Expanding the reach of art, architecture and artefacts with The Morpheus Project
December 09 2021
By Tim Deakin
An archaeological expert and avid photographer, Harald Wraunek has developed an admirable reputation for making buildings, statues and artworks accessible to all through photogrammetry. MuseumNext recently interviewed Harald to explore his passion for capturing artefacts in 3D format and find out more about his collaboration with The Morpheus Project.
“I have always been interested in photography that finds new angles,” says Harald Wraunek when asked about his approach to capturing images of artworks in his homeland of Austria.
Based in Vienna, Harald has digitised more than 2,000 buildings and artefacts since he first discovered photogrammetry in 2017. But his love of exploring new ways to imagine items goes back even further than this. He has always looked to explore the way new technologies can help to showcase eye-catching and historically important objects.
“I’ve had great fun over the years utilising different techniques and methods of capturing images. In particular, I love the opportunities presented by using drones. I’ve experimented with drone footage and finding new ways to use the technology to capture images that few people would ever see – usually birds eye views of buildings or statues that most people could only ever see from ground level.”
He continues: “Then, more recently I came across photogrammetry and it was really the perfect symbiosis for the kind of art I love. Of course, my first models were not worth seeing. And, as laws and regulations around drone usage have changed over time, I’ve had to adapt the way I capture images – particularly in urban areas.
“As I’ve looked to use photogrammetry to capture images of statues and low buildings I’ve converted an antenna mast to move my camera up to 10 metres so that I can take a full shot and construct a flawless 3D model from it.”
Asked how he identifies objects and architecture to capture in full 3D, Harald says, “I love to drive around and find new, interesting objects. In doing so, I think I’ve already developed a ‘three dimensional eye’ and can immediately tell if the object I’m looking for can be completely photographed.
“I always take into account the surfaces at play, including glass and chrome which aren’t as compatible with photogrammetry. I’m also looking for artefacts with a strong historical background and something that is rare or unconventional.”
And the benefit of 3D photogrammetry to viewers?
“Photogrammetry allows people to rediscover the seen object at home and worldwide on the internet. There are, of course, issues with accessibility where a stunning building or statue in Vienna, Lower Austria or Burgenland may never be seen up close by somebody living in another country or on a different continent. But in providing an immersive experience, it’s possible for anyone to get a real sense of the beauty and the detail of an artwork.
“I would also go even further and say that, due to the size and scale of many buildings and statues, it is very hard for individuals get close to many of the details that have gone into a creation – either because they are too high up or inaccessible for other reasons. It might be gargoyles at the top of a tall tower or a carving 15 metres up on a statue.
“By capturing these in fine detail using photogrammetry, it gives people the ability to get up close and study details from all angles, in their own time and without many of the restrictions that they might encounter out in the real world.”
Of course, scale works in both directions and Harald draws attention to photogrammetry’s ability to accurately capture the smallest as well as the largest artefacts:
“For example, the Roman artefacts I have shot are only a few millimetres in size. I capture them using focus stacking, which makes it possible to even identify details that would not be possible with the naked eye.”
Creating 3D images
IN 2021, Harald became one of the first artists to have his 3D photographs transformed into Holo-NFTs by the team at The Morpheus Project. As Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), Harald’s works become digital assets that are stored via blockchain – acting as digital certificates of ownership.
Upon the launch of The Morpheus Project marketplace they can be bought and sold to provide people around the globe with access to his immersive artefacts. But thanks to this NFT format, their value is protected.
Harald says, “I was first introduced the platform and the technology by CEO of The Morpheus Project, Dr Sirisilp Kongsilp. I see their platform and the Holo-NFT format as an opportunity to spread digital culture in an easy way.
“One of the most appealing things about the technology is that the Desktop AR format is so accessible. Good VR headsets are not yet so common in living rooms because of the high cost. With holographic display, there is an opportunity to view 3D models even more immersively. I think that a technology that brings positive features and requires little effort on the user side always has a lot of potential and I’m excited to see how The Morpheus Project grows over time.”