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Cathedral 3-D image

News & Events: McGregor Fellow Research

Stephen Clemenger applies computer science to archaeological 3-D modeling

Computer science major Stephen Clemenger spent this summer creating a virtual reconstruction of a sixth-century Byzantine cathedral at Umm el-Jimal through a McGregor Fellowship grant. In the process, he was required to find a more efficient way to preserve and present archeological sites using digital photo-based 3-D models.

Cathedral window"Our process of virtual reconstruction imports a set of high quality photos into the Photomodeler software package," Stephen explains.  "Using Photomodeler, these photos are converted into a three dimensional mesh. This mesh can then be exported and used to create a virtual model that could be accessed online for research.  Using Photomodeler is significantly cheaper than the laser systems used by other research groups."

Stephen fine tuned the Photomodeler software to make it simpler and faster for new users to create models that extract an even higher level of detail from the photographs. He also adapted Unity, a software program used for creating computer games, to create dynamic, online virtual walk throughs that can be directed by the viewer. 


A virtual museum

Stephen's work is part of a project to create a virtual museum of Umm el-Jimal, a well preserved town from the Roman, Byzantine, Early Islamic and modern eras in eastern Jordan.

Many of the photographs he is using were taken by Calvin interim teams. Another group of students will be going to Jordan in January 2012 to photograph other buildings for 3-D modeling, which will eventually be added to the Umm el-Jimal website created and managed by Calvin alumni Paul Christens and Jeff DeKock of Open Hand Studios.