Aerial Photography and Visualisation for Built Heritage - PhD Portfolio by Kieran Baxter
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Friday, 10 August 2012

Upcoming Exhibition of MSc Work

After a year of exploration and experimentation the outcome of my MSc work will exhibit at the Dundee Masters Show from the 17th to the 26th of August. Details of the show are available via the university website here.

My projects have been designed to expand upon a central question of what low altitude aerial photography can bring the representation and visualization of heritage. The suitability of low aerial photographs for the purposes of structure from motion photogrammetry has been key to my investigations and 3D meshes generated in this way are the foundation of my visualization work.

This snowy looking mesh of Jarlshof consists of 1.6 million vertices and was pieced together from thousands of photographs taken from an 8m pole, in order to reach every niche and corner of the monument site. This is compared with a kite aerial photograph taken at a later date with special permission from the nearby air traffic control tower at Sumburgh airport.

The 3D model was created from Photosynth point clouds which were meshed and aligned using Meshlab. Although the very low level pole photographs were ideal for the purpose of generating the detailed mesh, the broad coverage of the kite's views were far better suited for texturing which was done by projecting photographs onto the surface in Mudbox.

This workflow allowed me to capture the site at particular times of day and recreate the environment in 3D, with the potential to manipulate the atmosphere for greater narrative effect. This kind of recreated environment is well suited to demonstrate how reconstructions of lost structures fit into the site as the visitor would find it today. These ideas are the basis of my short film about Jarlshof and it's 4,000 year story, which will be on display during the masters show week.

I was lucky enough to also be involved in research project led by Alice watterson to visualize Skara Brae, a neolithic village on the Orkney Islands. This presented an opportunity to explore these techniques further, looking at the incorporation of live action footage as well as how the same approach can be applied on a macro scale with artifacts.

This still frame shows an example of scratch art from Skara Brae which has been reconstructed using photogrammetry, bringing it into an environment where elements such as the firelight can be added. The finished shot, incorporating pigment added by Aaron Watson, will form part of a collaborative film which will hopes to be aired on site.

During my MSc studies I have raised a lot of question in the course of answering a few. I look forward greeting any and all interested parties at the masters show, which marks the end of a chapter, but not the end of the journey!