Open source 3D photogrammetry software is available for Windows, Mac OS X, iOS and Android. Professional open source software, such as VisualSFM in combination with MeshLab, can quickly produce 3D models at no cost. Another free option is MicMac, which brings together all the relevant processes, from aligning the photos to the creation of a 3D model. If funding is available, a suitable professional solution is Agisoft Photoscan, which is easy to use and produces professional results from start to finish.
Building information modelling (BIM)
Building information modelling is an intelligent 3D model-based process that gives architecture, engineering, and construction professionals the insight and tools to plan, design, construct, and manage buildings and infrastructure more efficiently.
Although a rather labour-intensive and costly approach, BIM can prove very useful in cases where large teams are involved.
High quality scans and 3D-sculpting
The Harvard Institute for Digital Archaeology has developed a new photogrammetry program to document hundreds of at-risk sites throughout the Middle East. High-quality scans of important sites are being captured with lightweight, discreet and easy-to-use 3D cameras. Images from these devices are uploaded through a web portal for inclusion in the open source Million Image Database. The images will ultimately be used for research, heritage appreciation, educational programmes and 3D replication – including full-scale replication using proprietary cement-based 3D printing techniques.
3D visualised reconstruction
3D visualised or virtual reconstruction of cultural heritage is a useful tool in many contexts – for the accurate documentation of tangible cultural legacy, for assessing how cultural assets have changed, or as a means of recording the shape of a building or monument prior to its restoration and/or reconstruction. Archaeological sites are physical witnesses of the past and an open window to research work and scientific discoveries, but if the structure has been severely damaged or no longer exists, architects and the general public alike can find it difficult to produce a mental image of the its dimensions and appearance.
With the aid of modern tools, this essential mental reconstruction can be supported by a mixture of archaeological data, documents, ethnographic parallels and structural considerations. In many cases, the scarcity of archaeological evidence calls for a multidisciplinary approach. Reconstructions must always be described as such in order to avoid creating an impression of accuracy or authenticity. The London Charter for the Computer-based Visualisation of Cultural Heritage offers some guidelines on how to offer this transparency.