show an uneven ground surface, and added a green texture displacement map to the plane, and a grey brick displacement map to the tower, and cone but I changed the tile unit for the conical cap to show variation.





Creating the ladder was easy once I figured out how to go about it. Creating a slim, tall box with up to multiple height and width segments, and converting it to an editable poly allowed me to remove sections to create the space between a rung to give the appearance of a rigid ladder.





Finally, to create rendered images for the final model, I used mental ray, and and created a high resolution HDTV video jpeg. image.




The final model is a very simple model and was created in 3ds Max using simple shapes such as a tapered cylinder and a cone and adding the calculated measurements found in documentation. The ladder was created by creating a slim box and then deleting sections as an editable poly. Texture was added by adding displacement maps. While this is merely a simple model to show how 3Ds Max could be used to create round tower models, more experienced modellers could also create simulations for the interior of a round tower and further show how the building was used, and thus, adding to investigations for the phenomena of round towers in Ireland.







Cochrane, Robert. “Notes on the Round Tower of Kilmacduagh.” The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland 34. 3 [Fifth Series, Vol. 14] (1904): 234-238. JSTOR. Web 21 May 2015.

Image Credits

Boyer, Jennifer. Kilmacduagh Monastery. Flickr – Jennifer Boyer. Web. 22 May 2015. / <>

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