Field Test in Photogrammetry

This is a summary of my field test in photogrammetry. For the full project details click here: mno613-field-test-white-paper

THE TECHNOLOGY
Photo=light, Gram=drawing, metry=measurement.

In a Neiman Lab article published December 2016, photogrammetry is one of several cited emerging technologies that are expected to really transition in the new year from a passive video experimentation to a full immersive experience. Newsrooms across the country will be able to fully implement the new areas of photogrammetry, ambisonics and stereoscopic rendering. Given how easy it is—using old technology to make new—it makes sense that such emerging technology will become established technology as soon as the turn of the New Year. Photogrammetry has been around for sometime, most recently for constructing maps and topographic landscapes, it’s only with the use of three-dimensional technology that photogrammetry has earned a bigger place within the media landscape. The recent evacuations from the Syrian town of Aleppo could be told in a more immersive way and perhaps move a larger population of readers to a call for action.

We learned about many new and emerging types of technology in class, and while I wasn’t necessarily ignorant about them I had never delved into the technology until this class. Learning about virtual reality, augmented reality, 360 and 3D video, photogrammetry, sensors and drones were quite eye opening for me and my background in television sports and journalism. What most impressed me was the speed by which these technologies were becoming more common and easy to use.

HYPOTHESIS

My hypothesis for this project is to use two of the emerging technologies we covered and demonstrate a more immersive storytelling experience. I chose to use photogrammetry to capture a museum exhibit and model it in 3D with annotations to tell a more immersive story of the subject. For this project I decided to cast a wide net and use a popular exhibit at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia called Signer’s Hall. This exhibit consists of 42 life-sized statues of the founding fathers that signed the Constitution. I will use photogrammetry to capture this exhibit and make it accessible to more people regardless of where they live or their socio-economic level, and I will do so using equipment common to most people: a smartphone (iPhone 6) and desktop computer and free educational access to Autodesk Remake and Sketchfab software programs.

THE TEST

The statues that comprise this particular exhibit are life-size bronze statues so I knew there would be some shading adjustments I would have to make. Another realization was that most of these statues were the same height as me, 5-foot, 6-inches tall and I did not bring or request a stepladder to get shots from above the statues. I began taking test shots of a group of three statues to see how the overlapping between the

img_3876
Charles Pinkney, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney and John Rutledge. Photo taken at The National Constitution Center, Philadelphia.

three would translate when I brought them into the AutoDesk Remake software and then how difficult it would be to clean up the models in Sketchfab. This became a little challenging as not only was I taking a lot of pictures, it also required me to crawl around on the floor and contort myself around the limbs of these three statues that were posed as if engaged in a debate. The key I learned from several tutorials on the Autodesk YouTube channel is that for a successful detailed model, pictures must not only be in focus and evenly lit, but there must be 40% of overlap between all the pictures to allow the point cloud to be accurate. Additionally, depending on how much detail you want to capture, photos should be taking five degrees apart as you shoot around the object, above and below. This resulted in over 200 photographs taken of the first test run of pictures. Then based on the arrangement of the statues within the exhibit, I decided to focus on two statues that stood alone, William Blount and our current celebrity, Alexander Hamilton. Since I had access as long as I needed to the exhibit, I decided to tackle the Benjamin Franklin group. This consisted of a group of five statues surrounding a table at which Franklin was seated. This was the most challenging group of statues to photograph properly so I focused on Franklin (seated) and Gov. Morris (leaning over Franklin) but the primary focus was on Franklin.

screen-shot-2016-12-22-at-11-56-24-pm
Example of the raw photos taken at varying lengths and at 5-degree intervals. Photos taken at The national Constitution Center in Philadelphia

Once the photos were transferred and uploaded to Autodesk ReMake, it was pretty easy to construct the 3D model and process the information. I credit using the ReMake program as opposed to using the 123D Catch app for the ease in transfer and construction. Next, I saved the 3D model and then imported it into SketchFab, which was a challenge only because I needed to somehow get more space than my free educational account provided. After getting the necessary space to upload all my models, it took a couple of tutorials to figure out how to orient, light and shade my models. I still have a lot to learn but for the time period given for this project, the result came out pretty good.

screen-shot-2016-12-23-at-12-53-42-am
Screen shot of initial upload of the Alexander Hamilton (center screen) photos. The exhibit room is partially reconstructed even thought photos were primarily of Hamilton.

INTERVIEW AND METRICS

To determine the feasibility of using 3D technology to tell stories, I constructed my virtual Alexander Hamilton complete with annotations and shared it on my Facebook page asking for anyone to share their impressions. I wanted my target audience to be a mix of people in the journalism industry and everyday people so I decided to identify a cross section of my Facebook friends that were professional television journalists, cameramen, photographers, regular everyday people and a couple of librarians. The last demographic was chosen because of the historical nature of my project and the fact that librarians have been tuned in to the digital age since the debut of electronic readers. The overall reaction in general was how cool the technology was and that it was something that could be done with still pictures. Nearly all respondents felt immersed in learning about Alexander Hamilton and also felt the annotations brought another level of immersive-ness because not only were they able to see what the annotation was explaining, but it could viewed from different angles.

CONCLUSIONS

This technology is really effective when it comes to documenting and telling historical accounts. It’s a much more immersive way to teach which is why we see more and more virtual and 3D storytelling coming from the likes of National Geographic and Smithsonian as evidenced in their digital magazines. For my intentions, this use of photogrammetry and 3D technology was effective. I think with more time to develop my skills in cleaning my models and building a virtual scene for the subjects to live in, using these two technologies would exceed my expectations. Being a video person, I would love to go into videogrammetry.

IMPROVEMENTS

Improvements to communications infrastructure and Internet speeds would bring the use of photogrammetry to news organizations on a more mainstream level. With the capabilities of so many mobile devices and applications that allow the use of technology such as photogrammetry, the question becomes how fast can the processing power of these devices become standard to where anyone with a smartphone can construct a 3D scene such as I did with my iPhone 6 with minimal transferring or data issues.

FUTURE OF PHOTOGRAMMETRY

Technology like photogrammetry and 3D modeling will definitely become the norm when it comes to storytelling for journalists. We have already crossed the threshold with the New York Times and BBC News implementing story coverage in that format. As mentioned before, National Geographic and Smithsonian and National Geographic Travel have already become go-to sources for immersive storytelling via their digital magazines. The challenge becomes whether more news organizations become aware of the capabilities or of the availability of this kind of technology or if they are, whether they can find storytellers that are able to use the software effectively. Besides news, photogrammetry and 3D technologies will become a tool in preserving the historical artifacts of things like the Seven Wonders of the World or save monuments or historical buildings from the hands of extremism.

WORKS CITED

Walford, A. 2007. Photogrammetry. “What is Photogrammetry?” Retrieved from http://www.photogrammetry.com/index.htm

Soto, R. December 13, 2016. Neiman Lab Predictions for Journalism 2017. “VR Moves from Experiments to Immersion.” Retrieved from http://www.niemanlab.org/2016/12/vr-moves-from-experiments-to-immersion/

Caughill, P. December 22, 2016. Futurism. “This New Drone is Powerful Enough to Carry You and a Friend.” Retrieved from https://futurism.com/this-new-drone-is-powerful-enough-to-carry-you-and-a-friend/

Krewson Wertz, Pamela. September 19, 2016. Phys.org. “Digital Photography: The future of small-scale manufacturing?” Retrieved from http://phys.org/news/2016-09-digital-photography-future-small-scale.html

2015, June 18. Sketchfab Tutorial. How to Set Up A Successful Photogrammetry Project. Retrieved from https://blog.sketchfab.com/how-to-set-up-a-successful-photogrammetry-project/

 

Advertisements

Virtual Concessions

Now that this long, presidential campaign full of inappropriate comments, accusations and threats is over, I started thinking about the swift about-face that both “establishment” party politicians took. The calm platitudes from the former reality TV star turned President-Elect and then the tasteful, call to unite from the former Secretary of State got me thinking how different it must be for journalists covering the candidates, they would see these two people “off the air” while traveling, while interacting with staff and voters.

What if 360 cameras were taken on the airplanes of the presidential candidates to show what goes on while in transit? Viewers could see how reporters cover a campaign and how candidates interact with those reporters. This could be the new way of getting to know a candidate running for office, not just the edited and prepared candidate that we get now.

An opportunity for a virtual reality story could be following the election, when the President-Elect meets with the President to talk about the role. Imagine being able to virtually be present in the Oval Office as the two men, address the press and answer questions about how their meeting went. Another one, virtual reality of the political rallies each candidate has in every state during the campaign. What better way to show the true climate of a rally or see how many people are in attendance or what the energy felt like at these rallies.

One thing is for sure, it may help show the true climate of an election and be a more accurate predictor than traditional polling or focus groups.

WordPress, How I love thee…?

I dipped my toe in to the new world of blogging back in 2005, with Blogspot, aka Blogger. I never understood what seemed to be the confessional aspect of blogging. Who would be interested in anything I thought or said, what makes me an expert anyway? blogging-out-loud

So you can imagine my first blog was pretty pathetic, I barely posted, I put no effort into my page and truthfully, I don’t even know if it’s still around. I think my first post was about getting diagnosed a second time with breast cancer so not exactly viral material.

Then in 2012, a college classmate of mine introduced me to WordPress. We were efforting a grassroots campaign to get the word out about some issues affecting college students. The effort was a bust, but needless to say I was amazed at where blogging had gone. I started to notice legit websites were actually hosted by blog sites like WordPress, WIX, or any other number of blog outlets. They looked so good, as if that company was paying a staff of paid employees to code and build the back and front end to their specifications. I also started to notice major news outlets using bloggers on the air on topics such as foeirgn policy or education as if they were experts in the traditional sense. Sarah Palin was discovered by a blogger.

But within a few months of being sworn in she [Palin] and others in her circle noticed that a blogger named Adam Brickley had started a movement to draft her as Vice-President.

Although my friend and I’s effort in our grassroots campaign was a bust, our overall effect was connecting with many people we had not connected with in a very long time, it was evident how useful a blog or website could be.

_TOONBLGWordPress in particular is a great look. It’s easy on the eyes which is key given you want as many eyes reading your blog without those eyeballs getting tired or strained. The level of customization available for a free account is quite vast, which is smart because one could easily get hooked and want to increase their visibility and engagement by purchasing one of the packages WordPress provides for hosting, sharing and content management. As evident in its current iteration, WordPress is available for small blogs all the way to major companies using WordPress as their website. The cons for WordPress seem limited, perhaps being an open source operation would be a deterrent to some big companies from using WordPress as their CMS but for the entrepreneur, WordPress would be an important tool in marketing and making a brand— or voice — available to a wide audience. The challenge then becomes sifting through all the mis-information and fluff to get to the meat and potatoes of a brand, story or event.

A Spotlight on Convergence

I’ve been feeling nostalgic lately, I saw Spotlight recently. The Best Picture Oscar winner is about the investigative arm of the Boston Globe, named Spotlight, and how that team uncovered the massive child abuse and molestation scandal within the Archdiocese of Catholic Boston. Spotlight doesn’t just do an excellent job of portraying journalism at the turn of the 21st century, it also does an excellent job conveying the soon-to-be power of the internet and eventual convergence that will occur between old and new media.

My nostalgia came in watching the early aughts portrayed in hairstyles and clothing, printing presses, flip cell phones and pen to paper. The tone of the movie had a focus and intensity that is very often lacking in current movies, shows and in our current culture. There is a scene in the movie where the team is talking about the final story going to print, how there is more information than there is space in the paper. The decision is made to include a url on the “world wide web” at the end of the article where readers can go for more information. They also list a phone number for victims to call. This scene in particular is fantastic in its subtle nod to the cusp of digital convergence as we now know it. It also made me think—again— just how many directions into which our attention is being pulled today.

Spotlight chronicles and portrays living in the world of Web 1.0, where information on the internet was a one-way street, a place to get information and leave. Today we live in the world of Web 2.0, where the internet graduated to a two-way street; sharing information and receiving feedback on that information. There is now so much information pulling at the eyeballs of every user via data mining gathered from Facebook likes, searches, cookies and now from “super” cookies. Thinking about this, I could not help ask myself, “Would a story like this have been able to come out in such detail today?” The Spotlight team and their editors took time to develop and research the story, protecting themselves and the victims from retaliation from the Church. Would that kind of care be possible in today’s media landscape?

Additionally, this time period in which Spotlight takes place, is also the beginning of the corporate take overs of many media outlets—AOL/TimerWarner merger, and Disney/ESPN were the two big ones, but for the most part there was, at that time, still some independence in media ownership.

And that, is what I was nostalgic for. In taking a moment to turn away from the show that is our current election season and taking a moment to turn off my electronics, I was able to focus. Focus on a movie that looked back at a time when we were really able to focus…intensely, able to engross ourselves in specific content and focus on learning about an issue. That is something worth remembering to do.

I Have A Bad Feeling About Data

I felt a great disturbance in the force….

–Obi Wan Kenobi

Finding that clip, on YouTube cost me an hour of my life thanks to the wormhole of endless Star Wars (and by Star Wars, I mean Episode 4 for you young’ins) clips, documentaries and commentaries. So much stuff to wade through, that I only found that particular clip by entering “Obi Wan Kenobi disturbance in the force” in the search field.

This brings me to the point of this week’s blog post. Data. Data-star-trek-the-next-generation-31159191-1024-768No, not that one. The information kind, like when you mindlessly agree to the terms of services to all those convenient apps on your smartphone. Your DataOr all the information (data) that is collected behind your computer screen via cookies or IP addresses. What about information that should be or supposed to be out there? The kind that helps us make decisions like whether to get the HPV vaccine for your kid or whether one car brand is better than another, or who to cast your ballot for?

Data, information and knowledge all go hand in hand. You need one for the other, right? But what if that data is disrupted, what happens to gaining the knowledge you seek by searching for that data? Enter Donald J. Trump, disruptor extraordinaire. He is the planet Alderaan to the Republican party, and it’s leadership, crying out in terror. The question remains who will be silenced.

Before all this convergence in technology, content and media, there were clear messages and information that was shared, processed and understood for the most part with little disruption. If you wanted information about a vaccine, you consulted your doctor or maybe a medical journal. Which car is better? Consult some mechanics or a Consumer Reports article. What candidate to vote for? Check out the newspaper’s in depth breakdown of candidates positions on issues or watch a debate. That was then….not too long ago, mind you, before all this data on everything became the new way of doing, well, anything. Back when election debates were substantive with effective moderators. Not promoted like a cage match.

Now, we have so much information, so much data available about everything that it defeats the purpose of getting to that educated decision. As an undergraduate communications and political science major, my big project was on media bias. That was the thing 20 years ago, all media were liberal or conservative and in order to be media literate one had to consult several media sources for the same story in order to get the best understanding of the given subject. Today, not only are the lines of bias blurred thanks to the internet, social media, re-purposed content and the personalization of an online presence but there is just so much out there now that it causes disruptions in basic reception. In the end all it becomes is noise, until Donald Trump speaks, then it’s a cacophony.

Bruce Springsteen seemed prophetic in his 1992 song 57 channels:

Well we might’ a made some friends with some billionaires
We might’ a got all nice and friendly
If we’d made it upstairs
All I got was a note that said “Bye-bye John
Our love is fifty-seven channels and nothin’ on”

He was just 300 channels off.

Privacy, Apples and President Washington

This week in media and news has been a doozy.

In class, we talked about regulations and ethical issues surrounding the internet, which we all know now, encompasses more than just a computer connected to an ISP (internet service provider).

The death of the Supreme Court justice broke online. I personally, got my good old push notification from BBC News and then shortly after, from the New York Times. Then my Twitter feed started filling up about conspiracy theories and what exactly was “a natural death.”

Then came the news that Apple CEO Tim Cook would appeal the court order issued allowing the FBI to gain access to the iPhone of terrorist Syed Farook Rizwan, citing privacy issues and setting precedence.

What timing.

It’s not enough that the most conservative justice on the Supreme Court passes away unexpectedly, let’s throw in a major controversial face off on privacy between Federal law enforcement and the maker of the most popular smartphone in the world. Cook, so far, is steadfast is his defense of privacy, but let’s be honest, he has to be…in order to save his product. Apple, and the rest of Silicon Valley for that matter, have had many opportunities to defend privacy yet did not. Most notably, when Edward Snowden leaked how U.S. citizens were under surveillance. So we have Apple set to appeal the decision of the judge issuing the court order, questioning an age old law called the All Writs Act of 1789 (a law that was passed by the very first United States Congress and signed into law by President George Washington) that could go all the way to the Supreme Court. A Court that right now is in flux, with an even number of justices and a battle royale that is shaping up between conservatives, the current president and presidential candidates publicly calling for delays in appointing a new justice to the court. Were the appeal process of Apple to get fast tracked, would the Supreme Court even hear the case, or kick it back to the appellate courts?

It’s not often that something of this magnitude comes along and brings pause to consider what exactly we use these devices for nowadays and to exactly how much privacy are we entitled.

Debates, social media and television

As I write this week’s blog reflection, I am “second screening” the Democratic Debate on PBS. Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff managed to incorporate questions from social media without the result looking like a circus. The graphics were a simple lower third that indicated the question to which the candidates were responding to at any given time. The stage was simple, clean lines and colors. No props needed, unlike the Republican Debate held at the Reagan Library on CNN (Reagan’s Air force One). As I watch and rewind, thanks to my TiVo, I find myself listening more attentively than I have in previous debates, Republican or Democratic, and I have come to the conclusion that presentation makes or breaks communicating a message. This is where radio and television have the advantage over social media.

Think back to the previous debates of both parties. CNN with the aforementioned Air force One, Fox News with their flashy stage mimicking their high energy newscasts, CBS with it’s Democratic debate, CNN with their second debate in Utah and finally PBS with their understated set design even keeping moderators Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff in subdued lighting so as to focus attention on the candidates.Fox FacebookGOPCBS Dem

CNN Tea Party/Republican Debate

PBS Dem

Taking note of this, I could not help think about how news is presented on social media and how television seems to be relinquishing it’s advantage of presentation by seeming to be taking a page from online outlets in how to present news and information—fast and furious.

Linguist and American University professor Naomi Baron makes the case that technology has changed the way humans read, write, speak and listen. She is not wrong. Busier set designs keep the short attention span of viewers, reliance on culling questions for candidates from sites such as Facebook or Twitter instead of listening and the art of follow up questions seems to be dead. These are just some examples of how traditional media (television) has adapted to the rise of social media. Instead of debates of substantive questions, answers and moderators, it is now a clash of egos and celebrity journalists akin to The Hunger Games. Oh, Stephen Colbert beat me to it!

Well, at least we still have PBS.