Visualisation for Heritage

RETOLD, a Creative Europe funded heritage preservation and storytelling project, was one of our first projects as XYZ Technical Art Services.

Over three years, we have conducted user research with museums, given workshops and created 3D models, hours of renders and film – and later in 2024, the outcome of the RETOLD project, a 3D documentation app for museums, will launch!

So why is XYZ Technical Art Services working with museums – and what does it all have to do with virtual production?

Photogrammetry created by project partner Stadtmuseum Berlin and HTW Berlin. We built an environment in Unreal Engine around it to block out immersive scenes.

As storytellers, we were fascinated by the dedication of museum professionals to the tangible heritage of buildings, archaeological finds and historical objects. But we also found that these objects, digitally documented or not, were literally only half the story.

Especially the Open Air museums taking part in the project had a lot of experience of telling stories: Through craft demonstrations and Living History events, documentation and scientific experiments, their staff and volunteers were making sense of the past for their diverse audiences in a tangible and aesthetically exciting way.

Staff and volunteers demonstrating mediaeval crafts at Middelaldercentret, DK.

When EXARC wrote the funding application for this €366k project, we were approached as partners, because the project was not just about digital preservation, but also about making 3D technology and storytelling accessible to museums.

We’ve worked in a highly interdisciplinary team with archaeologists, data scientists, humanities experts, museum administrators and software developers to create a documentation and data capture tool specifically for open-air museums. This tool needed 3D models of museums buildings as input – sometimes previz-like grey boxes, and sometimes more detailed photogrammetry models.

Museum curators from the RETOLD project testing the project's documentation app.

In workshops with the museum partners, we explored photogrammetry, a 3D creation techniques common in virtual production, to help museums develop their own datasets.

Towards the end of the project, we worked on a tutorial series outlining different storytelling techniques utilising the 3D models – simple set-ups like Sketchfab Tours on the one hand, and more immersive environments and cinematics in Unreal Engine.

With museums eager to gain insight into 3D visualisation methods, the RETOLD project has been a unique opportunity to explore the potential of virtual production methodologies in cultural and heritage storytelling.

Working on an educational storytelling project?