Computer graphics for serious purposes
The movie industry was well represented with jaw-dropping visuals and presentation on immersive storytelling from Atlantic Productions and Tippet Studio. The gaming industry, not to be left out, sent Maxime Durand, Ubisoft, who explained his role as the franchise historian for Assassin’s Creed.
We also had a passionate presentation on the role of digital and heritage topics in education from Jenni MacKay from Dundee City Council.
A call for responsible 3d printing
The most shocking example of the potential problems in the reckless use of 3d printing came in the closing remarks by Professor David Mitchell, Director of Conservation at HES. An image of a carved stone panel where the missing head of a cherub had been 3d printed in bright yellow plastic and stuck onto the panel. The audience (including me) visibly winced. Fortunately, he also had some positive examples, including a 1:1 scale 3d printed column head used as a template for stonemasons.
There were many other fascinating speakers I have not mentioned. I’ll keep an eye out for an official write-up and update this post with a link when available.
The importance of data provenance. The event underlined our prior view that accurately capturing data and measurements of heritage sites is properly the domain of trained surveyors. Accordingly, we have no immediate plans to get involved with scanning. However, having obtained their data, lots of heritage organisations are struggling to make best use of it to engage their audiences. In that context our services could produce usable 3d models (for 3d print or visualisation) derived from the master data.
Common to many industrties, there is an explosion in the volume of data to manage. It was encouraging to see BIM principles being adopted within Historic Environment Scotland for the historic buildings under their care. There are many data management challenges for heritage that sounded familiar from our time working in Oil and Gas and it was interesting to hear the discussions searching for frameworks and platforms to address data management. I suspect suitable frameworks already exist in different industries and sectors.
Filling in the blanks
Whether the challenge is creating a stylised illustration, a photorealistic movie sequence or a scale or 1:1 model, there are a ton of choices to be made and likely data gaps filled during the process. Working these issues needs to involve expert guidance to ensure the historical accuracy and authenticity of the result.
Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
There were some interesting questions raised about the validity of filling in damaged areas of artefacts using 3d printing or some other reconstructive techniques. Sometimes the damage itself tells an important story about the history of the artefact. We note that there was no definitive answer offered, underlining again the need to seek expert guidance.
There is a lot being done with VR and AR. Several speakers underlined our view that while undoubtedly immersive, these can be solitary experiences. We saw some impressive (but expensive looking) dome solutions for groups of people. It seems to us that scale models and replica artefacts may have a useful place augmenting other approaches to tell stories and engage audiences.
The conference far exceeded our expectations. Perhaps coming from a corporate IT background, I am just not used to so much glitz and glamour associated with highly technical topics. Although I got some answers to the questions I arrived with, the conference planted many more new questions and quite a few new ideas we look forward to exploring in the coming months.