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Creating 3D visualization of cultural heritage: QTVR of Mayan archaeological art as faux 3D renditions PDF Print E-mail
The trend today in archaeology and museums is to create full-scale 3D visualization of key artifacts. But a complete 3D visualization requires having a 3D scanner and staff trained to handle the software.

A 3D scanner can cost $60,000; the software is not cheap either, and a trained staff is quite an investment also. But you can achieve a semblance of a 3D image with any standard digital camera, even a simple point-and-shoot model.

And QTVR software is reasonably priced as well. Plus anyone who has learned Photoshop can learn to create a QTVR object movie. So even though QTVR has been around almost a decade, it still had lots of potential. Indeed it is notable how few museums and archaeological projects use this simple, basic, and easy system.

Although a museum would probably prefer a professionally designed table, you can use anything that rotates (that can rotate with the weight of the object on it). We had a carpenter made our rotating table. It has marks every 10 degrees.

You could use any normal lazy Susan from your dining room table  as well, but it might not hold enough weight (plus it does help to have click-stops every 10 degrees). But in 5 minutes or less you could mark each 10 degree station with a magic marker.

Then you simply take 36 different photos (one every ten degrees). Be sure that the lighting creates appropriate angles of light-and-shadow for all angles at which the object will be photographed. You do NOT want to move the lighting during the rotation of the object.

You can do the 36 photographs in less than 5 to 10 minutes (if the object is delicate you may wish to move slow and take a bit longer). Then you process the images in QTVR object movie software and you have your result.

The QTVR created here is based on a 22-megapixel PhaseOne P25+ with a Zeiss lens on a Hasselblad ELM camera. There is no way to show the full resolution via the Internet, so we reduced the resolution considerably. It is absolutely not required to have a camera of this sophistication: you can use any point-and-shoot camera of about 5 MB and up. It is, however, best if you have a cable release and a sturdy tripod.

We too would prefer to have the image scanned in complete 3D, but until we can obtain funding to obtain a 3D scanner, we wish to show the object from all sides. QTVR is a perfect tool, and costs very little. Every archaeologist surely has access to students who either already know how or could gladly learn how to handle the software. Be sure you have a sturdy tripod (there are many FLAAR Reports on tripods and tripod heads).

We encourage more archaeological projects and museums to use QTVR object presentations
If you Google QTVR object archaeology, the first four links are to FLAAR web sites. The 9th ranked result is also a FLAAR site ( There are hundreds of other web sites that explain how to create a QuickTime VR object movie.

QuickTime VR software is for object movies and also for panoramas
Since FLAAR has its own complete panorama system (BetterLight) we do not need a separate system for QTVR panoramas. This page speaks only about how to make rotating images. In software jargon these are called “object movies.” But the same software can also make VR panoramas.



Squash effigy, Guatemala, Classic period, probably Peten area. La Ruta Maya Conservation Foundation, Mayan vase QTVR object movie.



Teotihuacan style flowers and seashell iconography, Tiquisate region, Escuintla, Guatemala, Early Classic (AD 350-550). The aged bearded deity coming out of the seashell reminds us of God N of the Maya pantheon. A similar arrangement (character coming out of conch shell) is also in the Museo VIGUA, VICAL, Antigua Guatemala, also in the FLAAR Photo Archive). That other character is young, not elderly. La Ruta Maya Conservation Foundation, Tiquisate incense burner QTVR object movie.


Quiche region, Highland Maya, Guatemala, Late Classic, La Ruta Maya Conservation Foundation. These could be considered an incensario (especially considering the Ceiba tree spines) or more likely as a small urn. A protruding jaguar head is a common motif on containers of diverse sizes from this Highland region. This is of medium size compared to others. The Museo Popol Vuh (UFM, Guatemala CIty) and Museo de Arqueologia (Paseo de los Museos, Hotel Casa Santo Domingo, Antigua Guatemala) all have several comparable ceramic containers.




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