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published: March 2004
analytic scripts updated:  October 28, 2010

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0  License



QuickTime Virtual Reality Artifact Photography at the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
Victoria Portway, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, USA

Demonstration: Demonstrations - Session 2

The National Air and Space Museum is visited by over 10,000,000 people every year. Most visitors would be thrilled to have the opportunity to sit inside the cockpit of the Lockheed SR-71 "Blackbird" or Concorde, but few artifacts on display can be accessed in this manner. The Museum has endeavored to offer visitors the next best thing to sitting in the pilot's seat - QuickTime Virtual Reality (QTVR).

QuickTime Virtual Reality is a photographic technique that provides a 360 degree view of an object interior (panorama) or exterior (object model). These views are distributed as movies that can be viewed on any computer platform in free QuickTime Player software. QTVR techniques have often been used by Smithsonian and other museums to create virtual exhibition tours and rotatable views of small objects. Larger objects are typically more difficult to photograph and while many have been done, the National Air and Space Museum's project is perhaps the most extensive large-object QTVR production ever attempted.

The National Air and Space Museum's QTVR Artifact Photography project was initiated to create QTVR object models and cockpit panoramas of artifacts destined for display at the Museum's new Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. Between April and December of 2003, the National Air and Space Museum moved dozens of large aircraft and space artifacts into the new facility near Dulles International Airport. This move presented a unique opportunity to photograph large artifacts in extensive detail.

The Museum secured donated equipment from a variety of sponsors and photographic and QTVR production services were provided by Light Speed Media. Nearly 100 aircraft, spacecraft, rockets and engines were photographed using high-resolution digital photography and techniques developed specifically for large-object QTVR production. Custom equipment and newly pioneered methods were employed to rotate aircraft and spacecraft and photographically document each one inside and out.

The results were beyond expectation. Not only were beautiful QTVR views inside the Museum's most popular aircraft and spacecraft produced, but the Museum also gained a large collection of archival quality photographs usable for a variety of Museum activities, research, applications and products. The project is ongoing and fundraising continues for production of QTVR for more artifacts in the National collection, including aircraft and space artifacts at the Museum on the National Mall in Washington, DC.

This demonstration will feature some of the QTVR products the Museum has produced thus far and the various ways that the Museum intends to use QTVR for public education and outreach via the Museum's web site, visitor interactives (kiosks, handheld devices), educational activities, and other public programs. A look at the techniques used to create this unique resource and lessons learned will be shared with attendees. The goal is to share information that may be helpful to other Museums interested in using QTVR technology in their own outreach programs.