by CosmoWenman, published


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See my Etsy shop for 3D printed jewelry and sculptural adaptations of these scans: etsy.com/shop/CosmoWenmanDesign

"When all the archtypes burst in shamelessly, we reach Homeric depths. Two cliches make us laugh. A hundred cliches move us. For we sense dimly that the cliches are talking among themselves, and celebrating a reunion."—Umberto Eco, Casablanca, or, The Cliches are Having a Ball

In the 19th century, important works of sculptural art were reproduced in plaster. Artisans carefully made molds of the ancient originals, and high-quality reproductions were then cast in plaster to be bought, sold, and traded by museums, universities, art schools, and private collectors everywhere. It was a way to share art with people who otherwise would not be able to see it in person -- an analog precedent to the exciting capabilities now coming online with all things 3D capture and 3D printing.

Those 19th century cast collections, once proudly owned and displayed, became unfashionable in the early 1900s. Many were broken up and some were even physically destroyed.

The Skulpturhalle Basel museum in Switzerland has one of the world's few remaining large collections of plaster casts, and it exists today to preserve the pieces and the educational, archival, and research functions the now-abandoned plaster cast tradition once served. The Skulpturhalle has, under one roof, preserved in plaster, the topology of thousands of important sculptures, the originals of which are scattered in museums around the world.

With the permission of the Skulpturhalle's open-minded and forward-thinking directorship, in September, 2013 I spent a week in the museum, making 3D surveys of my pick of their casts of ancient Greek and Roman sculptures.

I originally sought funding for this project via Kickstarter, and I found many enthusiastic backers. But when the campaign ultimately failed to reach its fundraising goal, Autodesk's Reality Capture division generously offered to back my project directly. Since I had already planned to use Autodesk's 3D capture solutions, and to share all the survey results and explain how they were made, this sponsorship arrangement was a perfect match. The project remains independent and entirely my own, but it was Autodesk's financial support that made it possible.

These 3D models are modern artifacts and direct descendents of the plaster cast tradition, which is poised for a 3D captured, 3D printed, digital renaissance. They are to my knowledge the first high-quality 3D surveys of these works to be freely published, and I am pleased to be able to offer you direct access to their ancient, enigmatic, and graceful contours, which descend to us through an unbroken chain from antiquity -- from Greek and Roman temple and palace ruins, rocky shorelines and farmers' fields, to museums all over the world, to the Skulpturhalle, through my camera lens, to you.

-- Cosmo Wenman

For an archive of this project's progress, see http://www.throughascanner.com.
For media mentions, see: http://cosmowenman.wordpress.com/media-mentions/


This project was made possible by the financial support of Autodesk's Reality Capture division. My thanks to Tatjana Dzambazova and Brian Mathews there for making it happen, and to the people in Autodesk's Reality Capture and 123D teams, who make incredible products. http://recap.autodesk.com + http://123dapp.com

Thanks to Dr. Tomas Lochman, director of the Skulpturhalle Basel museum, for giving me access to the museum and allowing me to conduct this experiment in extending the reach of its incredible collection and the spirit that informed its creation. http://www.skulpturhalle.ch

I'd also like to thank the following:

Bernard Frischer, Professor of Informatics and Director of the Virtual World Heritage Laboratory, Indiana University, for his advice on where to try this experiment (e dove non), and for introducing me to Dr. Lochman. http://frischerconsulting.com/frischer/projects.html

FARO, for making a FARO Scanarm Edge laser scanner available to me, and to FARO's Florian Fuenfschilling and Chris Bartschat for their expertise operating it and grabbing some laser scans of additional pieces for me. http://faro.com

Ralph Wiedemeier, who made and lent me a custom, 10' tall tripod on wheels that was absolutely critical. He even delivered it to me from Zurich. http://framefactory.ch

Bre Pettis and Kio Stark for early feedback and advice on my Kickstarter campaign. http://brepettis.com + http://kiostark.com

MakerBot for featuring my Kickstarter on Thingiverse.

Kerry Hogarth of the 3D Printshow, for giving me tickets to the London, Paris, and New York shows to use as Kickstarter rewards, and for exhibition space there to show off the project's results. http://3dprintshow.com

Susan Self for her help promoting the Kickstarter to the media. [email protected]

Virginia Postrel for her advice and help telling the story of the bigger picture as it's been coming into focus. http://vpostrel.com/power-of-glamour

Thank you to all my Kickstarter's backers. Even though it wasn't the viral hit we'd hoped for and the campaign fell through, without their support and help promoting it, the project would have remained dead in the water. http://kck.st/1bxMz0I

-- Cosmo

Original June 6, 2013 Kickstarter-related text:

Please consider supporting my Kickstarter campaign Through A Scanner, Skulpturhalle. I have an incredible opportunity to 3D scan high quality plaster casts of ancient Greek and Roman sculptures at the Skulpturhalle Basel museum in Switzerland, and I need your help. Please take a look at the project description at http://kck.st/19H2GIv

You can help prioritize the scan targets and spread the word at the same time by re-tweeting your picks from this gallery: http://twitter.com/CosmoWenman/media/grid

Leaving comments on or liking and sharing your favorites at the project's Facebook page will help too: http://facebook.com/ThroughAScanner

I've included an example of one of my previous scans -- my scan of "Head of a horse of Selene" from the British Museum's Parthenon collection (a.k.a. the Elgin Marbles). This is the scan quality I'll be shooting for at the Skulpturhalle.

When the project is complete I'll post the Skulpturhalle scans and printable models here on this Thingiverse page. I'll also list and thank project backers here too.

Any amount will help. And please let media outlets and anyone you think might be interested know about the project too. With your help it could be the start of something great.


Cosmo Wenman
[email protected]

video link: http://youtube.com/watch?v=SUjvV4xV7NU

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Hm, cool, interesting... but quite strange is:
i personaly asked the Skulpturenhalle Basel in 2010 to get alowed to 3Dscann there... (artec eva)
First, they have not been very nice to us and showed absolutely no interest in 3D scanning and its possibilities..

i wonder what black magic you used.. :)

Why just limit it to Switzerland? You could put thousands of sculptures up for copying worldwide.

One museum at a time! But yeah, they're all on the to-do list.

I would recommend you using a kinect to scan instead, much better than 123d catch and still very cheap if you use software such as skanect, and it is also a timesaver compared to using 123d catch.

cymon - in reply to

No it's not better than 123d catch. A kinect, by necessity of it's point correction, constantly smooths all concave creases resulting in a model that looks like it's been smoothed with mud.

On the other hand Agisoft does a much better job than 123d catch using the same techniques.

Asking for 35,000$ on kickstarter for some autodesk 123d catch models? Dude, I really hope you understand how shallow that is- I've scanned ancient sculptures for museums using very time consuming but very detailed scanning methods, even releasing some to the public for free, but never would I ask the public for that much money to release something. It is insulting to both the original artist and the audience you target. I hope you use thingiverse to share and not to promote your overzealous idea of 'art'. Remember- you are scanning art that has the master's blood and sweat throughout, that took years to complete. If this is for others education- don't monopolize it. 35k. . .

You, thorpi, most certainly do not understand the costs associated with doing something like this on the scale that Cosmo is talking about. Did you even read his post, or the kickstarter campaign in progress? If you didn't, you should keep your mouth shut in the future until you do so. If you did, and you still maintain your position, then I directly accuse you of being a selfish, self centered cheapskate; the kind of person who is always looking to get everything for free and feels like the world owes you something. The project that he is undertaking has costs. Costs, mind you, which could very easily go way beyond the target he has set for his Kickstarter. He will have to work very hard to keep things within budget, and will have nothing to show at the end of his work other than the scans he was able to procure before the funds ran out, and those he is promising to share with the world for free. That, thorpi, is dedication to the preservation of priceless works of art, and from your post it seems, something on which you place no value. That being said, I sincerely hope you look into this more with an open mind, and reconsider your position.

For 35k you can easily buy a decent 3D scanner and have 5k-15k left of that budget. I'm more than willing to scan a sculpture if someone would pay me $150-450$ for it.

I understand most of the cost, but saying he needs 35k to scan ~35 models? The only reason why it will take him as long as he says is because he's using 123D Catch. Using a 3D Scanner, he would be done in a day or 2.

Poor Quality software= many hundreds of photos = lots of time = lots of $ (because a man DOES need to be paid for his time) = poor quality mesh


High Quality Scanner = lots of equipment $ = little of time = little man-hours $ = ultra-high quality mesh

What method are you using to scan?

I'm planning on relying on 123D Catch, for a couple reasons.

First, it's free, and I need to keep my costs down. 123D Catch is free "photogrammetry" software that analyses digital photographs of an object and reconstructs a 3D wireframe model of the object. I'll be taking many hundreds of photos of each sculpture, from all angles, and processing them with Catch. While it's true that high-end 3D scanning equipment can get much more accurate results, it is also very expensive.

Second, I want to focus on using the least expensive consumer-grade stuff in order to demonstrate what the average user can do. Hi-tech labs and well endowed museums have been using very high-end scanning equipment for a long time, making 3D models for their own use, in-house. That's nothing new. But the improvements in inexpensive, consumer-grade solutions is where the action is right now. Growth in that sector -- and demonstrations of what it can do -- is going to be what drives people's expectations about what kind of models museums should be publishing.

Third, I know how to use 123D Catch. I have captured very nice models, even under some poor conditions, with it. So I expect better than average results in the near-ideal setting of the Skulpturhalle.

That said, if my project is well received and well funded, and I can really take my time in the museum, I am planning on inviting/soliciting higher-end scanning companies to either loan me equipment, or send a small team to join me for a day or two so they can demo their own equipment and add their scans to my project's output. Make it a group effort and product demo opportunity for them, and produce more scans for publication. I'm already in touch with a few.

I will also be publishing all the original photographs, so anyone will be free to run them through any other photogrammetry software the want to try, now or in the future.

I have to say that if I look at the scan you provided on the kickstarter, it lacks so much detail. Yes, the original image is there when you look from afar, but up close, it simply doesn't hold up.

A project with this big a scale and this much at stake for the digital preservation of culture should definitely cost this much, if not more. However, it should not be done with something that makes such poor models as 123D Catch. 123D Catch is great for everyday use, and even making some printable models, but anything beyond that, it simply lacks detail. In many cases, 123D Catch over-smooths surfaces and actually destroys the whole purpose of the sculpture, which is the "blood, sweat and tears" of the artist. It also does not render depth into the model well, so cutouts or nicks or sharp indents will not render in 123D Catch.

If you simply purchased or even rented a 3D professional scanner, he could get 100x better scans in a fraction of the time. So, not saying it isn't an amazing idea and a huge undertaking, but I'm saying that a considerable amount of the time that you will be spending on this and thus, your Kickstarter funding to be used, can be spent on renting or even purchasing a decent 3D scanner.

In short, you don't need hundreds of of photos (thus lots and lots of time) to make a 3d model, you can save your time and spend that money on a 3D scanner and do 2x the amount of models in half the time at a way way better resolution. I mean, you are preserving history after all.

Also, to encourage "what the average user can do" you can simply mention 123D Catch, give it some more exposure, but not to capture timeless works of art.

The preview version on display at on the Kickstarter page is a highly decimated version, reduced so as to load quickly in viewers' browsers.

Please take a look at the original model, captured with 123D Catch, here: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:32338http://www.thingiverse.com/thi...

Even in the "thingiview" preview, you can see that much of the texture of the highly weathered original marble is captured intact.

I certainly appreciate the higher quality possible with more expensive equipment. As you can see elsewhere, though, my budget is already seen by some to be too high, even using free solutions. If the project is well funded, or gains sufficient interest, I will certainly be looking into borrowing, renting, or purchasing additional equipment.

And, an ugly truth of fundraising: the "tote bag" is not free. Fundraising itself has costs. Nearly half my budget is dedicated to paying the Kickstarter and Amazon payment processing commissions, and fulfilling the Kickstarter "rewards" for backers. While I would love to be able to do away with those costs entirely, and focus on producing only the pure public good of the scan product, the fact is that Kickstarter and Amazon both take their cut, and people want tangible rewards for their donations, and those very real costs must be included in the bottom line.

Portrait of Alexander the Great

Great work!! Are these statues the originals? If yes please make a campaign to keep the museam your scanned objects and return thiese status where they belong - to Greece!

The originals are scattered around the world -- though some are in Greece.

The Skulpturhalle houses high-quality, high-fidelity plaster casts carefully taken directly from the originals in the 18th and 19th centuries. If my fundraising campaign is successful, these are what I will be scanning.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, there was a strong, vibrant tradition of sending plaster copies around the world, to far flung museums and art schools, as a way of sharing the artwork. That tradition fell out of favor in the beginning of the 20th century, and many plaster cast collections were broken up, and in some cases physically destroyed. The Skulpturhalle is one of a few institutions that still maintains a large collection of these works, and embraces the tradition behind their origin.

For my purposes, they are actually better than the originals: they are all on wheels, so I will be able to move them into perfect lighting conditions. I will be able to move freely around them, as they are not in niches. And, of course, they are all in one place! And I'll be able to setup a laptop, and review my work, live.

For more information on the tradition behind plaster casts: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/t/the-vanda-cast-collection/http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/a...

Brilliant work! I really look forward to see all the incredible things that you'll be doing!

Thanks. I'll do my best. Please tell you friends about the project. Your enemies too -- I don't judge.

I most definitely will!

Great idea Cosmo! I wish you the very best of luck. :-)