Cultural Heritage Imaging


Marlin Reflects: RTI Training and the Sense of Discovery by marlinlum
July 27, 2018, 3:37 pm
Filed under: RTI, Training, Workshops | Tags: , , , ,

marlin_lumMarlin Lum is the Imaging Director at Cultural Heritage Imaging (CHI) and a member of the CHI training team.

I thought I’d take a few moments to decode what it’s like to be an instructor in one of our RTI training classes. Like anything else, there’s a certain level of planning, intention, and positive enthusiasm that I expect from myself (and from anyone enrolled). I do my best to pass this on to everyone who elects to give us their valuable time. I truly enjoy teaching at this level. I see these training sessions as a unique opportunity to pass on my knowledge in a form that can help create conditions primed for discoveries as well as to make new friends.

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RTI capture with iPhone in tow to track one of those special photographic moments. (Aviator sun glasses optional.)

CHI RTI training (as well as our photogrammetry class) simply means spending four days conveying photo DIY geekiness to a usually very enthusiastic, and sometimes even rowdy, motley crew of professors, scholars, conservation professionals, archaeologists, and pro photographers. (By the way, just so you know, it’s usually the archaeologists and the pro shooters who can hold the most liquor.) All of these folks, and everyone who walks into one of our trainings, is ultra-talented, focused, and very motivated to succeed. As you might guess, this makes my job significantly easier as well as seemingly more important. At least the furious note-taking in most of my hands-on demos would lead me to think this. As I always state on day one, hour one: “I make it my goal to make you successful (at least photographically).”

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Got spheres? Get on the plane! Make sure those spheres are on same plane as the object. Place them carefully so they do not move and are always in focus.

Helping these trainees from the bus stop to the f-stop and along their way to making discoveries is not only a privilege but something of a rush. More than once I have witnessed the birth of an important discovery. I once watched a conservator realize that a Mayan lead ingot sitting on the bench actually had numerous coded “knot” inscriptions, though they were seemingly invisible to the human eye. RTI revealed this fairly matter of factly. I’ve heard the shriek of conservation staff as RTI revealed a previously hidden but somewhat “suspect” under-painting. I once heard an Egyptologist glyph expert read aloud, then carefully re-read, a good fortune spell. Apparently, the original person who had paid for the spell got taken, because RTI revealed that the original owner’s name had been scratched away and re-etched with a new dude’s name. I imagine that was a fairly common event. Wait till the guy dies, then sneak over there, scratch out his name, and write yours.  Boom, check, all done, sweetie. All right there in stone — can’t deny that when the judge points a finger at you. The oohs and aahs I hear never disappoint.

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Setting up the object for proper RTI capture can take a bit of time, but using Live View mode can help your troubles go away.

Here’s the gist: I get fired up when I see you guys get fired up. RTI has the potential to inspire. Materials and objects that you didn’t think were worth imaging suddenly land on the request list. One down side: I heard a pro shooter from a large institution complain that he didn’t need any more work (oh, sorry).

Using the RTI Viewer to look at the details and stay detailed.

Use the RTIViewer to look at the details.

Just recently we taught an RTI class at the CHI studio (the photos in this blog are from that class). I’m not sure that any real discoveries were made, because we don’t have glyphs, ancient relics, masterpieces, or any “weird” non-provenance stuff from eBay lying around. However, I can vouch for the fact that I had a great time meeting cool new professionals, watching them engaged in what they do best, and then seeing them walk out the door, doing it better than before. Yup, I did write that. It’s in our best interest at CHI to make sure that you’re successful taking RTI (or photogrammetry) back to your professional crew.

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Photos in the Round: 3-D Insights into Art by chicaseyc
July 17, 2018, 5:49 pm
Filed under: Equipment, Guest Blogger, photogrammetry, Technology, Training, Workshops

Christopher Ciccone is a photographer at the North Carolina Museum of Art, and this is a post he wrote for the museum’s blog Circa. Chris attended the 4-day photogrammetry training class taught by the CHI team at the museum in May 2018 and describes the experience here. Thank you for sharing your blog, Chris!

Photogrammetry is the science of making measurements from photographs of an object (or in aerial photogrammetry, a geographic area). This is done by taking a series of carefully plotted still photographs that incorporate targets of known size and then analyzing the images with specialized software. The resulting data can then be used to generate a variety of output products such as maps, detailed renderings, and 3-D models for use in a number of applications.

Dense point cloud rendering of sculptor William Artis’s Michael. The blue rectangles represent the position of the camera for each image that was used to create the 3-D model.

Although photogrammetry as a scientific measurement technique has existed since the nineteenth century, it has been the advent of digital photography and high-powered computational capacity that has made it a practical tool for scholars, researchers, and photographers. Because photogrammetry can be employed on objects of any size, its usefulness in the cultural heritage sector is vast. Interesting uses of photogrammetry include, for example, documentation of historic sites that might be slated for destruction or are in danger of ongoing environmental damage.

Workshop participants in the NCMA Park photograph various angles of Ledelle Moe’s Collapse.

Photogrammetry at the NCMA

In May the Musem’s Photography and Conservation departments hosted instructors Carla Schroer and Mark Mudge from Cultural Heritage Imaging in San Francisco for a four-day photogrammetry training workshop. Participants included myself, NCMA Head Photographer Karen Malinofski, and NCMA objects conservator Corey Riley, as well as colleagues from the National Park Service and the University of Virginia.

Workshop participants Cari Goetcheus and Gregory Luna Golya photograph Willam Artis’s Michael on a turntable to facilitate views from all angles of the object.

William Ellisworth Artis, Michael, mid-to-late 1940s, H. 10 1/4 x W. 6 x D. 8 in., terracotta, Purchased with funds from the National Endowment for the Arts and the North Carolina State Art Society (Robert F. Phifer Bequest)

In the course of the class, we photographed several artworks in the Museum’s permanent collection, from a small bust by William Artis to Ledelle Moe’s monumental outdoor sculpture Collapse. The technique consisted of taking “rings” of overlapping photographs around the object, at optimal distance relative to focal length, with camera lenses set at a fixed focus point and aperture.  The primary objective in each case was to establish a consistent, rule-based workflow in order to reduce the measurement uncertainty of the rendered photoset, which may then be used to generate reliable 3-D data as well as be archived and used for further study by others.

At the NCMA we plan to employ the technique for such projects as monitoring the surface wear over time of our outdoor sculptures, revealing surface markings of ancient objects for insight into makers’ techniques and tools, and generating 3-D renderings of delicate artifacts that can be manipulated and viewed in virtual environments by museum visitors and scholars. Other applications will become possible as 3-D processing tools are improved.

 

Will Rourk of the University of Virginia and NCMA Head Photographer Karen Malinofski photograph details of Collapse.

 

Christopher Ciccone is a photographer at the North Carolina Museum of Art.


Everything is better in 3D by chicaseyc
August 29, 2016, 4:35 pm
Filed under: Guest Blogger, Technology, Training, Workshops | Tags: , , ,

Lauren Fair is Associate Objects Conservator at Winterthur Museum, Garden, & Library in Buffalo, New York. She also serves as Assistant Affiliated Faculty for the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC). Lauren was a participant in CHI’s NEH grant-sponsored 4-day training class in photogrammetry, August 8-11, 2016 at Buffalo State College. She posted an account of her experience in the class in her own blog, “A Conservation Affair.” Here is an excerpt from her fine post.

using-scale-barsI have discovered the perfect way to decompress after a four-day intensive seminar on 3D photogrammetry:  go to your friend’s cabin on a small island in a remote part of Canada. While you take in the fresh air and quiet of nature, you can then reflect on all that you have shoved into your brain in the past week – and feel pretty good about it!

The Cultural Heritage Imaging (CHI) team – Mark, Carla, and Marlin – have done it again, in that they have taken their brilliance and passion for photography, cultural heritage, and documentation technologies, and formulated a successful workshop on 3D photogrammetry that effectively passes on their expertise and “best practice” methodologies.

The course was made possible by a Preservation and Access Education and Training grant awarded to CHI by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

(Read the rest of Lauren’s blog here.)

 

 



Reconnaissance. Scouting. Preparation. by marlinlum
June 22, 2012, 7:41 pm
Filed under: Commentary, On Location, Workshops | Tags: , , , ,

Reconnaissance. Scouting. Preparation.

Marlin Lum here. Imaging Director at Cultural Heritage Imaging. This blog entry inspired by Mark Christal, strong man and multi-media super genius employed by the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) at the Mall in Washington DC. It’s part of his professional game to find out as much as possibly about a topic and then present it to the public via modern visual technology. Go to the National Museum of the American Indian and check out what they are putting out in the world, really good stuff.

River Bed Pano

panorama photograph: scouting for rock art in a river bed

Mark is a graduate of CHI’s 4-Day RTI Training and a NCPTT Workshop participant where he not only refined his skills in RTI capture but also learned about photogrammetry. Aside from being a respected technologist and dedicated vegan, he is also an enthusiast of ancient Rock Art. (no- not album covers). Native American rock art.

Taking his Panorama and RTI capture skills in the field, (meaning a 14 mile mountain bike route, hot weather, lots of photo gear on back), Mark and his crew (also (former) NMAI super genius Video Master, Kevin Cartwright) entered the wilderness on a reconnaissance mission. Mission: to locate a petroglyph, shoot a Pano and scout it for future RTI capture.

I also have to mention, as stated by Mark, ‘that the park ranger had never heard of this (culture) site’. Mark and Kevin only found it after actively looking/hunting, and having followed a good tip from a kayaker. According to Mark, ‘this might be the only known on-site rock art in Maryland’. Mark goes on to say that, “The only other site (Bald Friar) was dynamited in the 20’s because it was about to be flooded.  Parts of that site are now spread across the state in a number of museums and culture centers”. Uhmm. Can you say, ‘sense of urgency’, get out there and document people!

A long time ago I used to work in Hollywood where I knew a location scout. It was his job to discover everything, everything about that location and bring that information back to the unit. His checklist asked questions like: Where is this on the map? What direction does it face? Where is the afternoon sun? Can I get a crew here? Do I need extension cords? Whats the scale of the artwork? What lens do I need? Is my tripod in dirt or water? Who’s land is this? What’s the deal with the roaming horned bull? (true story btw). And where is the crew bathroom?

You get my point. The more you know about your subject (and its owners {past and present}, the better). A thorough knowledge base about what exactly you intend to RTI is essential for creating a successful final product. It’s like anything else, knowing what equipment you’re gonna need (and what you don’t want to carry {or bike} for 14 miles) is gonna make or break it (your back that is).

Hollywood crews might research and setup a shot for months, only to have the actor whisper his lines in 40 seconds.

I will draw a conclusion to this blog and just point you to the large JPEG that Mark Christal email me from his Recon mission into the hot sun. (For those of you shooting in the comfort of a photo lab, you will have your chance.)

Mark’s Recon Pano gives us a glimpse into the beauty, the full shade during full sun, the water level during that time of year, the artwork and the scale (note calibration stick). And for those of you who are curious, yes, this location IS top secret, so, no use in hacking or looking. One last thought, shoot a capture when the water is running low.

Scout and be happy!

check out the flat pano image here on Flickr! Click on the Hi-Res image – can *you find the rock art? (look for the calibration stick)

Go directly to a large the jpeg: http://www.flickr.com/photos/markchristal/3938203809/sizes/o/in/photostream/



Free IMLS Sponsored 4-Day RTI Training Sessions by marlinlum
March 23, 2011, 10:11 pm
Filed under: Training, Uncategorized, Workshops

“21st-Century Museum Professionals Grant Program”

Institute of Museum and Library Services
National Leadership Grant Project

Thanks to a generous grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services 21st Century Museum Professionals program, CHI is pleased to present a series of FREE training sessions in Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI), graciously hosted by the following institutions:

Worcester Art Museum: July 11-14, 2011

San Francisco Museum of Art: Aug 15-18, 2011
Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute: Mar 5-8, 2012
Indianapolis Museum of Art: Sept 10-13, 2012

Learn More. Space is Limited. Apply NOW.

http://www.c-h-i.org/21st_MP_apply/index.html

 



VAST 2010 at the Ecole du Louvre, Paris by marlinlum
October 4, 2010, 7:54 pm
Filed under: Commentary, Conferences, On Location, Technology, Workshops

The Virutal Reality, Archaeology and Cultural Heritage (VAST) conference was great for us, and we are still enjoying being in Paris. This is a small focused conference with usually about 100 people in attendance. We put together a full day tutorial at the start of the conference with some of our favorite collaborators, and it was great to get this group together in person. We covered a lot of ground in a day with a nice mix of practical and theoretical material.

Carla setting up a demo during the tutorial

The rest of the conference was really good. I always enjoy the chance to catch up with various colleagues and friends, meet new folks working in this field, and see what other folks are up to. VAST is usually more on the computer science side of things, but there were a number of museum folks as well as archaeologists in attendance. There are always lively and sometimes controversial discussions, and this year lived up to that standard. Of great interest to me were the papers and discussions around how digital representations can track and reflect their true digital provenance from acquisition through to the finished process.

Mark and Carla in front of the Ecole du Louvre - site for the conference

I particularly appreciated a discussion with Holly Rushmeier from Yale University about what we mean by accuracy, high resolution, and quality in general? In particular what is even measurable, and how should we be measuring and recording it? Holly agreed that this is an area that needs some attention, and it will take the work of multiple institutions working together to come to any guidelines.

Having a chance to talk to Martin Doerr about mapping the digital provenance data to the CIDOC CRM always requires having your thinking cap on, but it’s so worth it. There were many other great people in attendance, interesting papers, and good food, wine and conversation. I look forward to next year when VAST is combined with VSMM (International Society on Virtual Systems and Multi-Media) in Alexandria, Egypt.



Imaging Paper Squeezes With RTI at the Smithsonian by cwillen

By Guest Blogger E. Keats Webb

I mentioned briefly last month some of the objects that we have been using Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) on here at the Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute (MCI).  One project involved paper “squeezes,” paper pulp molds made from the surfaces of ancient monuments at archaeological sites.

In some cases these “squeezes” are primary resources containing rare intellectual and physical information from monuments that have deteriorated or sites that no longer exist.  Unfortunately, the fragility of the paper minimizes accessibility of these objects to researchers and scholars. This makes them great candidates for non-destructive documentation of the 3-D characteristics of their surfaces with the RTI method.

Senior Conservator, Melvin Wachowiak, and I worked with the conservators from a Smithsonian museum, imaging a couple of examples of paper squeezes to see what the RTI method might contribute in terms of preservation and research.

Since the squeezes are molds taken from stone inscriptions, the writing is reversed.  After the image acquisition we “flipped” the images using imaging software, and then processed the files so that the final RTI product could be a legible rectified document for researchers to study.

We found that the RTI method increases legibility through the combination of raking light features and the specular enhancement option while also creating a surrogate that can be more extensively “handled” by researchers and scholars. (See images below.)

We continue to use RTI on a daily basis and look forward to sharing more with you about how the method is helping the scientists and conservators within MCI and the Smithsonian for the research and preservation of the collections.

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Detail of Paper Squeeze with Normal Light Position

 

Paper with raking light

Detail of Paper Squeeze with Raking Light

 

Paper with specular enhancement

Detail of Paper Squeeze with Specular Enhancement