Reimaging Past Worlds: Issues and Challenges in the Use of 3D Graphics for Historical Reconstructions

James Coltrain


3D computer rendering technology allows researchers to present their scenes with fully navigable and interactive virtual recreations of past environments. Completing an accurate and effective historical CG reconstruction is a complex process, in which researchers must carefully balance a number of important and independent factors. At the research stage, creators must determine whether the product will be directly illustrative or more broadly interpretive, and how they will evaluate evidence from sources of difference media. Once they begin designing the reconstruction, the level of visual detail that creators select is crucial. High detail projects display greater realism, but are more expensive and time consuming. Conversely lower detail scenes are better suited for multiple media formats, and are most efficient, customizable, and cost-effective. A scholar’s consideration of these issues will help determine the number of collaborators and software necessary, as well as the project’s output format. 3D computer graphics offer an unparalleled opportunity to present visions of the past to the public, but only thoughtfully planned projects will realize their full potential.

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