Behind the scenes Collections Long read

From 2D to 3D – Photogrammetry Part 2

Investigating 3D imaging of our Special Collections.

It’s been seven months since the first 2D to 3D blog post, made whilst working from home due to the Covid 19 pandemic. Since August, the Imaging Team have had access to the collections and photography studio, on a limited basis. We have successfully managed to maintain our priority digitisation projects, undertake crucial new digitisation projects to support online learning using Special Collections material, and gradually resume our Imaging Service. We have found that our recent endeavours into photogrammetry have been well received, and we have received requests to produce 3D models of collection items for teaching purposes.

Papyrus to Print

This first request was for 3D models of facimile bindings and collection material, and was made in support of the new Papyrus to Print digital collection that concentrates on material used for teaching on the MA in Medieval and Early Modern Studies. The models are to be later attached to each online record in Manchester Digital Collections.

The first examples under our new photogrammetry workflows were of facimile bindings produced by our colleagues Mark Furness and Laura Caradonna in the Collection Care team.

Our first attempt at a 3D model shows the sewing of a Gothic-style bookbinding. This was processed several times with various sequences of images. None of which we could get to render fully from every side. In the end we decided that this version best represented the conservator’s demonstration of the sewing structure. This model was imaged using the turntable method for photogrammetry, with the item placed on its fore-edge. Unfortunately, in this model it is not possible to see the full item. So, room for improvement.

The sewing in a Gothic style bookbinding by The John Rylands Library on Sketchfab

This second example is of a facimile of Greek Papyrus 28. This time it proved difficult to get the upper and lower sections to merge as one, so we had to manually manipulate the sections to align as a complete object. Not ideal but it worked although with some image noise at the edges. The slightest shift or movement in the shape of the object when turning it to image the other side proves problematic, no matter how careful one is in its repositioning.

Greek Papyrus 28 by The John Rylands Library on Sketchfab

After imaging these two facimiles, we re-assessed our workflow before starting on a collection item, as we felt that our results could be improved. Thankfully, later models did indeed show further improvements although every now and again there would be one that didn’t quite work out as planned.

The model of Latin MS 48 is the most succesful to date.

Latin MS 48 by The John Rylands Library on Sketchfab

We have included some surface/material textures in Skecthfab to highlight metalwork and the glossiness of the binding of Latin MS 48. Here is an example of the material texture file. The black areas act as a Mask and the lighter areas are acted upon by the settings applied.

For Latin MS 182 we included a test of the Annotation tool in Sketchfab. This can include text, audio, video and weblinks. We included textual information about the materiality of the item. The annotations can be turned on and off by the viewer.

Latin MS 182 by The John Rylands Library on Sketchfab

These models have also been used by Conservator Mark Furness in support of his successful ICON Accreditation.

“… it all points to collaboration and reflecting on what I’ve learnt in my time here. The sketchfab 3D models, for me, allow you to get a sense of the book and its structure that straight on photos lack. Digitisation shots always show the content but not necessarily the character, the irregularities, unique features and general life of a book as it’s sat, slumped and evolved. Also it allows you to spin the book around and look at books at angles that would make me blanche otherwise… M.F.”

Following the first 2D to 3D blog post we received a message from Adam Kellie, an Imaging Specialist at Harvard University Library. They had been impressed with the Daguerrotype model we had produced of Catherine Hannah Dunkerley from our collections and wished to know more about its production.

It was from our intial discussions over the Daguerreotpye model, and trying to replicate the effect at Harvard that we found that Skecthfab had disabled some of the feature settings that we first used in the model. The workflow we had written only months before was now out of date, and we had to find a new way of achieving the same results. This is always a frustration with ever changing software and techniques. It took a day of rethinking but now the new version is as good as, if not better than the first.

Daguerreotype of Catherine Hannah Dunkerley (2) by The John Rylands Library on Sketchfab

This has led to a fruitful collaboration between Adam and ourselves. We are on a very similar footing in regards to our photogrammetry set up and service. We have exchanged ideas and workflows and it is refreshing to collaborate with others so early on in establishing these new (to us) imaging methods.

We continue to be amazed by the content being produced by Institutions and individuals on Skectchfab. A recent model by Sebastian Sosnowski from Poland, inspired us to attempt this model using Adobe Photoshop, Blender and Sketchfab material tools.

The images are from a book of plans and elevations of The John Rylands Library by architect Basil Champneys. Seven images, masked in Photoshop, and then applied to Planes in Blender to replicate the structure of the building. Then the Skecthfab material Opacity tool was used to render this result. It may not be precise or accurate but the effect is exactly what we hoped to achieve. Blender has proven to be a a very useful tool that we will be looking to learn more about in the New Year.

The John Rylands Library – Blueprint Model by The John Rylands Library on Sketchfab

The list of features and skills needed to further our photogrammetry continues to grow. On return to work after the Christmas break we will be looking at scale and measurability, improving accuracy and detail, UV mapping and materials.

We will continue to develop photogrammetry within the Imaging Team and are keen to hear from all members of staff including researchers, academics and curators about how this imaging method may be of use to them, and any projects or material they may have in mind for further investigation. We are also aware of the potential for Augmented and Virtual Reality of our collections in regard to future exhibitions and the visitor experience at The John Rylands Library.

Watch this space!

2 comments on “From 2D to 3D – Photogrammetry Part 2

  1. How interesting and useful! Just to point out that the model of P.Ryl. 28 seems to me to be taken not from the papyrus itself but from a facsimile that Caroline Checkley-Scott, her conservation team of the time and myself made back in 2013-14 (correct? or did I miss something?). We were confident about the stitching, as there are extant remains of it, and thought that the cover, which is not preserved, could have eventually be similar to that of the Nag Hammadi codices:

    • Tony Richards

      Hello Roberta,
      The model of P. Ryl. 28 is indeed from the facimile, this one was made by Laura Caradonna. And thank you for the blog post link.

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