The University of Southampton

ECS-developed RTI system in action at The Louvre

Published: 
30 January 2012
Illustration

The Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) system developed by Dr Kirk Martinez of ECS-Electronics and Computer Science along with Archaeology colleagues at the Universities of Southampton and Oxford has recently been deployed in The Louvre, Paris, to capture items from the Oriental artefacts department.

This new technology makes it possible to study the finer details of some of the world’s greatest historical artefacts. The systems take multiple pictures of artefacts with the light in 76 different positions, then create a new type of image (RTI), which enables the viewer to move the virtual light around the image to enhance surface detail.

This version of the system, 'Dome3', incorporates a new design with its own transit box. A custom-build camera mount makes Dome3 easier to construct. The RTI technology systems developed by the project will allow researchers to study documentary and other artefacts remotely in great detail without being restricted by fixed lighting angles. The result will be to ensure that high-quality digital versions of these materials can be consulted by scholars worldwide.

“Hewlett Packard Research Laboratories invented this technology a few years ago and it has been used sporadically around the world,” said Dr Martinez. “What we have done is develop the technology so that it is fast enough to be usable every day in a museum situation where you have lots of objects that need scanning." The RTI technology systems developed by the project will allow researchers to study documentary and other artefacts remotely in great detail without being restricted by fixed lighting angles. The result will be to ensure that high-quality digital versions of these materials can be consulted by scholars worldwide.

The technology has already been used in the British Museum, the National Gallery, and the Ashmolean in Oxford. Having completed the work in The Louvre where it gathered around 40GB of data each day, Dome3 will now be taken to the United States, where it will remain permanently. It was built for the Mellon Foundation Funded-Imaging Campaign.

The earlier 12-month Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) System for Ancient Document Artefacts was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Digital Equipment and Database for Impact. The team members were: Dr Graeme Earl, Dr Kirk Martinez, Hembo Pagi, Leif Isaksen, PhD student Philip Basford, Michael Hodgson and Sascha Bischoff of the University of Southampton, and Professor Alan Bowman, Dr Charles Crowther, Dr Jacob Dahl and Dr Kathryn Piquette of the University of Oxford.

Philip Basford and Jacob Dahl are pictured here early in the morning, outside the Louvre in Paris.

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