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Mandan Earth Lodge: A Past Project Gets New Life in Virtual Reality

Also, Blender Bone to Unity UV Texture Animation Experiment



While working at the Archaeology Technologies Laboratory and North Dakota State University, I was the Art Director and lead artist on a 3D video created for the Circle of Cultures, Lewis and Clark Bicentennial event in 2003. The video showcased On-A-Slant Mandan village circa late 1700's.  I thought it would be fun to experience an earth lodge in immersive virtual reality using the HTC Vive. The previous files were too polygon heavy, so I ended up rebuilding the entire scene (and spending significantly more time than anticipated).  I challenged myself to make the project as lightweight as possible. The model in just over 35,000 polygons with 40 set pass calls, well under the maximum limitations of the Oculus GearVR.  The video above is not a rendering, but was created from live screen captures from an HTC Vive.


Additionally, I created a C# script to use bone animation from Blender to drive UV animation in Unity3D to create the sprite animated face.  I plan to create a tutorial on that process in an upcoming post.  It is an interesting hack that allows for a higher bar of realism with a minimal polygon count and is easy to animate.


Native Voice from Edwin Benson (

Additional credits for objects on exterior splash scene by:

Ryan White, Aaron Bergstrom, Dan Reetz, Justin Hawley


Software: Autodesk Maya, Blender,  Adobe Photoshop, Quixel, Unity3D, Misc.



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