Cultural Heritage Imaging


Revealing Inscriptions, Reading Surface Texture, and Documenting Change with RTI at Sardis by chicaseyc
January 24, 2016, 3:47 pm
Filed under: Guest Blogger, On Location, Technology | Tags: , , , , , ,

Our guest blogger, Emily B. Frank, is a student conservator on the Sardis Archaeological Expedition. Currently she is pursuing a Joint MS in Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works and MA in History of Art at New York University, Institute of Fine Arts. Thank you, Emily!

Sardis, the capital city of the Lydian empire in the seventh and sixth centuries BC, is often best remembered for the invention of coinage. Remains of a monumental temple of Artemis, begun during the Hellenistic period and never finished, still stand tall today. In Roman times, the city was famous as one of the Seven Churches of Asia in the Book of Revelation. In the fourth and fifth centuries AD, Sardis boasted what is still the largest known synagogue in antiquity. Sardis flourished and continued to grow in the Late Roman period until its decline by the seventh century AD.

Archaeological excavations at Sardis began over a century ago and are currently led by Dr. Nicholas D. Cahill, professor of Art History at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The excavated material is vastly diverse and the conservation efforts there equally so. Conservation this season, under Harral DeBauche, a third-year conservation student at New York University, Institute of Fine Arts, supported active excavation across over 1,000 years of antiquity and addressed a number of site preservation issues. RTI greatly benefited the conservators and archaeologists in a couple of significant ways.

Significant finds with extremely shallow incised designs/inscriptions and impressions were made legible with RTI. RTI was helpful in understanding a bronze triangle recovered from the corridor of a Late Roman house (Fig. 1).

TriangleSetupImage-Fig1

Figure 1: H-RTI setup used for small objects at Sardis.

The triangle is incised with three images of a female deity and a border of magical signs (Fig. 2). Its use is likely connected with religious ritual practice in Asia Minor between the third and sixth centuries AD.

Figure 2: RTI of the bronze triangle in cumulative unsharp masking viewing mode.

Figure 2: RTI of the bronze triangle in cumulative unsharp masking viewing mode.

The legibility of the inscriptions, aided by RTI, reinforced the connection between the triangle’s inscriptions and material and written sources. Two comparenda for the triangle, one from Pergamon and one from Apamea, were identified, and the magic symbols on the triangle were connected with rituals described in a the Greek Magical Papyri.  RTI also aided in decoding and documenting a lead curse tablet and in understanding the weave structure of bitumen basketry impressions.

Additionally, a multi-year biofilm removal project of the Artemis Temple at Sardis is currently underway, headed by Michael Morris and Hiroko Kariya, conservators in private practice. The removal of this biofilm is carried out by a six-day process. RTI was used experimentally to document the changes to the stone throughout the removal process (Fig. 3).

Figure 3: H-RTI setup used for documentation of the biocide removal project.

Figure 3: H-RTI setup used for documentation of the biocide removal project.

RTIs were taken before treatment, during treatment (day 3), and after treatment (day 7). Because the biocide continues to work for months after its application, a final RTI will be taken next summer. Initial comparison of the images showed no loss to the stone surface as a result of the biofilm removal process. All very exciting!

To find out more about the excavations at Sardis, see http://sardisexpedition.org/.



Imaging and Studying Stone Tools with RTI by chicaseyc
June 30, 2015, 11:01 pm
Filed under: Guest Blogger, On Location | Tags: , , ,

This is the second post by our guest blogger Dr. Leszek Pawlowicz, an Associate Practitioner in the Department of Anthropology, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, USA. He can be contacted at leszek.pawlowicz@nau.edu. Thank you again, Leszek! Even in the age of digital photography, archaeology still relies heavily on old-school hand-drawn illustrations for documenting artifacts, particularly for publication. It can be difficult, or even impossible, to get a single photograph that shows all of the artifact’s key details. In my area of interest, knapped stone tools, low relief in small-scale surface topography, high relief in large-scale topography, specular (reflective) materials, variations in material color and contrast across the surface, all conspire to make these artifacts difficult to photograph. A skilled illustrator is capable of creating a drawing that reveals far more detail than even a good standard photograph (Figure 1). But creating such a drawing requires experience, time, and money, often making it impractical.

Figure_1

Figure 1: Comparison of digital photograph and line drawing of knapped stone tool. Courtesy Lance Trask, http://lktrask-media.com/.

Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) is a great way to document and image knapped stone tools. The ability to interactively modify the lighting angle, as well as mathematically manipulate the perceived interaction of light and surface, allows the viewer to see details difficult to photograph. It’s almost the equivalent of having the object in your hands, and turning it at various angles to the light to reveal details of its structure and manufacture. However, one drawback is that you can’t embed an RTI view in a paper or publication unless it’s in electronic format. Also, unlike a drawing that can show all the critical details at once, you may have to move the virtual lighting angle in many different directions to reveal all details. Using data from the custom RTI systems I described in a previous post, I’ve been working on ways to create static images of knapped stone tools with detail comparable to that in a line drawing.

Figure_2-med

Figure 2: Modern obsidian knapped point. A – Original digital photograph; B – Static RTI view; C- RTI Specular mode; D – RTI Static Multilight mode; E – RTI Normals mode; F – Enhanced RTI Normals mode. Click on image for enlarged view.

Figure 2 shows a series of images of a modern knapped projectile point fashioned from specular black obsidian, a particularly difficult material to photograph because of its shininess and lack of contrast. 2-A is an original digital photograph, with the lighting coming from the standard upper left direction; while a fair amount of detail is visible, shiny highlights obscure some details, and the overall convex shape of the point interferes with lighting on the right side of the point. 2-B shows an RTI view with lighting from the upper left; while glossy highlights have been eliminated, and more detail is visible on the right, other details are somewhat more subdued in this static view. Figure 2-C uses the RTI specular viewing mode, which imparts an artificially shiny character to the surface. This is actually a superior result for this mode on knapped stone tools – most of the time, it doesn’t look nearly this good (as you’ll see shortly). But this image suffers from lack of detail in some areas, probably because of the artifact’s overall convex surface shape. Figure 2-D uses the RTI Static Multilight mode, where the RTI data is analyzed to determine the optimal blend of multiple light angles to reveal details. Once again, this is a better result than I usually get for knapped stone tools, but some details are still hard to see because of lack of contrast in many areas. Overall, I have found that the recently added RTI Normals viewing mode leads to the best results. This mode color-codes the surface based on the perpendicular direction at every point in the image. Figure 2-E was generated using the Normals mode and a second-order HSH RTI file (standard Polynomial Texture Mapping or PTM) files produce markedly poorer results). Even in the raw colored state, the amount of detail visible across the entire surface is vastly superior to the other views. Using standard image enhancement techniques, one can further process this image to generate an extremely detailed view of the artifact’s surface details (Figure 2-F). While this modern artifact was made of a difficult material, the freshness of manufacture, lack of wear, and non-exposure to the elements make the surface features quite sharp and easy to see. What about an actual prehistoric point with a real history?

Figure 3: Molina Spring Clovis point. A – Original digital photograph; B – Static RTI view; C- RTI Specular mode; D – RTI Static Multilight mode; E – RTI Normals mode; F – Enhanced RTI Normals mode; G – Slope-shaded mode. Click on image for enlarged view.

Figure 3: Molina Spring Clovis point. A – Original digital photograph; B – Static RTI view; C- RTI Specular mode; D – RTI Static Multilight mode; E – RTI Normals mode; F – Enhanced RTI Normals mode; G – Slope-shaded mode. Click on image for enlarged view.

Figure 3 shows a series of similar photographs for the Molina Spring Clovis point, collected about 10 years ago in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. Clovis points are approximately 13,500 years old; this one in particular has seen a lot of wear on the flake scars, making them difficult to make out. What’s more, the point’s material (chert) is slightly glossy and very light in color, minimizing contrast in surface details. Figures 3-A through 3-F show the same image processing sequence as Figures 2-A through 2-F; note in particular that the Specular and Static Multilight modes (3-C and 3-D) do not produce especially useful images for this point. The raw Normals image (3-E) brings up details difficult to impossible to spot in the previous images, and enhancing the Normals image (3-F) makes those details even easier to see. For Figure 3-G, a Matlab script was used generate a modified view based on slope; this brings out certain details not immediately visible in the original normals image. In my opinion, images like 3-F and 3-G are superior to standard digital photographs of knapped stone tools and could well be used instead of line drawings for publication purposes. Even in cases where line drawings are preferred, these images could provide a useful background basis for tracing artifact details, instead of drawing them freehand. Beyond static images, the normals data can be used to generate a full 3D representation of the artifact’s surface. Some examples of this are visible at my website, along with downloadable 3D files and RTI data files for several projectile points. The 3D surfaces aren’t yet fully accurate, as they can be affected by inaccuracies in the normals calculation, and error accumulations in the surface fitting. However, these results are already significantly improved from my initial efforts, and I will be working on improving them further. Even in the current form, I believe that it should be possible to extract usable information than can be used to quantitatively characterize knapped stone tools.



Creating a Portable Dome-RTI system for Imaging Lithics by chicaseyc

Our guest blogger is Dr. Leszek Pawlowicz, an Associate Practitioner in the Department of Anthropology, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, USA. He can be contacted at leszek.pawlowicz@nau.edu. A longer version of this post can be seen at http://rtimage.us/?page_id=27. Thank you, Leszek!

When I learned about Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) back in 2009, one of my first thoughts was that it could be a useful tool for imaging and analyzing lithic archaeological artifacts, flaked stone tools in particular. Not an original thought even back then, and over the next four years I’ve seen the occasional RTI lithic image pop up on the web, demonstrating how useful RTI could be in this application. Early in 2013, I started experimenting with RTI on some modern replica projectile points using Highlight-RTI method. Though I got usable results with these experiments, I decided that Dome-RTI was a more appropriate method because of the reduced data acquisition and processing times.

So began a two-year process of building my first Dome-RTI system and refining it. After multiple iterations of the lighting system, controller, and camera/dome stand, I wound up with an 18″-diameter acrylic dome that produces excellent results and is useful for RTI on larger artifacts. However, it’s grossly over-sized for most of the artifacts I’m interested in documenting. Most flaked stone lithic artifacts in the American Southwest are less than 3 inches in length, and an 18″ dome is easily capable of imaging artifacts of at least 4.5″ in maximum dimension (I’ve gotten useful results on artifacts up to 6″ in length). What’s more, these artifacts are housed in scattered locations (museums, government facilities, universities, etc.), and the large size of the dome and stand make transportation and setup of this big system cumbersome. So, applying lessons learned from the first system, I built a second system with an emphasis on portability and speed (Figure 1):

portable RTI dome

Figure 1: Portable RTI dome

  • Dome diameter is 12″, and sits on a stand that is 13.5″ square; total weight of the dome + stand + camera is less than 4 kg. The small size lets it fit into a Pelican case for easy transport.
  • The controller box automatically lights 48 3W LEDs in sequence for the light sources; maximum current is 1 amp, and can be set as low as 150 milliamps. The camera shutter is triggered automatically in sync with the LEDs using either a wired remote cable, an IR remote signal, or a Bluetooth HID transmitter; a manual shutter mode is also available.
  • Data acquisition time is about 3 minutes with a Canon S110 camera (12 MP, native 12-bit RAW), about one minute with Canon/Nikon DSLRs. A custom GUI front-end for the PTM and HSH fitters reduces data processing time to 1-3 minutes after the photographs are transferred to a computer.
  • Dome is mounted on a hinged stand, which allows artifacts to be swapped in/out in about 10 seconds.
  • Entire system is powered by 9-12V DC, either from a wall transformer or appropriate battery power supply.

The system can fit securely in a standard camping backpack with room to spare, with a total weight of less than 5 kg. The option of battery power makes this a truly portable, field-ready RTI system (Figure 2).

Portable RTI Dome “in the field”, north of San Francisco Peaks, Flagstaff, Arizona

Figure 2: Portable RTI Dome “in the field,” north of San Francisco Peaks, Flagstaff, Arizona

When recording archaeological sites out in the field, it is often not possible to collect lithic artifacts to bring back to the lab for proper documentation. You either have to photograph them in the field (usually with less-than-satisfactory resolution of artifact details), or hand-draw the flake scars (a slow and tedious process, and often highly inaccurate). This portable RTI system makes it possible to thoroughly document lithic artifacts on-site.

This system has a few more tricks up its sleeve. Full analysis of a lithic artifact may require microscopic analysis of edgewear to determine how it was used.

Dome in microphotography mode with USB microscope

Figure 3: Dome in microphotography mode with USB microscope

A simple reconfiguration of the system (Figure 3) allows high-magnification RTI imaging of lithic artifacts, using either the USB microscope (as pictured), or a DSLR equipped with a macro lens that has a working distance of 6″ or more (roughly 90-100mm focal length). A micrometer stage allows for accurate positioning of the artifact under the microscope.

You can also reconfigure the stand to mount the dome vertically for imaging larger artifacts. While I plan to use it in this mode to image the surface of Southwestern pottery, Figure 4 shows the system in vertical mode being used to image an oil painting.

Dome in vertical mode, imaging oil painting

Figure 4: Dome in vertical mode, imaging an oil painting

The normals may be off a bit because of the increased spacing between dome and painting, but you can still get useful results, like the specular mode image shown in Figure 5.

RTI specular image of painting surface shot in vertical mode

Figure 5: RTI specular image of painting surface shot in vertical mode

Total parts cost of this portable RTI dome, including the Canon camera, was well under $800. Scaling the dome up to a higher size would increase the expenditure by only the extra cost of the dome plus additional LEDs if desired (e.g. 64 instead of 48). For example, a one-meter dome with 64 LEDs would add approximately $400 to the total cost. In the near future, I hope to post information/instructions online that would allow anyone to build a system of their own. If I can build a system without instructions, I’m sure many others could easily build such a system with instructions.

In an upcoming post, I’ll present some of my lithics RTI imaging results from both of my Dome-RTI systems.



From Ravenna to Berlin: Documenting the medieval mosaic of San Michele in Africisco with RTI by chicaseyc

Our guest blogger is Heidrun Feldmann, a PhD student in History of Art at the University of Basel and an assistant on the research project “Digital Materiality” at the Digital Humanities Lab there. Thank you, Heidrun!

It is obvious that art historians need good reproductions of works of art to do their research. However, photographic images, which are static and two-dimensional, are not capable of reproducing the visual impression we have when we look at mosaics. Their specific materiality and surface properties make a visualization of these characteristics difficult. Besides, as ancient or medieval mosaics are usually placed on the walls of churches, they interact with those specific surroundings. The lighting conditions inside these buildings, as well as the optical impressions for a visitor moving across the room, change dynamically, which results in a unique sensory experience. This is also a reason why the designs of mosaics in such religious contexts were often attuned to the liturgy. The impressive sparkling effect is caused by the surface properties of the countless tesserae, which – when animated by light − shimmer in many different colours and shine like precious metals. Sometimes those tesserae were placed in the setting bed with a certain tilt angle. This might seem irregular to us today, but then it was done intentionally to optimize the reflectivity of the surface.

With the aid of RTI (Reflectance Transformation Imaging), we now have more options for capturing and simulating the reflection properties of a mosaic’s surface, as well as its interaction with changing light conditions. The RTIViewer software enables us to convey the impressions of this highly dynamic medium to people who cannot visit the actual mosaic in situ. RTIs also help us document the current condition of mosaics more accurately than in the past, and they support our goal to answer questions about how light was used in medieval architecture.

To test the RTI method, we visited the Bode-Museum in Berlin, where a mosaic, originating from the church of San Michele in Africisco, Ravenna, is exhibited as part of the Early Christian and Byzantine Collection (Figure 1). We thank Gabriele Mietke, curator of the department, for allowing us to take our photos. The mosaic is fitted into the architecture of the museum, where an apse was constructed to imitate the original place of its installation in the church in Ravenna, albeit without the original lighting situation.

mosaic-fig1-center

Figure 1: The team of the Digital Humanities Lab taking photographs of the mosaic at the Bode-Museum, Berlin.

Scholars have extensively debated the condition and state of preservation of this mosaic. Without going into all the details, we can say it is certain that the mosaic we see in the museum differs from the original of 545 AD because of its turbulent history. It has been restored and changed more than once, and some critics say that the whole mosaic is merely a copy. For us this was particularly interesting. We were wondering if the RTIs would provide further information regarding interventions, changes, or repairs.

Because of its size and form, it was impossible to take pictures that cover the whole of the apse. Therefore we captured it in twelve segments. About sixty photographs were taken of each of these segments, changing the position of the flashlight by hand for every picture. The twelve RTI files we obtained in this way show the reflection properties much better than any static photograph could do.

Figure 2: RTI image of the head of Christ in a detail from the mosaic.

Figure 2: RTI image of the head of Christ in a detail from the mosaic.

Figure 3: Same detail of the mosaic with light from a different direction.

Figure 3: Same detail of the mosaic with light from a different direction.

There are some limitations with glossy surfaces, because specular reflection cannot be adequately represented with the typical mathematical model used in Polynomial Texture Maps (the first form of RTI). However, changing the angle of the incoming light in the RTIViewer software allows us to identify areas whose structure and reflection properties differ from the others. In those areas the tesserae are of a different size or form and seem to be set in another way. All this suggests that these are the areas where the mosaic has undergone some kind of repair or restoration (Figures 2 and 3).

Having successfully tested the technique under the special conditions in the museum, we are now looking forward to the next step: capturing RTIs of medieval mosaics in situ and working on enhanced models for the visualization of gloss.

To find out more about our research project, see http://www.dhlab.unibas.ch.



The oldest footprints outside of Africa: an interview with Dr. Sarah M. Duffy about the imaging of this incredible find by cdschroer
September 22, 2014, 9:18 pm
Filed under: Commentary, Guest Blogger, News, On Location, Technology | Tags: , ,

Sarah Duffy, PhD is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of York in the Department of Archaeology. In May of 2013, after a series of storms, ancient footprints were revealed on a beach near Happisburgh (pronounced “Hays-boro”) on Britain’s east coast in Norfolk (see a 6-minute video). The footprints were fragile and washing away a little day by day. Sarah was called to the site by Dr. Nick Ashton, Curator of Palaeolithic and Mesolithic collections at the British Museum, to document it. Here is our interview with Sarah about this dramatic discovery.

Duffy-Happisburgh-BM

Sarah shooting photogrammetry in the rain. Image courtesy of Natural History Museum, London, UK

CHI: Sarah, can you tell us how you got involved in the project and what you found when you arrived?

Sarah: It really came down to good timing and an opportune meeting of research colleagues. When the footprints were discovered, I had just begun working with Dr. Beccy Scott at the British Museum on a project based in Jersey called “Ice Age Island”. Beccy and my partner, Dr. Ed Blinkhorn, another early prehistoric archaeologist, have collaborated for many years, and he introduced us. During the week of the discovery, Beccy happened to be at a research meeting with Dr. Nick Ashton and suggested that he get in touch with me about the Happisburgh finding.

The next day, I received a call from Nick who asked if I would be able to take a trip to Norfolk to record some intertidal Pleistocene deposits at Happisburgh. Having just completed my PhD thesis (a “dissertation” in US currency), I was up for an adventure and ready to take on the challenge, and so I was on a train to the southeast coast two days later.

My first plan of action was to figure out how on earth you pronounced the name of the site! The next step was to figure out what equipment I would need to have available when I arrived. This proved somewhat challenging, as I had never visited the Norfolk coast, and it seems quite humorous in hindsight that one of the pieces of kit I requested was a ladder.

All of this said, the urgency to get the site photographed became clear when I showed up one very rainy afternoon in March. Standing on the shore, I felt very privileged to have been invited to record such an important set of features, which disappeared within only weeks of their discovery by Dr. Martin Bates.

CHI: What were your goals in the project and why did you choose to shoot images for photogrammetry? Can you tell us a little bit about your approach?

Sarah: Since I wasn’t sure what to expect when I reached the site, I took both photogrammetric and RTI kit materials with me. I intended to capture the 3D geometry of the prints with photogrammetry and subtle surface relief with RTI. However, when I arrived, both the weather and tidal restrictions limited the time we were able dedicate to recording. I therefore focused my efforts on photogrammetry, which proved a flexible and robust enough technique that we were able to get the kit down the cliff side in extremely challenging conditions and capture images that were used later to generate 3D models.

Based on the looming return of the tide and the amount of time required to prepare the site, our window of access was quite small. While I took the images, aided by Craig Williams and an umbrella, the rest of the team battled the rain and tide by carefully sponging water from the base of the features. As mentioned, I originally intended to capture images from above the site using a ladder. However, as the ladder immediately sank into the wet sand, I was forced to find other means of overhead capture: namely Live View, an outstretched arm, and umbrella. There was just enough time to photograph the prints, loosely divided into two sections, using this recording approach before we had to retreat back up to the top of the cliff (and to a very warm pub for a much deserved fireside pint!).

Footprints-model-SMD

3D model of laminated surface containing the footprints at Happisburgh. Photo by Sarah M. Duffy

CHI: When you got back to your office, how long did it take you to process the images, and what software did you use?

Sarah: Originally, I used the Standard Edition of PhotoScan by Agisoft, later returning to the image set in order to reprocess it with their Professional Edition. PhotoScan’s processing workflow is relatively straightforward, and the time required to generate geometry is somewhat dependent on the hardware one has access to. The post-processing of the images was by far the most time-consuming component of the processing sequence. Since the software looks for patterns of features, there was a substantial amount of image preparation that needed to be completed first, before models could be produced. For example, rain droplets on the laminated surface that contained the prints needed to be masked out, as well as the contemporary boot prints that accumulated in the sand that surrounded the site throughout the image sequence.

CHI: How were the 3D models you produced used by the other archaeologists involved with the site?

Sarah: Once the models had been generated, the rest of the team, including Nick Ashton, Simon Lewis, Isabelle De Groote, Martin Bates, Richard Bates, Peter Hoare, Mark Lewis, Simon Parfitt, Sylvia Peglar, Craig Williams, and Chris Stringer, wrote the paper on the results. Nick Ashton and Isabelle De Groote closely analyzed the models of the prints in order to study size, movement, direction, and possible age of the early humans who might have created these features. Isabelle later worked with the 3D printing department at Liverpool John Moores University in order to have one of the digital models printed.

CHI: Since the footprints were washed away, your images are the best record of the site that exists. Are the 3D models accessible? What will you do to preserve this material?

Sarah: Coverage of the footprints, including excerpts of the digital models that I generated and the 3D printout, can be viewed at the Natural History Museum exhibit in London, Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story, which closes September 28th. Findings from the analysis have also been published in PLOS ONE, an open-access, peer-reviewed scientific journal.

As mentioned, when I visited the site last March, I had hoped to undertake a RTI survey. Although conditions on the day of recording did not permit multi-light capture, I have since been able to generate virtual RTI models that reveal the subtle topography of the prints. An excerpt of one of these models can be viewed on my website.

Additionally, the research team, in collaboration with the Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease at Liverpool, are currently working on extracting further information from the image set. Findings from this work will be made available in the future. Once analysis is complete, the images and resulting models will be archived with the British Museum.

CHI: Thank you for your time, Sarah, and what a great story!

Sarah Duffy has been collaborating with Cultural Heritage Imaging (CHI), including taking CHI’s training in Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) and working with the technique since 2007 while she was a graduate student in Historic Preservation at the University of Texas at Austin. Sarah authored a set of guidelines for English Heritage on RTI. During her doctoral work, she also began to apply her imaging skills in the area of photogrammetry.



Rock Art Recording by cdschroer
June 17, 2013, 4:38 pm
Filed under: Conferences, On Location
Mark shooting photogrammetry sequence at Petroglyph National Monument

Mark shooting photogrammetry sequence at Petroglyph National Monument

During the month of May we had the pleasure of doing more imaging work with Rock Art .  This has included shooting some Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) and some photogrammetry sequences at a couple of different sites.  More importantly, we have had a chance to present some of this work to folks researching and recording rock art.  We presented a workshop at theIFRAO conference  in Albuquerque  a couple of weeks ago.  This was our first time attending the international conference. We were able to go to papers on all aspects of rock art research from all over the world. One of the things I love about rock art is that there are some things we just can’t know particularly about the older material where we don’t have living descendants from the culture to help us understand it.  I find joy in that mystery.

One thing that is really clear is that rock art sites all over the planet are at risk and a lot of rock art is being lost every year.  This is due to a wide range of factors from vandalism, to development, to earthquakes, to flooding and fires, to things as simple as natural rock falls. Part of our mission at CHI is to get tools to document these sites into the hands of folks who care about them.  It is increasingly clear to me that teaching people how to capture the photographic image sequences that will allow the generation of full 3 D models, could really help us have records for future generations, and could provide a baseline of the current state of sites that would help monitor the changing conditions.  The great thing about this approach is that it just takes a digital camera (and a monopod helps) and a bit of training about how to take the images in order to ensure complete coverage and high quality results.  There are a number of different commercial packages available, and also some open source efforts, and the great thing is that how you capture the images is the same no matter where you want to process the images to get high quality 3D.  We are now working on developing photogrammetry training for folks working in archaeology, historic sites, rock art sites, and related fields.  Even if the data isn’t all processed in the short term, archiving the photographs that are properly collected will mean that anyone can create the 3D models in the future. To be clear, I don’t think anything takes the place of being in an actual site, and that it is critically important to protect and preserve these sites.  But, given the fragility of these places, and also the inaccessibility of many of them, we should be gathering as much high quality data as we can as inexpensively as we can for ourselves and for future generations.

Setting up to shoot RTI of the 2 flute players panel at the Petroglyph National Monument, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Setting up to shoot RTI of the 2 flute players panel at the Petroglyph National Monument, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.



CHI celebrates 10 years as a nonprofit corporation! by cdschroer
August 16, 2012, 5:47 pm
Filed under: Commentary, News, On Location | Tags: ,

On August 16, 2002 we founded Cultural Heritage Imaging as a nonprofit corporation in San Francisco.  Wow, it seems like yesterday and it seems like a long time ago!  Our digital camera at that time was 3 megapixels and it had a pretty slow auto focus. We had seen Tom Malzbender’s pioneering Polynomial Texture Mapping paper at SIGGRAPH in 2001, and we began working with him several weeks later. However, using the technique required working with command-line software and capturing images using either a lighting array (dome) or a very time consuming detailed template approach.

CHI’s manual RTI rig – 2004

We were shooting some 3D using structured light software from Eyetronics, and we had been on site with Professor Patrick Hunt of Stanford University at his archeological excavation at the Grand St. Bernard Pass in Switzerland as early as 2001.

Mark Mudge, Carla Schroer, and Marlin Lum on location at the Grand St. Bernard Pass in August 2004

We have come a long way since then, working with numerous museums, historic sites, archaeologists and historians, as well as computer science researchers. In 2006 we developed (with Tom Malzbender) the Highlight RTI technique, and we worked with the team at the University of Minho in Portugal to develop open source software to support that (RTIBuilder).  With a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services beginning in 2006, we researched a multi-view approach to RTI and out of that collaboration with Professor James Davis et. al. of UC Santa Cruz and the Visual Computing Lab in Pisa came the open source Hemispherical Harmonics fitter (section 6 in the tutorial notes) and the RTIViewer.

Also in 2006 we were contacted by folks at the Worcester Art Museum Conservation Lab interested in using RTI for art conservation. After a small pilot project, we built a light array for them and trained them in the RTI technique. To this day we appreciate this group, their vision of how this technology could be used regularly in their field, and their willingness to go out on a limb to make to make it happen and share their work with others.

Worcester Art Museum Conservation Lab – May 2008

In 2008, as interest in RTI grew on the part of museums and historic sites, CHI made a great effort to develop training programs for RTI and other computational photography techniques.  We have since trained over 200 people in our full 4 day RTI class, and we have introduced hundreds more to RTI through workshops and presentations at numerous conferences and lecture series.

Our current research work includes an NSF funded project with Professor Szymon Rusinkiewicz of Princeton University to further develop the technique of Algorithmic Rendering with RTI data sets and easy-to-use software that includes a way to keep track of the full process history in a digital lab notebook. We began working on the requirements and methodology for how to manage this process history for all of our imaging work and especially RTI back in 2002, and  we shared it with the computer graphics community in 2004 on a SIGGRAPH panel called “Computer Graphics and Cultural Heritage: What are the Issues?” chaired by professor Holly Rushmeier.  Our early work referred to this subject as “empirical provenance,” described in detail in this 2007 paper delivered at the CIPA conference.

So now, 11 cameras, many well-worn travel bags, and I can’t even count how many laptops later, we enter our second decade of collaboration with many wonderful people from all over the planet. We thank some of the folks who have helped us along the way on our acknowledgments web page but it isn’t and can’t possibly be a complete list. CHI was founded on the principles of collaboration and the democratization of technology, producing tools and methodology that enhance scientific reliability and long-term preservation.

We would like to say thank-you to everyone who has volunteered time, donated money or equipment, shared their work, asked us questions, answered our questions, written down how to do things, listened to us speak, formed project collaborations, or run across our path in some interesting way!  We hope to meet you all again, and many others down the road.

Cheers!