Journalism Professor Works with Smithsonian on Mixed Realities Documentary

The Day of the Dead starts Oct. 31 and runs through Nov. 2, and Journalism Professor Stacey Fox completed an innovative Mixed Realities documentary project for the Smithsonian Latino Center and Smithsonian Exhibits. Professor Fox’s Jeep was transformed into the "Ofrenda on Wheels MRV" (mixed-realities vehicle) for the project.

The outside of the Jeep carried augmented reality markers, designed by Fox. When scanned by visitors’ mobile devices, popped out animated 3D models of La Catrina and a monarch butterfly -two important symbols for the Día de Los Muertos tradition.

Concert footage of Grammy award-winning Mexican singer Lila Downs, plus the animated story of Florentina and the Flight of the Monarch, Return of the Souls in 360, which were all produced by Fox, were also featured as interactive media on the vehicle.

The back of the Jeep featured an actual Ofrenda, which is the focus of the Día de Los Muertos celebration, as a place to honor deceased loved ones and pets that have died. Pictures of the deceased are surrounded by copal incense, candles, fruit, bread and water, as well as bright marigolds and papel picado. Installed inside the Ofrenda on Wheels MRV were high definition cameras and mics, all solar powered, turning the interior of the MRV into a recording studio for documenting oral history interviews from local community members and students at high schools.

“This was a profound experience to share with the Smithsonian Latino Center on site in Baltimore,” Fox said. “Our documentary is an important look, through Mixed Realities, at the significance of the Day of the Dead and the traditions in Latino society. It is wonderful that the School of Journalism is involved with it, and even more fun to transform my Jeep into such a dynamic reporting tool.”

Fox also collaborated with Spider Learning and the Smithsonian Latino Center in designing their Day of the Dead curriculum, which was shared on-site at Montgomery Blair High School. The lesson suite and instructor guide is available for free download from the Smithsonian Latino Center.

Noitom motion capture suits in the MRV enabled Fox to capture live traditional Latino dance at each location during interviews. The Ofrenda on Wheels also streamed live on Facebook, while doing interviews from the Creative Alliance of Baltimore’s annual Parade of Lanterns.

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