Putting Pompeii on Your Coffee Table

(cross-posted from my course blog, #hist5702x digital/public history. If you’re interested in public history and augmented reality, check out my students’ posts!)

Creating three dimensional models from photographs has its ups and downs. But what if we could do it from video? I decided to find out.

First, I found this tourist’s film of a house at Pompeii (house of the tragic poet, he says):

I saved a copy of the film locally; there are a variety of ways of doing this and two seconds with google will show you how. I then watched it carefully, and took note of a sequence of clearly lit pans at various points, marking down when they started and stopped, in seconds.

C extract extract3 atr-00625

Then, I searched for a way to extract still images from that clip. This blog post describes a command-line option using VLC, option 3. I went with that, which created around 600-images. I then batch converted them from png to jpg (Google around again; the solution I found from download.com was filled with extraneous crapware that cost me 30 minutes to delete).

I then selected around 40 images that seemed to cover things well. It would’ve been better if the cameraman had moved around rather than panned, as that would’ve provided better viewpoints (I’ll search for a better video clip). These I stitched together using 123D Catch. I have the Python Photogrammetry Toolbox on my other computer, so I’ll try doing it again on that machine; 123D Catch is all well and good but it is quite black-box; with PPT I can perhaps achieve better results.

The resulting model from 123D Catch shows the inside of the atrium far better than I expected (and again, a better starting film would probably give better results). I exported the .obj, .mtl, and the jpg textures for the resulting model, to my computer, which I then uploaded to augmentedev.com.

The result? A pompeian house, on my desktop!

The Atrium of the House of the Tragic Poet, Pompeii-on-the-Rideau

Now imagine *all* of the video that exists out there of Pompeii. It should be possible to create a 3d model of nearly the whole city (or at least, the parts they let tourists into), harvesting videos from youtube. One could then 3d print the city, export to AR, or import into a game engine….

As far as the #hist5702x project is concerned, we could do this in the workspace they’ve set up for us in the warehouse building, or at the airport, or from historical footage from inside a plane, or….