ReMaking the way we preserve history

(From left) Autodesk engineers Mr Karthik; Michael Tay, 26; and Koh Naimin, 26. The team, working with the National Heritage Board, has visited Haw Par Villa repeatedly to photograph the Garuda sculpture using the new 3D-modelling software ReMake.
(From left) Autodesk engineers Mr Karthik; Michael Tay, 26; and Koh Naimin, 26. The team, working with the National Heritage Board, has visited Haw Par Villa repeatedly to photograph the Garuda sculpture using the new 3D-modelling software ReMake.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

3D technology is set to change the way people live, and a new software that was developed here promises to make it accessible to most people. Audrey Tan looks at how this software is making its mark vividly at home and abroad.

Mr Karthik Nathan, 33, lives near Haw Par Villa. But instead of being turned off by sculptures depicting gruesome punishments such as decapitation, he found their colours and intricate detail enthralling.

It led the engineer to visit the historical attraction in Pasir Panjang on a weekend last year to take photos of the sculptures.

Among the artefacts he photographed was the Garuda, a humanoid bird that sits atop a hill in the park, next to a pond. He took about 160 shots of it.

Mr Karthik is part of a team at technology firm Autodesk Singapore, and his photos were used to test a new 3D-modelling software called ReMake that will be launched later this month.

After discussions with the National Heritage Board (NHB) to use the Garuda as a trial to see how technology can be used in heritage conservation, the Autodesk team visited Haw Par Villa repeatedly for six months starting late last year to photograph it. Altogether, they took more than 900 photographs of the 2.1m-tall sculpture.

Using ReMake, the Autodesk team stitched the photographs together to form a high-resolution 3D model of it.

Team leader Murali Pappoppula, 43, said an interesting point he noticed only through the 3D model and not when he was at the park was that the motifs on the statue were not symmetrical .

"Although the main sculpture of the Garuda was not symmetrical, we thought the motifs would be. But they were not, and we only noticed this because of the high-resolution 3D model," he said.

The NHB is tapping the Autodesk software to scan and develop 3D models of nine other sculptures at Haw Par Villa.

NHB assistant chief executive of policy and community Alvin Tan told The Straits Times that the board is open to working with technology partners to prototype new technologies and pioneer new applications for it in the areas of heritage documentation, preservation and presentation.

"The technology will enable NHB to build up a databank of digital objects and, using these objects as reference, to restore or reconstruct objects right down to the most minute detail," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 13, 2016, with the headline 'ReMaking the way we preserve history'. Print Edition | Subscribe