Category Archives: School of Informatics

A Stitch in Time: Mahābhārata Delivered Online

I don’t know if I have ever been more excited about a digitisation project going live:  the Edinburgh University’s 1795 copy of the Mahābhārata is now available online.  This beautiful scroll is one of the longest poems ever written, containing a staggering 200,000 verses spread along 72 meters of richly decorated silk backed paper. As one of the Iconic items in our Collection it was marked as a digitisation priority, so when a customer requested the 78 miniatures back in April 2017 it seemed like a good opportunity to digitise it in its entirety. There was just one problem: it was set to go on display in the ‘Highlands to Hindustan’ exhibition, which opened at the Library in July. This left us with only a narrow window of opportunity for the first stages of the project: conservation and photography. Continue reading

2 and 3D Photography: Practice, Prophecies, and Beyond- Conference at the Rijksmuseum

Team DIU (well, half of it!) have been visiting the Rijksmuseum again for the biennial conference on 2 and 3D photography. 2 full days of speakers followed by another workshop day left us with lots to think about. This year’s conference built on the last, Robert Erdmann released the open source code for his amazing curtain viewer which can be tried out in the Bosh Project here http://boschproject.org/#/ . Malcolm is going to delve deeper in to Erdmann’s latest developments below. Otherwise 3D technology seems to be taking root, with debate over the level of quality and detail needed, and advances such as ‘videogrammetry’ and ‘unstructured light field renderings’ (see below) entering the fray.

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Scottish Court of Session Papers; digitisation pilot

At present I am working on a pilot project, digitising the Scottish Court of Session Papers. The collection is held across three institutions; The Advocate’s Library, The Signet Library and the University of Edinburgh’s Library and University Collections. The collection itself consists of circa 6500 volumes, comprising court cases which span the 18th and 19th century.

The aim of the pilot is to determine the most effect digitisation methods for these materials with a view to a potential mass digitisation project covering the entire collection. The digitisation tests and experiments I have been undertaking have raised the many challenges that such a large project would present, namely around the issue of recording metadata and which digitisation practices to employ in relation to the condition and size of any particular volume.

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The Association For Historical And Fine Art Photography Conference 2016. “Photography delivers the curatorial message”.

This year’s conference was hosted by The Imperial War Museum London. Diane Lees Director-General of the Imperial War Museums opened this year’s conference with the idea that “Photography delivers the curatorial message”. The presentations that followed certainly backed that statement up and demonstrated the complexity of support that photography brings to the curatorial message. Of particular note during a varied day of talks an emphasis on photogrammetry emerged as opposed to 3D scanning. The presentations that left an impression on me are discussed below but abstracts of all the conference talks can be found here:

http://www.ahfap.org.uk/conferences/2016-conference/2016-abstracts/

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The Drexel Digital Museum: Interpreting the digital historic fashion object.

This was a very engaging presentation by Daniel Caufield-Sriklad. He highlighted that there needs to be a different approach to digital interpretation as opposed to physical museum interpretation. Within his presentation he demonstrated how the Drexel Digital museum web site pulled in many different sources of information relating to the one physical object in the collection. Each object entry online could contain still photographs of the object and dedicated detailed shots. The entry would also contain moving image sequences and sound recordings relating to that object. In addition the object entry would also contain Giga Pan Process capturing 720 images per object and stitched those together to give a detailed 360 degree view of the object. These images “can be displayed at 1:1 scale, rotated 360 degrees, and zoomed into details far beyond what can be perceived by the unaided human eye”. 3D Motion capture was also used to create a 3D model to demonstrate the garment during movement using digital draping technology. HTML 5 was used to deliver their site. The overall approach provides multiple layers of interpretation in one central space.

http://digimuse2.westphal.drexel.edu/publicdrexel/index.php

http://gigapan.com/

http://www.danielc-s.com/portfolio/drexel-digital-museum/

 

The Strines Journal: Practice-led research into Historic Photographic Processes

Tony Richards from John Rylands Library Manchester gave an illuminating talk on his journey of trying to reproduce historic photographic processing. This included a lot of research into early wet processing formulas and their execution in studio practice. It revealed that published practice was misleading at times and it took a lot of cross referencing of published early formulas to finally achieve any kind of results similar to the early photographic collections that we hold in our museums. This work has brought the early photographic process to life again through in depth practice and research. Definitely an expert view in relation to our early photographic collections.

Digitising, Geo referencing and Transcribing 1100 Tithe maps

Scott Waby from The National Library of Wales delivered an engaging and well-paced talk on the progress of the project. It is an ambitious project to layer the Welsh national historical collection of maps on top of current map data for Wales. Scott and his team built a large curved magnetic wall to facilitate pin sharp capture of large maps in the collection. They had noticed that focus was falling off towards the edges of the map capture and so devised the curved wall to maintain the same focal length across the entire map whilst keeping the camera in a fixed position.

 

Day Two Workshops

 Tate Britians move to Digital X-Ray
An opportunity to view Tate’s new digital x-ray system launched in January this year, replacing old x-ray set with a more powerful one and specially designed art table.

Fascinating insight into the digital x-ray world. At a cost of £93k Tate Britain have established a digital x-ray work flow. The results of which have uncovered the working process of artist like Picasso, Rene Magritte and Reynolds to name a few. This appeared labour intensive with all six staff having to vacate the studio each time an x-ray is triggered. The capture area is around A3 size so the larger works require multiple exposures which are then stitched together and for the medium sized Reynolds painting that was demonstrated final image was around 1.45 Gb. This in itself adds another cost in terms of processing images. The set up included a tripod to mount the X-Ray generator for use in the field. This also included guidelines and markers to calibrate safe distances before triggering the x-ray.

All round a challenge to implement requiring government inspectors to assure no health risk and a sizeable space away from people. Obviously the final images are a huge boon to conservators and people marketing and studying these historic processes.

 

Metamorfoze Preservation Imaging Guidelines and its daily use 

Hans van Dormolen & Tony Harris

This was a practical real world walk through of studio implementation of the Metamorphose   guidelines approved by unanimous vote at 2D + 3D Practices and Prophecies conference 2014 Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. Metamorphose guidelines are now law in the Netherlands if you are photographing national collections. The guidelines were written over a seven year period of research by Hans van Dormolen a researcher at UK Government Art Collection.

The walk through consisted of a standard copy stand set up with lights and camera in a static position photographing a large version x-rite colour chart. The main opening point driven home by Hans was “Gain Modulation”. Put simply the lights and camera and distance from object all have to remain static in order to maintain a consistent gain modulation. Readings are taken from the digital image of the chart using capture one sampling tool focussing on the reading shown in the green band. These readings are then checked against the Metamorphose guidelines and adjustments are made to the lights until the required readings are achieved. This took 6-7 adjustments to the lights. There is a small tolerance allowed within the guidelines. Once the initial target square patch E5 on the x-rite reads at 242 the setting is achieved and reading continues on J6, F5, I6, K6, G5 etc. following the guidelines.

Hans noted that each x-rite chart has a batch number and advised that more recent charts would aid accuracy. Also clean your chart from dust. After numerous studio tests Hans also noted that a black background was preferable for placing your chart on for optimum colour accuracy.

The walk through diverged at this point into discussion around uniform illumination and how one could check this by photographing a white sheet of paper and using Photoshop’s histogram palette, using the illumination drop down menu and referring those readings to the Metamorphose guidelines. Uniform illumination can also be checked using the threshold tool again in Photoshop and noting the values at the point where black begins to enter the image and the point where white almost leaves the image.

The workshop never completed the task of calibrating for colour accuracy in the two and a half hour slot allocated with it has to be said the experts driving. It’s a complicated task to image using the guidelines and would only be useful in a real world setting where lighting and object distance were static so that gain modulation was static. However this could be achieved on projects that have same size objects like our recent glass plate negative project.

 

The Imperial War Museum was an astonishing museum in many ways, it had very clever use of moving images that merged with physical collections in an immersive way. However I was struck by just how much energy and physical effort and ingenuity human beings put into killing each other. Tremendously sad.

 

Malcolm Brown Deputy Photographer Library & University Collections Digital Imaging Unit

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Paolozzi: mosaics to maquettes.

Recently Art Collections Curator, Neil Lebeter, and I made a short video interview with Professor Bob Fisher and Phd student Alex Davies of the Informatics Department. Bob and Alex have been working with the images I produced of the Eduardo Paolozzi mosaics within the DIU (for an introduction to the project click here). This cross departmental work seems particularly fitting as Paolozzi had close ties to the Informatics department. This relationship is visible in the form of several Paolozzi sculptures dotted about the Informatics building.

Using their combined expertise, Bob and Alex have been employing a number of image processing techniques on the images of the individual mosaic fragments in line with images of the original mural design, in situ at Tottenham Court Road Tube Station, London. This is to assess what percentage of the original mural we possess and how accurately it could potentially be pieced back together. The interview provides an insight into their work processes, the challenges, and uniqueness, of this particular project and the results they have found to date. It is an interesting watch!

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Digitisation: Eduardo Paolozzi Mosaics

I have spent the past 6 weeks digitising mosaic fragments here in the DIU. Recently removed from Tottenham Court Road Tube Station, London, these mosaics were once part of a mural by the Scottish artist Eduardo Paolozzi that was first installed in 1984. The mosaics, now part of the University of Edinburgh Art Collection, make up about 5% of all the Tottenham Court Road murals by the artist, with the mosaics I am working on coming from the station archways more specifically. In an article for the Guardian Newspaper, London Underground’s design and heritage manager, Mike Ashworth, called this “one of the UK’s largest art conservation projects of the last decade” so I am very pleased to be involved.

Paolozzi 2

There are approximately 600 fragments of various shapes, sizes and colours spread over 42 boxes and 4 pallets. Unfortunately, the mural was not removed with conservation in mind so it is not exactly in great condition. It will be challenging to piece it all back together, first digitally and then physically. The long-term plan is to reconstruct the mural and install it within the university campus therefore giving it new life. So watch this space…!

I have been tasked with digitising each fragment. On completion, the aim is then to use the images in conjunction with image recognition software and an image of the original design, to digitally re-assemble the mural. This should provide a new digital image of the mural which will assist with the proposed physical reconstruction. The process will inform us whether areas of the mural are missing, and would need to be remade in some form.

paolozzi

On a technical level, I have been using a high-spec digital Hasselblad-H4 camera and professional, Bowens studio lights in my digitisation process. To begin with, I capture several mosaic fragments in one shot and then go on to crop, and edit, each piece individually before saving as a separate, new file. The tricky part comes in ensuring that the scale of each fragment is represented correctly with every image produced. This is why placing a ruler within each raw image capture is crucial so to allow for the mosaics to be scaled to a 1:1 ratio by resizing them in Adobe Photoshop. If the size of the fragments were to be incorrect then this could cause problems later down the line when trying to complete this digital jigsaw (see image below!). Further, the faces/upside of the mosaics must be perpendicular to the focal plane of the camera and, collectively, the mosaics must be of equal distance to focal plane. The same principles apply for the positioning of the ruler itself. This confirms that perspectives are not distorted and that the relative size of the mosaics remains consistent throughout the project.

Montage-mosaic

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Currently, I am awaiting the arrival of the pallets as I have digitised all the fragments from the boxes. The majority of what is still to come are much larger mosaics fragments. I may be required to digitally stitch multiple images together in order to produce a single image. This is because some mosaics may be too large to photograph in their entirety on the copy stand. No doubt this will raise some new challenges to overcome!

John

Project Photographer (Paolozzi Project)

2 and 3D Reflections

IMG_0334-2It is hard to believe that more than a month has passed since the fantastic “2 and 3D: Practice and Prophecies” Conference at the Rijksmuseum in April. So much was packed into those 2 short days: standardisation in colour and targets (who knew standards were so non-standard?), mass-digitisation and bespoke object specific photography techniques, panoramas, multispectral and 3D imaging, digital asset management and the role of photography in heritage institutions. This was a heritage photography event not to be missed, which is why I was delighted when the Association for Historical and Fine Art Photographers (AHFAP) offered me their competition bursary to attend. I gathered so much information in Amsterdam that I am still sifting through the notes and links and chasing up my post –conference ‘to do’ list! However, I would like to share a few of my highlights from the conference. Continue reading

A lot of scanning and a little context

I am now coming to the end of my internship here in the Digital Imaging Unit. Over the past twelve weeks I have been responsible for digitising a large number of documents as part of the Godfrey Thomson Project. Collecting the project documents from Neasa, the Godfrey Thomson Archives Intern, I would then be required to capture every document individually using the Bookeye 4 Scanner (a machine that I have got to know very well lately, and one that behaves rather well, all told!).

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Outdoor Exhibition Bristo Square

Images created by the Digital Imaging Unit feature in a new exhibit outside the Dugald Stewart Building in Bristo square. It is fantastic to see how well our images respond to being enlarged many times beyond the original object size. It justifies our workflow of capture once at high quality re-purpose many times. Indeed these images were created at various times and were pulled together from our online resource for this exhibit. This exhibit also makes us keenly aware of the importance of our colour management workflow. We use hardware to colour calibrate our monitors after every 200 hours of use and it pays off when you see the images in an unusual format greatly enlarged and in broad daylight.

Malcolm Brown, Deputy Photographer

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Photographing Geology Specimens

This image of Quartz crystals was commissioned for exhibition at University of Edinburgh Main Library but has also found a home at the School of Geo Science website http://www.geos.ed.ac.uk/facilities/ionprobe/TiQuartzStandards/ The image was created using 9 separate exposures each focusing on a different part of the crystal. Those were then imported into Photoshop as separate layers and a layer mask was added to each layer. Using the mask on each layer its was possible to hide or reveal parts of each individual exposure. This technique was used to create an image where many areas are in sharp focus to highlight the rich details of the crystal. The studio set up for this type of work consumes a lot of physical working space as demonstrated in the studio shots which can be seen below.

Malcolm Brown

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