Using Original and Open Heritage Data to Produce Heritage Models

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I’m a software engineer and programmer with about 20 years of experience. The last few years I’ve been developing VR and AR applications and this is how I started to make photogrammetric visualization of places and items for virtual environment creation.

I learned Photogrammetry, thanks to tutorials like @ClassydogFilms and articles and forum tips from people like Vlad Kuzmin and Thomas Flynn. I also learned to fix the photogrammetry models, using Blender and ZBrush, and also in VR tools like Oculus Medium.

I love cultural heritage so it was fun for me to scan places and spend a few hours capturing and making 3D of those places and items. I think it is a great tool for letting people know about heritage that is near them but not quite accessible, as well as heritage in remote places. My last photogrammetry project is about “Gothic choir stalls” and we hope it can give access to details that are hard to see otherwise.

I use 3D scanning as a virtual environment creation tool and also I work with other people to create 3D models and environments.


For my personal projects I use SLRs for scanning; I have a couple of Nikons, a Sony, and I also use my mobile phone for some scans. I’ve taken a lot of pictures so I’m always thinking about how the software (usually Reality Capture, but also Photoscan or Zephyr) will process those photos.

For professional projects I can use laser scanning and drone photos.

Maybe one of every four models I make uses photos or laser scan data from other people, and specially from Open Heritage. Also I like to exchange datasets with other people and make models with other equipment and ways of taking pictures.

The most recent one is the Apollo 1 Launch Site, made with laser scans.

The challenge that I’m facing right now is how big a scanned environment can be shown on web and mobile without losing realistic details.

I’m using a “small” (1km x 2km) old fishing neighborhood from my city and scanning it in parts and as a whole model.

After the scan I import them into Unity and try several methods of real time visualization, mixing LODs and other strategies for the correct visualization of the models. Also I’m testing for the online visualization using tools like babylon.js. At this point the tools Sketchfab provides for gltf are very useful. The goal of this is to calculate how many photos are needed for a good third person, first person and VR experience, and how this can be displayed in mobile and web without performance loss.

Some Favorite Projects

I have a lot of favorites scans but maybe one of my most favorite is the Cloister of the León Cathedral.

I started to scan the cloister when I had no experience in such a big environment. I was motivated by a big and ugly construction in the middle that was there for years. I wanted to make a reconstruction so I could remove that horrible construction. I learned a lot about scanning strategies and also loved being in that place for days.

I also like to scan more recent architecture

And machinery like custom bikes or steam machines.

Getting Started in 3D

Just start. Working , testing is the best (the only?) way to learn and improve. It’s going to take time, but just try to improve slightly with each try. After two or three years you will look and see that you have improved a lot. But also you will see a lot of things you can get better at. So just work. There are a lot of forums, videos, articles and people that can help you, but you need to put work into it.

Looking Ahead

I hope to make heritage more accessible to people worldwide, not only for viewing but also for working with that heritage, making available the scan, info, pictures, and documentation of the sites and items. I also want to facilitate bidirectional communication with the 3D community. Something like what Daniel Pett did while at British Museum, with crowd-sourced masking and photos for scan creation.

I love the way that projects like Open Heritage are sharing the data they captured for preservation and documentation of heritage places.



About the author

Miguel Bandera

Software Engineer and Programmer

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