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A Virtual Digital Wardrobe - 3D Textile Motion Simulation

PhotoRobot joins Prague City Museum, CESNET, and FEE CTU to propose a procedure for the 3D digitization of cultural heritage.

Cultural Heritage Textile Objects in 3D Motion

Prague City Museum now hosts an exhibition allowing researchers and visitors to physically and virtually view cultural heritage objects. It presents the real and time-limited display of clothes within the investigation of the research project, the Virtual Digital Wardrobe. The project aims to propose and verify a procedure for the advanced digitization and presentation of textile objects.

Results include a prototype device for automated scanning of textiles, software for presentation, and a virtual dressing room. This is all within the exhibition “From Prehistoric Times to Tailcoats.” In it, visitors view clothing of cultural heritage in real-life and augmented reality. The use of 3D digital models allows visitors to virtually wear the clothing on exhibit against the backdrop of 3D scenes.

3D textile motion simulation then brings outfits to life, replicating on a projector screen how the clothing looks when worn. Surrounding 3D scenes that accompany the objects immerse visitors in the stories behind the items. The exhibition is a joint project of the Prague City Museum, CESNET, CTU’s Faculty of Electrical Engineering, and Improtech - PhotoRobot. It is supported by the program Éta TA CR (Project number TL05000298).

Read ahead to see PhotoRobot’s contribution to the project, from the machines in use to digitizing cultural heritage in 3D.

On-mannequin photography setup for collection items

The Exhibition - From Prehistoric Times to Tailcoats

For the exhibition, experts had to faithfully capture textile material, simulate fabric and move it in real-time. The exhibition could then present digital models for visitors to virtually try on clothing using a recording camera and a large scale monitor.

Projections immerse visitors in the historical reality of the past, and present clothing in motion with users’ movements. Further, the technology behind the experience aims to propose a method to document the condition of valuable museum textile collections.

The result should help to preserve historical items that diminish in quality by age and physical handling. It should also be of invaluable use for museums with extensive textile collections, and in the commercial area of textile sales.

Textile collections in the virtual digital wardrobe showcase items of cultural heritage

Preparing for the Project

Preparation for the project began in 2021. For PhotoRobot, this began with taking hundreds of photos of various outfits and garments. The CESNET association would later generate digital 3D models from PhotoRobot’s photos to present in the exhibition.

PhotoRobot helped to achieve this via its photographic equipment for 360 product photography. However, engineers had to specially design modules to meet the needs of the cultural sector. We named these custom designs PhotoRobot ART, and each ensured exceptional handling, care, and security of objects.

The solutions accounted for the granularity of surfaces, the variety of materials, and the requirements to document specific object details. These factors served as guidelines for the creation of a specialized portfolio for each cultural heritage object.

The process then involved taking 100s of photos around each item to first create a 3D spin. These photos act as data points for special software developed by the CESNET Association to generate interactive, 3D textile models.

Photographing each item requires shooting multiple spins from multiple elevations
One collection item consists of 4 - 5 spins, containing 36 images each and photographed from multiple elevations.

The Machines Behind the Photography

The task of photographing each object fell to Kamil Hrbáček, Michal Benda, and Erik Strakota of PhotoRobot. Together, they identified the PhotoRobot ART machines and software processes necessary to capture various pieces of garments. This included complete outfits from head-to-toe, and thus required installations for on-mannequin and turntable photography.

360 photo turntable setup, camera arm, and lighting
Photography automation technology helps propose an efficient workflow for creating 3D models of historical textile objects.

For this, PhotoRobot designed multiple ART setups combining different robots and photographic equipment. Setups include the Cube v5 and v6 (for on-mannequin photography), PhotoRobot’s Frame, and the Centerless Table 850.

Lighting textile material for 360 object photography

The modularity of these systems not only dramatically reduce the production times of 360 / 3D imagery. In combination, they also cater to photographing any fashion product, including torso and leg pieces, headwear, footwear, ornaments and trinkets.

Capturing fine details to create realistic 3D textile objects

Additionally, PhotoRobot ART produced a special tripod to mount cameras at precise rows of elevation. It enables the faster capture of both higher and lower elevations when capturing 3D spins. The tripod also combines remote capture and automation software to command cameras in sync with robotic sequences and studio lighting.

Specially designed tripod mounts cameras for high, middle, and low angles
A specially designed tripod with multiple camera mounts ensures the accurate and consistent capture of low, middle, and high angles.

Photographing the Collection Items

To photograph each object, PhotoRobot installed systems both on the Improtech - PhotoRobot premises, and on-location at the Prague City Museum. We were then able to photograph genuine articles of clothing at the museum, and replicas in-house at PhotoRobot.

The process required automating the photography of complete outfits as well as individual articles of clothing. Further, we needed enough photos of each item to later generate a 3D model that could simulate textile movement. Thus, we had to photograph both 360 degrees around each object, and from multiple angles of elevation.

Control software captures and stores spins and still images for digitization

PhotoRobot’s Cube enables us to photograph items prepared on mannequins in combination with the special tripod. Meanwhile, the Frame and Centerless Table support 360 / 3D turntable photography for different types of clothing. We use these to capture items both on a horizontal or vertical axis, and from multiple elevations.

In every photoshoot, we also use a DSLR camera with a 50mm lens positioned at various angles. We photograph high, middle, and low angles to create 4-5 different spins consisting of 36 still images each. It is also necessary to take photos horizontally at every 10th angle, and to capture detailed shots of each item’s material.

Photographing museum collection items for digital exhibition

The Photo Digitization Process

The CESNET Association is responsible for transforming the photos of each collection item into interactive 3D models. To achieve this, they deploy IH3D (Interactive Heritage 3D) software developed by CESNET and tested in collaboration with museum institutions. 

The software enables 3D presentation through both physical exhibitions and hosting visuals online. It functions across a wide range of devices, including mobile phones and LCD-panel video walls. Visualizations then take the shape of 3D models visitors can view from all sides, even inside, and with supplementary material.

The 3D models can contain annotations for additional information, illustrations, video records, and any multi-media content. Further, the software can display collection items in surrounding 3D scenes, such as in “From Prehistoric Times to Tailcoats.”

Within the exhibition, IH3D software transforms the photos from PhotoRobot into 3D models to display on a presentation panel. Examples of static 3D models of selected collection items are also available for online viewing. The software supports all standard 3D model formats, and operates on the museum’s web server. It’s also possible to secure digital assets in the cloud environment of CESNET, or export 3D models in various formats.

Project Contributors

This project and its results would not be possible without its joint contributors in collaboration with the Prague City Museum. Thus, acknowledgement and special appreciation goes out to:

  • Prague City Museum - Linda Daněčková, Tomáš Dvořák
  • Programme Éta TA CR (Project number TL05000298)
  • The Research Project - The Virtual Digital Wardrobe (in Czech, Virtuální šatník)
  • The CESNET Association - Jiří Kubišta, Sven Ubik
  • FEE of Charle’s Technical University - David Sedláček, Jiří Žára
  • PhotoRobot - Kamil Hrbáček, Michal Benda, and Erik Strakota
  • Photography - Jav Vrabec, Ondřej Polák
  • Architectural and Graphic Design - Jiří Sušanka
  • Production / Exhibition Management - Kateřina Veleta Štěpánová, Michal Schneider
  • Conservation and Restoration - Jindřiška Drozenová, Lucie Radoňová
  • Editorial Work - Lenka Hensen
  • Translation - Lucie Kasíková
  • Exhibition Installation - Jiří Leubner
  • Special Thanks - Martin Kavka, Veronika Klimešová, Pavel Vaněk
  • Media Partners - Logo Prague, Museum

Discover more custom solutions for the cultural sector

The advanced digitization of historical objects proposes a method in the cultural sector to better preserve and document history. To this end, PhotoRobot ART offers museums and archeology versatile photographic and 3D scanning solutions to digitize museum collections. These modular systems can meet space or collection demands, while software-driven automation simplifies machine use. Each setup also ensures exceptional handling and care of any type of collection item. Systems account for the granularity of surfaces, a variety of materials, and detailed shots to produce specialized portfolios.

Curious to see how to implement PhotoRobot ART into your own museum or archeology project? Consider booking a custom demo specially designed around your collection today. All you have to do is tell us the objects you need to photograph. We’ll consult on your requirements, and soon propose solutions to meet any photographic or 3D object scanning needs.