Photogrammetry and Museums

If you are a museum or cultural heritage organisation working on digital outreach, have you considered making 3D digital copies of the artefacts in your collection? 

The restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic make it more urgent than ever to find ways of engaging with your customers that don’t involve physical travel to your premises.

We’re helping organisations like yours create beautiful 3D images like the above one, using a technique called photogrammetry.

Photogrammetry is the process of obtaining 3D digital objects from 2D digital images, that is, from the photos you take with your phone or any other digital camera.

The way to do it is to take many pictures (80 or more, usually) of your target object, each from a slightly different angle, in such a way that you work your way around the object from lots of points of view.

After that, you feed the images to some photogrammetry software, which analyses them, their differences and similarities and in doing so is able to infer depth, which is the one thing that your 2D images lack.

The result is a 3D digital object based on your original 2D photos.

3D digital objects are becoming increasingly common and valuable. They are the building blocks of all Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality experiences.

More and more organisations are trying to use them in different ways. Films and games are the obvious examples, but other sectors are also making use of them, like medicine and architecture. They are used in experiences that range from entertainment to education, to workplace training. 

3D printing is also becoming more and more popular, and this relies on accurate 3D models as well.

Photogrammetry is only one way of building 3D digital copies of real life objects. It has advantages and presents challenges. On the plus side, it produces very high-fidelity reproductions and is therefore well suited to capturing objects that are unique and valuable, like museum pieces.

On the challenging side, it is not suited to all types of objects. For example glass or highly reflective objects don’t work well with photogrammetry. For those, you probably have to use other 3D capture techniques.

Photogrammetry involves a lot of computation and therefore requires powerful (and expensive) computers. That is why it is well suited to the compute power and flexibility of the Cloud, where you can rent some big servers to do computation when you need them and stand them down when you’re done, to produce results fast and control your costs.

We’ve developed a cloud-based 3D object-generating pipeline that combines all the software and hardware needed to create objects using photogrammetry. We used it to generate objects like the above for the museum at Stephens House and Gardens in north London. You can see other objects here and read about how it helped them reach out to their audiences on their blog.

If your museum or cultural heritage organisation wants to create digital 3D objects as part of their digital outreach, why not get in touch with us?

We can work with you to:

  • Choose the right objects
  • Do the data capture
  • Do all the data processing using our pipeline
  • Help you host your objects and make them available to your users.

We can help you on your post-pandemic journey!