People of the Jaguar
3-D Imaging of Mayan Vases
The rollout images of the Mayan vases in the exhibition People
of the Jaguar were produced using a new three-dimensional (3-D)
colour digital imaging technique developed at the National Research
Council of Canada (NRC), in collaboration with the Canadian Conservation
The system utilizes a unique synchronized laser scanner camera system
which simultaneously projects red, green and blue (RGB) laser beams to
form a small "white" laser spot on the object. The light reflected back
into the camera from the object is separated by a prism into its RGB
components and focused on a position and brightness sensitive detector.
As the vase is rotated on a turntable in front of the camera (Figure 1),
the scanner records a number of line profiles which together form a
rollout image of the design. The unique feature of this imaging technique
is that, because spatial coordinates are made available, images can be
rolled back in 3-D space to recreate realistic views of the object, from
any viewpoint, using computer graphics.
Figure 1. The laser scanner imaging system is
illustrated here digitizing a Mayan vase from the Canadian Museum of
Civilization. The vase is rotated through 360 degrees on a turntable
while the camera scans a white laser spot on the surface. As the vase
is rotated, 2048 line profiles (white line) are obtained to produce an
unrolled, high resolution 3-D colour image.
Objects ranging in size from as small as pin-mounted insects to paintings
can be accommodated with the system. An important aspect of the system
is that the physical dimension and colour value measurements are
repeatable. This facilitates the accurate monitoring of changes to the
colour and shape of important objects by comparing scanned images at
different periods in time.
This technology offers several new applications and "electronic highway"
opportunities to museum and galleries. These include:
- The provision of accurate high resolution "gold standard" or archival
quality digital records of the shape, colour and dimensions of important
objects. These data files can be used for a wide variety of activities
including research, scholarship, display, conservation, publication,
reproduction, insurance and repatriation applications.
- The display of high resolution digital 3-D images of objects rendered
in real time with excellent colour reproduction. Using stereo viewing
equipment, the objects can be examined in stereo with a realistic
- The examination and display of unique features of objects which
cannot be displayed by other techniques. Examples include the rollout
images of the Mayan vases, the brush stroke on paintings, enlargements
of miniature objects or toolmarks on artifacts.
- The incorporation of images into electronic museum or gallery
database systems for virtual museum, information kiosk, CD-ROM or related
interactive multimedia applications.
- The fabrication of replicas using modern rapid prototyping
- The compact file size facilitates convenient data storage as well
as transmission to remote electronic museum sites using standard
communication links including satellite.
For more information, contact Marc Rioux
) or Jacques
Domey at the National Research Council of Canada
Réjean Baribeau at the Canadian Conservation Institute
Prepared by Réjean Baribeau and John Taylor,
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