Breathing life into our collections with 3D imaging

Using a 3D imaging rig. Photographer: Kate Whitley © Te Papa

Glenn Miers and Paul Wolfram make adjustments to the rig. Photographer: Michael Hall © Te Papa

The first session in a 3D filming project took place last Thursday, 15th August. A joint initiative between Victoria University and Te Papa, the project aims to educate students enrolled in Victoria’s film programme, and to create 3D moving footage of some of Te Papa’s collection items.

A number of museums around the world are looking at 3D technologies – including imaging techniques and 3D printing – to provide new and exciting ways to view, interact with and better understand museum objects.   Te Papa is very excited to begin exploring these technologies as part of the Museum’s programme to explore 3D applications that will also include scanning and printing.

The art of 3D imaging. Photographer: Kate Whitley © Te Papa

Continuing to make fine adjustments. Photographer: Michael Hall © Te Papa

The purpose of this inaugural filming session was to trial the equipment and included the key crew involved in this project: Dr Miriam Ross, Dr Paul Wolfram, Alex Funke, members of Weta Workshop, along with members of Te Papa’s Digital Collections team and collection managers.

Objects from Te Papa’s collection were selected to challenge the application of 3D filming processes and the first sessions objects were chosen for their range of reflectance, colour and contours.  The objects filmed ranged from a silver vase to a ceramic polar bear.

A great deal of time was spent ensuring the cameras on the rig were correctly aligned either side of the beam splitter (see the Victoria University website 3D Production Initiative, which describes the set-up). It rapidly became apparent that this was not a simple point and shoot exercise. Terms such as interocular distance, interaxial separation and temporal disparity were bandied about whilst most of us stood on and waited for the fine adjustments to be made to the rig.

3D shooting begins. Photographer: Kate Whitley © Te Papa

3D shooting begins with Paul Wolfram. Photographer: Michael Hall © Te Papa

It is hoped that the use of 3D or stereoscopic filming will add a new dimension to digitally documenting the collection, reducing risk to fragile objects and giving both researchers and visitors alike an opportunity to appreciate collection objects in three dimensions.

The project runs through to November 2013 and details and results will be documented on 3D Production Initiative.

Beginner’s Guide to Stereoscopy is a very useful website if you’re interested in learning the art of stereoscopic filming.

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