Creating replica items
As part of the Sensing Culture project being run in conjunction with the RNIB, Portsmouth University student, Ken Matsui, is producing replica items from the Conan Doyle Collection. These items will be in handliing boxes which will accompany a mini exhibition using audio descriptions and tactile panels to make it more accessible for blind and partially sighted people.
Creating these objects is a complex project involving several processes and using different technology to achieve the desired effect.
To scan the replica items I used the first version of the 3D Systems: Sense which allows a rapid and portable way
of capturing data from objects which can then be transformed into a 3D representation using an integrated software.
The system offers full-colour 3D scanning that captures the form and shape of the objects with relative accuracy.
Before scanning items from the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection I carried out a number of tests to ensure the best results. I found out that the system wasn't able to pick up good quality details on small objects, but scans of a colleague showed excellent detail.
Scans taken of a colleague
I was pleasantly suprised, however, by the software's ability to manage reflective surfaces, the results of which exceeded my expectations.
Scan of a metal bin
These experiments were essential for me to understand the system’s limitations and ensure that I am able to get the most reliable data off the artefacts.
Having understood the capabilities, and limitations, of the equipment, I turned my attention to what items from the Collection. With the assistance of Michael Gunton, Senior Archivist for Portsmouth City Council, I selected two busts of Arthur Conan Doyle. Due to the value, and fragile nature, of the busts, I was unable to remove them from the Collection, therefore it was essential I was able to find a portable method for scanning.
The first bust was relatively small and showed a young version of Conan Doyle.
Brass bust of a youg Arthur Conan Doyle
I was concerned the scanner wouldn't be able to pick up the detail of this bust as it consists of reflective material. However, the results far exceeded my expectations. Although it lacks the detail I am trying to achieve, it did pick up the form and shape of the bust quite well,providing me with an appropriate base mesh for further development.
Scans of brass bust of Arthur Conan Doyle
Whilst I was pleased with the results of the scans of this bust, it doesn't fit with my project brief which required an older version of the author. Fortunately, the second bust I had selected was larger and depicted the author at the correct age. This version of Arthur Conan Doyle was patinated to look like bronze and mounted on a black slate based. This meant that the material is less reflective, allowing the 3D system to pick up data with accurate results. The scans provided a cleaner representation of the bust.
Scanning the Arthur Conan Doyle bust
Having succeeded in getting the scans I wanted from 3D Systems: Sense, I now needed to use additional software to clean up the data from the scans to create a more accurate replica item.
Cleaning up the scans
After retrieving the data from the 3D Systems Sense software, I was able to take it into Zbrush, a digital sculpting package, which provides tools and brushes to clean the scanned data. This cleaning is essential to ensure a more accurate version of the scanned item.
Cleaned up image in Zbrush
Using various reference images of Arthur Conan Doyle throughout the different stages of his life, I was able to develop a fairly as accurately and realistic sculpt of his face. However, it was difficult to precisely judge Conan Doyle’s full 360 degree appearance through lack of reference material. However, using Zbrush I was able to create a representation of how Conan Doyle' head may have looked. However, this is not necessarily the best way to create an accurate representation of the bust.
Enhanced 3D representation of Conan Doyle
Due to the unreliability of accuracy, I am having to decide if this is the best method to use for the Arthur Conan Doyle Project. I need to represent Conan Doyle as accurately as I can. Sculpting him by eye and using limited reference images, may not be the best means to achieve the results required. I also need to ensure that the model is compatible with the 3D printing software and take into account future developments and techniques which may occur. However, I believe the best solution would be to merge existing techniques to create the most accurate, reliable and realistic model that follows the project brief and achieve tactile and multi-faceted replicas for the visually impaired and blind.
Explore the collection
The first actor to play Sherlock Holmes on stage (February 2012)
The costume worn by Martin Clunes in the TV series Arthur and George. Click on the photo to see...