My name is Taylor Houlihan and I am a 3D Scanning Specialist at Direct Dimensions located in Baltimore, MD. In this role, I have 3D scanned small objects such as ancient coins and very large buildings such as museums in Washington, DC. Direct Dimensions is a well-known full-service 3D scanning firm. My specialties include laser scanning, LiDAR, and photogrammetry with a concentration in artistic fabrication and cultural conservation. Beyond my professional work, and for personal enjoyment, I digitally reconstruct Baltimore architecture, art, and apparel.
I graduated with my BFA from the Stamps School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan. While studying there, I was a digital fabrication technician and a lab assistant at the paleontology museum. I enjoyed the duality of my two college jobs; with one, I could build CAD models and fabricate utilizing machinery, and with the other, I was casting and painting artifacts by hand. These two jobs helped me get an internship at the Smithsonian Digitization Program Office in Washington, DC. As an intern there, I helped 3D scan corals using a structured light scanner and performed photogrammetry on East Asian coins. Shortly after my internship, I started working at Direct Dimensions as a 3D Scanning Specialist.
Cultural dress series
3D scanning cultural dresses has been an exciting ongoing series. Most of the dresses are from my older sister’s closet. She is a practicing Muslim, so she has acquired a collection of stunning dresses that she wears to mosque and to attend other religious events. This series has brought me closer to my older sister and helped me better understand her faith. Many of her garments are gifts from friends and have sentimental memories attached.
I am lucky that she has been open to me digitally preserving her dresses. I also 3D scan apparel for companies and museums at work, so the transition to scanning cultural garments owned by me and my sister came with ease. I combine photogrammetry and a structured light scanner to capture color and geometry of the garments, respectively. It takes me about six hours to complete (from capture to upload).
Drone photogrammetry series
Most of my drone photogrammetry is of Baltimore architecture and art. Since moving to Baltimore two and a half years ago, I have learned so much about the history of the city that I would not have otherwise known. I did not know until recently that in 1904, the city of Baltimore experienced a tragic fire that destroyed over 1,500 buildings. This event caused the city to increase the number of fire departments, and upgrade their equipment. The firehouse below was erected four years after these upgrades.
I started drone work a few months into quarantine in July 2020. I purchased a DJI Mavic Air 2 and promptly drowned it in a nearby river the first week I owned it. I had to roll up my pants to waddle through the water to retrieve it underneath a tunnel. Fortunately, I had insurance and have been much more careful since! Drone photogrammetry has been a great creative outlet that gets me outside. My goal is to incorporate my drone skills into my professional work this year.
I have been in the 3D Digitization industry for almost three years, including my internship. Digitization can be a time-intensive process from capture to post-processing. A challenge I face every time I plan out a project is how much time I should allocate to complete a model. Particularly on the post-processing end, it is a race between time and quality. Nevertheless, I have found that I can get fairly decent results with minimal effort using the software correctly. For visualization purposes, I have accepted that not all of the models are going to be commercially ready compared to my professional work. Alleviating that pressure has encouraged me to be more experimental and to have more fun with scans.
For example, my 3D model of the Philadelphia Museum of Art pediment took about a half-hour to capture, but about twenty hours of post-processing, and it is still not at the quality that I would like it to be. But overall, I am elated with the outcome given the small dataset of 200 images.
Secondly, I am often split between the many artistic liberties that are presented to me from capture to upload. I have realized that 3D scanning is not an exact science. Equipment, composition, physically based rendering, and lighting all affect the narrative. Similarly, with point and shoot photography, two people can capture the same scene and the results can be diametrically opposing. For example, the first drone photogrammetry scan that I completed was of the “Union Soldiers and Sailors” monument near the Johns Hopkins University campus, which commemorates the Union military personnel of the American Civil War. During the time of my scan, nationwide protests were occurring and many statues, including this one, had been spray-painted with messages. During my post-production of this scan, I asked myself whether I should keep the visible legible spray-painted message on it or if I should edit it out. I chose to edit it out in order to highlight my technical abilities of scanning the monument, instead of highlighting a message that was temporarily adhered to its facade. To this day, I am not sure if I made the right decision. This is a challenge that 3D scanners face when capturing objects accessible to the public, and at times, are temporarily altered by them. The challenging question I often ask myself in post-production is, “Do I present the object as captured in the moment that I scanned it, or do I present it in its original and unaltered state?”
I believe that Sketchfab is the future of the cultural dissemination of knowledge. The ability to upload high-quality 3D models allows for educational and research opportunities that would be otherwise limited due to access and location. It has been a great resource for me to see other 3D scanning work from other institutions, museums, and individuals. It has also allowed me to learn from others by observing their works and receiving feedback from them.