3D-Printing Ancient Art
In San Francisco, an innovative group of technology pros and artists brought a modern twist to ancient art.
Last week, Autodesk product manager Christian Pramuk led a “Scanathon” at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum, using his 123D Catch software to create digital, three-dimensional renderings of valuable pieces throughout the museum.
The participants brought their DSLRs, iPhones, and iPads, and they spent the day snapping images of the models.
The program 123D Catch was created by Autodesk, Pramuk's company, and it works like a more-complicated panoramic function. It works best on DSLRs, but it is also available on PCs and as an iOS app. It downloads the photos to the company's cloud, where it reassembles the images to create a 3D design.
Pramuk would take forty or more photos in a half moon of just one piece in order to capture the entire image. Detail was key.
The idea was to feed these digitally-rendered images into a 3D printer to create models of the artwork – a new possibility with the printing technology. The models would allow people to interact with the art more than ever before.
“Having people come and actually re-interpret these ancient artifacts in a different way is actually really in line...with our vision,” said Janet Brunckhorst, the museum's manager of web and digital media. “That said, we want people to use the credit lines. We like people to know what they're looking at.”
The Scanathon participants won't be the only ones with access to these models. Their digital copies will be uploaded onto Thingiverse, a website by 3D printing company MakerBot that stores digital copies of objects for people to download and print with their own 3D printers.
And that's exactly what they want people to be able to do. In a museum, there's a look-don't-touch policy. But if people had access to detailed replicas, they could experience the art in a whole new way.
“It's the equivalent of picking it up and looking at it, without having to touch [the original], which is huge,” said Gian Pablo Villamil, as his MakerBot Replicator printed a miniature of Nandi the Bull, based off his capture of a 4-foot-long stone sculpture.
Some of the pieces are old, delicate, and without obvious use, Villamil said. A printed version lets you manipulate it, play with it, and maybe figure out what it was for without damaging the original.
The Scanathon participants don't just want to stop with miniature replicas, either. Their next step is to decide how to make this technology useful – so people can interact with the art on a daily basis.
Pramuk, for his part, created an iPhone case depicting Scene from the epic Ramayana: Kumbhakarna battles the monkeys.
He also came up with the idea to turn Seated Ganesha, a sculpture of an Indian elephant deity, into a lamp by hollowing out the interior.
The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art had previously done something similar in conjunction with MakerBot, though it was on an even larger scale than Scanathon.
While some might see this as plagiarism, these museums see it as opportunity, both for them and for their visitors.
*Images courtesy of Wired+6
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