Getting big with the British navy – Pembroke Historic Dockyard model

Pembroke 1 smallThe 3D digital model of Pembroke Historic Dockyard for one of our eleven AHRC Community Heritage Partners, Pembroke Dock 2014 is nearing completion. There is some light texturing remaining to be applied and a few minor adjustments to a couple of the buildings before the process of crunching the model to produce rendered animations can begin. Large models like this are computationally intensive to render so the rendering process is split into stages which are processed in parallel and then edited together to form a structured exploration of the site. Unlike large models produced using games engines like Unity and CryENGINE® 3 models like Pembroke Dockyard are geometrically authentic in detail, they do not rely upon extensive texture mapping to give an illusion of reality. This means that the models of the buildings actually contain all the 3D geometric detail of the actual buildings and so can be repurposed for a number of other uses such as producing detailed physical 3D prints, structural analysis and 2D plans, sections and elevations. The disadvantage of this kind of model is that extremely powerful computers (usually a supercomputer) are required to achieve anything approaching a real-time interactive walk-through, which is why we create pre-recorded rendered walk-throughs instead which you can view like a film. These are very effective and can run on a wide range of desktop, mobile and internet devices. In contrast to this, although large models built in games engines lack real 3D architectural detail and cannot be used to produce repurposed outputs they employ high quality texture mapping (pictures if you like) pasted onto the surfaces of relatively simple block models of buildings to create the illusion of detailed three-dimensionality. This can be very convincing and is sufficiently computationally economic to allow real-time interaction on everyday computers and even mobiles. The digital building heritage group successfully used the Unity game environment in 2009-10 to create Virtual Roman Leicester, a complete reconstruction of Ratae Corieltauvorum, the old Romano-British city of Leicester in the year 210AD that users could walk through in real-time using a joystick to control movement and actions. More recently this year in 2013 as part of their degree course students in De Montfort University’s Game Art department produced an imaginative reconstruction of central London in the year 1666 before the Great Fire using the CryENGINE® 3 games environment. Vying against Game Art departments in ten other UK universities their reconstruction won the Crytek ‘Off the Map’ competition (sponsored by the British Library and global video game company Crytek) and inspired by the library’s historic cartographic map collection. This excellent, winning example demonstrates just how convincing texture mapping using games engines can be in creating real-time interactive experiences. We thought very carefully about whether to use Unity to create the Pembroke Dock model using this technique but after considerable reflection within the Digital Building Heritage Group and with our partners from Pembroke Dock 2014 we opted for the architectural accuracy and authenticity that could be delivered by 3D geometric modelling and pre-recorded fly-throughs which capitalised on the wealth of detailed historical documentation on the buildings that had been collected and digitized for the project. This was the right choice for the end uses our Connected Community partners wished to put the reconstruction to and the audiences they wanted to address. It’s proved a good choice with a great model shaping up which should deliver at a number of levels not only at but we expect beyond the expectations the stakeholders in the project.

Pembroke Dock 2 small

About Douglas Cawthorne

Reader in Digital Heritage at De Montfort University.
This entry was posted in 3D Digital Modelling, AHRC Connected Communities Projects, Military Architecture. Bookmark the permalink.