Photogrammetry 1 ─ How I began practicing archaeological photogrammetry and 3D modelling
I really enjoy all things digital, including capturing digital imagery. From the time I began skateboarding at the age of 11 (I think 2002?) I’ve used digital imagery (photo and video) to capture and record traces of my experiences. It has been fulfilling to say the least capturing traces of fleeting moments in a form of media that can be so easily copied, shared, and experienced.
I’ve also always had a curiosity of the past. As a child I remember watching countless documentaries from Nova, History, Discovery, and BBC. These documentaries exposed me to ‘state-of-the-art’ tech applications that visualized all kinds of traces of the past. From landscapes, to our hominid ancestors, early human civilizations, and even dinosaurs, in the 90’s and early 2000’s, traces of the past were being exceptionally well prepared with the technology available. A real sense of appreciation developed for multimedia storytelling in its ability to translate material and non-material traces of the past in an effective, experiential, and intuitive way.
Jumping forward a decade or so – in October 2015 I had just began to actually formalize my major in anthropology at Saint Mary’s University after taking a couple intro to anthropology courses and getting hooked. I was taking the intro archaeology course with Dr. Jonathan Fowler at the time, and I remember being ecstatic about the marriage of arts, science, technology, and the outdoors that archaeology offered. A few classes into the semester Dr. Fowler mentioned that he could use volunteers to excavate on the weekend. I was in. We had learned about photogrammetry and its applications for recording an excavation in a prior class. Being the nerd I am, I decided to download a trial version of Agisoft Photoscan and try my hand at it.
I have since been continuing to record traces of the past using this method. The following is a collection of some of the things I’ve recorded from my Sketchfab.
October 2015, Starting Out
Here it is! The result of my first excavated unit and attempt at photogrammetry! I used an Android Galaxy S3 or something of the sort, took way too many pictures, and was not nearly as procedural as I am now with my methodology. But aren’t those profiles pretty?
Thomas Dormer Clay Pipe
We found several datable objects within the charcoal feature in the excavation above, but one tobacco pipe was largely complete and had lost its sheen due to burning. A perfect object for photogrammetry! After modelling the first unit, I spent the money on purchasing a student edition of Photoscan (now Metashape, here for $59USD) and tried modelling the artifact. I used much more forethought modelling and sharing this object. I used masks to mask out the background during processing, and also decimated the mesh so that I no longer had multiple millions of faces to load.
There you have it. I’ve been hooked ever since, and plan to continue this blog to advance education and outreach on this topic and more digital archaeology applications!