Connecting to the past, present and future in a digital environment – 3D&VR enable cultural heritage to tell its story

A Case Study

“First and foremost it’s important to recognize that so much heritage is natural, and so much of nature is heritage,”

~ Dr. Meredith Wiggins

said by Dr. Meredith Wiggins of Historic England. Due to climate changes and other human factors, heritage has been affected by different ways, which makes digitalised heritage so much more important nowadays.

digital environment

The Guangzhou MG Data Tech Ltd., a 3D company dedicated to digitally recording, archiving and sharing the world’s cultural heritage, is partnering with International experts in the field of 3D visualization and restoration to capture, process, render and preserve cultural history with unprecedented visual accuracy. For instance, MG Data Tech collaborated with the University of Applied Sciences Kaiserslautern / Virtual Design to showcase a virtual museum that is based in Shan Xi, China. The MG Data Tech did all the scanning and provided high-quality RGB point clouds for the university lab. The latter one uses Unity to reconstruct the file and produce a 3D virtual experience for visitors in Germany.

khuasi temple statue

With the help of the VR glasses, it is thus possible to move freely in the three-dimensional virtual reconstruction, explore the temple and interact with other users. Besides, holograms explaining the history of the items can appear in front of the users. The magnificent frescoes that cover the interior walls of the temple were depicted in a true-to-life manner and fascinate the visitors. The extraordinary digital reconstruction was also presented to the visitors as part of the official German Chinese cultural program 2017 during the long Night of Culture in Kaiserslautern.

khuasi temple statue
khuasi temple
The mural paintings in the Great Hall of Mahavira of Kaihua Temple were achieved during an era of such background. Based on the teaching of Sakymuni and stories of sutra these frescos were painted on the eastern, western and northern walls. On the surface of wooden beams and dougong bracket sets were painted as well with colorful decorative patterns. Among the very few mural paintings from Northern Song (AD 960-1127) that can be counted today in China, frescos in Kaihua Temple are genuine treasures for those who seek to witness religious and folklore tradition of this period in the Chinese history.

Photogrammetry is an essential part of MG Data Tech’s Digital Preservation process. This simple photo-based documentation method allows anyone to capture measurable data through photographs—making it easier and cheaper to document sites than ever before.

khuasi temple statue
khuasi temple statue

At its most basic, photogrammetry is the science of using overlapping photographs to reconstruct three-dimensional scenes or objects. While almost any camera can be used, it is essential to notice, the better the camera, the more precise the model. MG Data Tech further provides a 360-degree panoramic camera(Civetta) for their photographers and clients who have a significant needs in accurate, high-quality digitalization. With a single-click and 40 seconds waiting time, the Civetta can scan the entire environment and produce a 230-pixel HDR panoramic photo of the scene. Since the Civetta has only one button, it is elementary to use for staff with any background.

khuasi temple statue

A MG Data Tech project can capture more than thousands of photographs per day in the field. With “structured camera”, the computer became easier to find the common points in-between the images. Thus, in other words, the photogrammetry device and software provided by the MG Data Tech offers a much higher resolution, better color accuracy, and strong dynamic range which reduce the number of photographs required to document a historic site. Reliability and extraordinary image quality are also realized by the Civetta, effectively eliminating the possibility of shutter failure and motion blur in the field.

khuasi temple statue
khuasi temple fresco

The Guangzhou MG Data Tech Ltd believe that both archaeologist and digitalization specialists have a common interest in igniting such wonder, as we hope that public interest will aid us in preserving the past. We keep experimenting with different ways in digital storytelling, which convey various aspects of the past. Digitalization and the advancement of technologies form a more intimate connection between the past and present, mainly when it contains rich details about the past. The future of digital heritage looks promising.  

Experience and view it by yourself in VAM2, our Visual Asset Management Application.

The Kaihua Temple in Virtual Reality Project has been mentioned in the MIT Press.

A literature review that mentioned the Kaihuasi Temple VR project as an outstanding example in the Wiley Online Library.

Author: Christiane Zhao

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