Cultural Heritage In Virtual Space
Have you ever dreamed about walking through a real royal palace and contemplating a prestigious collection of modern art? If you have, then welcome to Italy, to the residence of kings of Naples, Reggia di Caserta.
But do not rush to book the tickets and pack your things. Modern technologies allow you to make this tour without even leaving your chair. And no, these are not primitive photographs, nor is it a shaky video — this is a fully-fledged 3D reconstruction of an entire suite of palace rooms filled with splendid exhibits.
A well-conceived passage system allows the "visitors" of the exhibition to move in desired directions and examine the showpieces from the best angles. And there really is something worth looking at: dozens of paintings, surreal pedestals and bright stained glass windows.
The developers withdrew from using a traditional first-person movement system and placed a kind of portals all over the territory. Unlike the usual faux-3D, where transition is done instantaneously, this approach uses smooth camera movement. And this is understandable, as the Terrae Motus virtual presentation is created using the fully-fledged Blend4Web 3D engine.
The exhibition contains nearly a hundred showpieces and occupies dozens of rooms connected by long corridors. You can easily get lost there, so the developers provided the application with a mini-map that can be used to travel to any place you wish.
The developers devoted a lot of energy to the research of visual style. High-quality shadows and lighting, carefully selected colors, mirror surfaces, glowing windows and panels, stylized human figures — all of this helps to build cozy atmosphere where you can not only examine the showpieces, but simply admire the picture as well. Every showpiece, by the way, is accompanied with an information tip that can be accessed by clicking a specific icon.
The Terrae Motus virtual exhibition is a common project of Cineca, the consortium of leading universities and research centers of Italy and the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism. In essence, this small presentation only shows a tip of an iceberg conceived by the developers. The goal of this experiment is to explore the capabilities of virtual technologies for preserving and demonstrating cultural heritage in the digital age, and also to develop a simple solution for exhibition planning. The Blend4Web engine was chosen as the definitive toolset.
The developers plan to create a dedicated editor based on Blender for rapid construction of exhibition halls, placing ready-made showpiece models and setting up lighting. This instrument is set to be simple to use even for someone who is not familiar with 3D modelling.
"This is the first of many initiatives that we are planning with Cineca. A small, yet ambitious project that has a chance to become one of the Italian Government`s pilot projects for cultural development of our country" — Mauro Felicori, the Director of the Royal Palace.