Q&A for Session for OBJ vs. GIF: An Comparative Analysis of Expense and Accessibility

3D digitization involves the creation of digital surrogates of museum objects. The use of 3D modelling technology in cultural heritage institutions has rapidly increased over the past twenty years. While light-dependent imaging techniques, including photogrammetry, laser triangulation, LiDAR, and range scanning, have proliferated in the museum, more questions remain about long-term model, metadata, and overall file standards. The files produced from these methods, often OBJ, PLY, and STL files, given their long-lasting usage, offer a comparative focus for analyzing the expertise and expense needed to create and share these files, which may put the technology out of reach of small to middle-size cultural heritage institutions and may prohibit non-research parties from accessing these file types. In order to combat these issues, until these 3D file types become more accessible and standardized along with their methods, the author recommends the creation of 360 degree GIF files as an inexpensive, accessible, and effective alternative for cultural heritage digitization.


Unknown Speaker 00:00
Hello, welcome to OBJ vs GIF. I am David Nunez. I used to heat him pronouns. I have a short darker beard with a little bit of gray mixed in. I work classes and I have a headset on. I'm wearing a great cotton t shirts and I'm sitting in front of a virtual background that is a solid purple color. I am here as a board member of MC n and to welcome you to the session. Please know that I and all the other board members are always willing to hear your feedback about how this conference is going for you. We went deeply for all of you to have a safe, fun and interesting experience. Welcome. MC n is a nonprofit volunteer run professional organization committed to growing the digital capacity of museum professionals. MC n has developed a deep active community engaged in year round conversations, webinars and resource sharing. As an MC m member, you can join special interest groups participate in our mentorship program and shape MC ns future and leadership roles as co chairs, conference chairs and with time on the MC n board. If you're not already a member, we hope you will join us learn more at mc n.edu. I'd also like to thank Microsoft registration Assistance Fund sponsor, axial Ignite sponsor and all the other sponsors listed on the program schedule for helping making this conference possible. This session is a presenter q&a in conversation, we encourage all of you to turn on your cameras. I hope you're able to watch Emma's presentation ahead of time but also please post the link in the chat box. We are using the chat box for questions. Please post your name in there and you will be called on to ask your question. But if you if you would prefer not to ask your question out loud, feel free to type it into the chat box and I'll do my best to try to read it on your behalf. Once again the session is OBJ versus GIF. And now I'll turn it over to MSC slick from Ball State University.

Unknown Speaker 01:37
Thank you David. I really appreciate it. Hello everyone. My name is MSC slick. I'm a student at Ball State University studying public history and anthropology. And this research session highlights my research conducted as a Digital Research intern at the Dr. Samuel D. Harris Museum of dentistry this past summer, I was very eager to highlight a do alternative GIF digitization methodology that it promotes accessibility and ease of time and commitment for institutions that are smaller to medium size that may not have the resources to allocate to larger expensive scale digitization strategies. The presentation highlighted how GIF file types are an inexpensive, effective and less time consuming and experience consuming methodologies for producing digital object Collections Online and encourage the use of gift files until an alternative can being produced for 3d object digitization methodologies in different types of glam institutions. I look forward to hearing your questions and in starting off the session, I wanted to highlight the first poll that we have. For those who are tuning into the session. This poll highlights the different inhibitors for creating 3d object related content. The question asks, What is the biggest inhibitor of creating more object related content in your institution? One time, too expensive equipment, three expensive training or four other. And while you're filling out that poll, I also wanted to mimic David's example, I am a white woman with dark brown hair wearing thin rimmed glasses and a black and white checkered blouse in front of a white background. It looks like for those that have responded to the poll time is one of the most in biggest inhibitors in terms of creating more 3d content. This is what we saw throughout the presentation. research that I conducted especially because time with mesh lab editing and cleaning up was the most stringent and, and biggest commitment for a lot of people in institutions, even in an expense and expensive training for equipment. time can be something that is a big inhibitor for people producing more digital items. Moving on to this next session, please feel free to put your questions in the chat. And I'll see if there are any other questions to get the conversation going.

Unknown Speaker 04:17
So I'll come back with a question.

Unknown Speaker 04:19

Unknown Speaker 04:20
So my stereotype of gifts are looping animations like Twitter means. And one thing you mentioned in your talk was OBJ players give you the ability to like zoom in and zoom out and flip optics around is that interactive space well explored for gifts.

Unknown Speaker 04:37
That was the interesting part of the research for the presentation is it really has not been explored as much giffy and different file program creation software's that are often free and accessible for browsers and download on computers offer that so you can not only embed content, but you can also stop frames. So if you're taking videos or specific, like pictures of different angles, Or even zooming in and out, it would allow you then once you produce the final gift to do that zoom in and out and interactivity, but it is still to be explored. One of the favorite parts of my, my presentation was there is a archaeological website entrepreneur that uses gift files to embed spectral data. So they embed X ray data from paintings and other objects so that they can include information about how conservation processes take effect. So I'm hoping to continue that in the future. It's not as much unexplored area. But GIF files are more of the less space and less storage area versus 3d models, which take up a lot of space and usually require embedded viewers.

Unknown Speaker 05:43
Thank you. So we do have a couple comments and questions in the chat box. Joe Hobson was asking if people could provide links to 3d GIFs preferably published by museums and the top box, or if Emma, you had some that we could go look for, please do call them out. And then Carla Schroer wanting to make a comment about file formats versus technologies?

Unknown Speaker 06:07
Most definitely.

Unknown Speaker 06:10
So hi, I'm Carla. I actually teach photogrammetry for people that work in museums. Yeah, and cultural heritage writ large. So archaeologists and libraries, and historic sites, and so forth. And I've been working in the digital imaging field for 20 years, our, our nonprofit cultural heritage imaging is a major player in the space. So I watched the video I ran I was about, I didn't quite have the three minutes to finish it right before this comes way through it. And I think I guess from my perspective, I found it a little bit odd to focus on file formats rather than technology, because in my mind, what you're comparing is 3d, let's say photogrammetry, which was the year focus photogrammetry, to produce a geometry, which is measurable, versus what historically, we've called object movies, or essentially stitched images that have no actual geometry, there's no positions in space. And there's no measurability. And so both of those have a place they're both can be really useful. And I think you made that case really well in your talk, that they have these different attributes. And they have different amounts of time involved. But in my mind, you're comparing technologies, not file formats, because how you collect the images is very different, depending on whether you're going to do a for metric approach, or you're going to do what you're calling a gift. But really, I mean, object movies have been around for for before that, and Adobe had a format in the space that they that they not Adobe, Apple had a format in this space that they walked away from and left a lot of people in the lurch, leaving a lot of people a bad taste about that data. But my point being that you're really talking about two technological approaches that and you laid out some of the pros and cons, I think in terms of the GIF approach, or the what I'm calling object movie approach or stitched image approach, you didn't include the con that you don't have measurable data, and you don't actually have geometry. So if you just want to show something in the round, it's fantastic. If you need geometry, you need an approach that will give you geometry. Um, and I'll just make one other comment, and then shut up because it's your presentation. But you have said here, and you said in the talk that doing theat photogrammetry requires mesh cleaning, and all this if you shoot your images correctly, you don't need to do that you get data from your images. So proper image collection will give you data that doesn't require as much editing. And like, I mean, we use mesh lab occasionally. But most of our projects, we would just be putting together photogrammetric software without going into like a mesh cleaning plan tool. And all.

Unknown Speaker 09:03
I really appreciate it and that I'm glad that you pointed that out because I in in the research that I presented, I actually wrote a paper on it. And that was one thing that I didn't have a chance to highlight in my presentation was that one downside One of the disadvantages is that a lot of 3d digitization methods provide measurable data, and they have a better concept like conceptualization of the 3d space. that's essential to how cultural heritage professionals work with objects. One of the wonderful examples was the use of 3d object digitization models to measure historic violins that were often damaged by the use of calipers because they were often in contact, and I really appreciate you highlighting it. That was one one disadvantage for the use of gift files and object movies. In that sense. One of the other things with comparing file types versus technology methods was when I went to conduct the research and looked at the literature Not being able to conduct as much in person. As part of the research, there was a lot more research and literature based and file formats as opposed to technology processes. And I worked with photogrammetry over the past summer to digitize Peruvian pots. And while we ran into time as well, there wasn't as comparable a methodology that was in place, like you mentioned, David, for gift file and object movement movies created. So I appreciate you highlighting that that was one that was one thing I was hoping to expand on in the future was focusing more on the technology pipeline for us using gift files and object movies, and focusing on the technology rather than file formats. But in the presentation, the OBJ versus gifts seems like one of the more logical comparison points to to branch off of. But I really appreciate you highlighting that.

Unknown Speaker 10:52
And like you mentioned the paper, is there a link that we could find that if I respect to Google?

Unknown Speaker 10:57
Yes, the paper actually is currently under review by studies and digital heritage. So it did, I would love to share it at this point. But it's currently under review for moving forward. And it does focus more on the technology aspect, as opposed to the file format. So for this presentation, I did the OBJ versus gift, but I'm hoping with the paper moving forward, it focuses more on the technology process.

Unknown Speaker 11:24
Any questions, please drop them in the chat box. If not, I'll continue with my list of ringers. So I was one of your slides talked a little bit about moving forward and especially during the COVID pandemic. In right now many museums are exploring digitizing entire galleries as a way to offer sort of a virtual sort of gallery experience could give you an effective way to do that. Do you think

Unknown Speaker 11:50
that's an interesting point to bring up I work as the collections assistant at the David owlsley Museum of Art on my University's campus. And this is one thing that they've done is they 3d digitize the gallery space. I don't necessarily know if gifts because they don't capture object geometry in space geometry would be as effective the method to capture galleries, but I think it would definitely be effective to explore. I think that for a lot of that's what I was hoping with gift files and object movement movies was for a lot of collections. photogrammetry is a wonderful method. But for museums that don't necessarily have the technology or expertise to undertake full collection photogrammetry scanning, it might be best to move into gifts as a as an alternative. But I think that's a wonderful idea to explore in the future moving forward.

Unknown Speaker 12:40
Do you have a question from Drew robarge? Could one downscale and it will be j to a gift or a panoramic view?

Unknown Speaker 12:48
That's a really good question. With the object geometry in each of the files, it does does show that a lot of different collection management software's are using GIF files, it appears that with OBJ, you can downsize, downsize it to the specific photographs and object geometry that are present. So I've did that in my past work with photogrammetry took 3d digitized Peruvian pots and turned them into JPEG images that then I could alter in Photoshop. So I believe it is possible if you convert it first and taking down those images and a still image and then convert it into a gift file or if you're taking still images of alternating the 3d object model, and then using that to create a full 360 degree image that can be used for flipbooks like GIF files. So that's a wonderful question. And something that would be very interesting, especially for museums so that they can input them within collections management software systems.

Unknown Speaker 13:48
To follow up, you many times throughout your presentation, you talked about the hundreds of different kinds of file formats that in particular 3d Technologies tend to use. Are there's are there's similar versioning questions around gifts in particular, or I guess I'm really, really going with the question is are what are the long term sort of digital preservation implications of choosing a GIF format versus maybe an OBJ format?

Unknown Speaker 14:16
I really appreciate you asking that. And one thing I wanted to highlight with my presentation, and actually why I focused on file formats, is one of the downsides with 3d object digitization, which a lot of European consortiums are working to also to alter for the future is that a lot of 3d object files aren't standardized. So the problem moving forward is OBJ files. A good number of the field have invested in the file format, so it likely will be it will have a longevity into the future. But GIF files, like you had pointed out have existed since the 1970s. Even object movies have existed before that in the basis of creating a movie itself with a flipbook concept. So using the GIF file format would definitely We'd be a method that ensures longevity of collection digitized models, and can also be used moving forward and embedding within collection software, especially using embarc. And an outlook and different omeka software's that can be used and easily shared within those files, because they're very small, similar to JPEG files, but they also have the accuracy of TIFF files. So they're combining those two things that are very important to cultural heritage fields.

Unknown Speaker 15:30
Tonight, jump in on the archiving question, because our organization is working. This is a huge effort for us. So we do photography based imaging, including reflectance transformation, imaging, multispectral, photogrammetry. And one of the reasons we've chosen that is because we think it's the easiest to archive. And from our perspective, the image set is the archive. So if you're doing photogrammetry, the OBJ file, appeal, the WAV file, whatever that is, that's current presentation layer that is not the archive, the archive is an image stuff that you collected, and metadata to go with it. And metadata is key. So we're working on open source tools called the digital lab notebook to collect and manage metadata to go with your image based stuff. We have some archival submission tools, we have an NIH grant, it's all open source. So we'll be we have a beta tools out now we'll be releasing more in that space. But the point being that the 3d model is not the archive, the original input data, which is the images as the archive. And so from that perspective, if you need measurable data photogrammetric image sets are going to give you that

Unknown Speaker 16:37
most definitely I really appreciate you saying that. And photogrammetry in the project when I was doing research into different 3d digitization methodologies, photogrammetry was way up there because it was one of the most effective, the easiest to implement, and also for taking those wonderful photographs, one of the best ones that you could transfer from taking direct photographs to having a 3d model product. So I really appreciate you saying that.

Unknown Speaker 17:03
Emma, we have another question in the chat.

Unknown Speaker 17:05

Unknown Speaker 17:06
Also from another Hemet Emma Schaefer, does altering a cultural heritage object into a digital object with a gift for animation run into any problems with artists attribution, that being the original artist of the physical object, the technology that provides the platform for a GIF, or animated file, or the person behind the screen?

Unknown Speaker 17:25
That is a wonderful question. I really appreciate you asking that. And one of the interesting questions that's moving forward with 3d digitization is wondering for people that and it takes wonderful skill and immense skill to work from taking an object using photogrammetry to create a 3d model that people can engage with online, which is really exciting. Moving forward, one of the interesting questions is what is the difference between the cultural and artistic license of the actual object itself, moving into being able to recreate that object in 3d space, which requires its own level of artistry, creativity, ingenuity, and, and skill? So it's an interesting question to consider moving forward in the cultural heritage field with wonderful practitioners, like Carlos Schroer, I hope I'm pronouncing it Okay, that is doing wonderful work in the field, and involves a great deal of skill that should be recognized and celebrated in the final product that's moving towards the audience, Museum, museum visitor or the scholar that's using the end product. I really appreciate you asking.

Unknown Speaker 18:36
You mentioned one of the limitations of gifts might be the color space that it can support or cannot support. But they do offer transparency. Could you just talk a little bit more about that? And what are ways to mitigate for any potential loss of data?

Unknown Speaker 18:51
That's a wonderful question. Yes. One of the interesting things with GIF files is in comparison to photogrammetry, which is wonderful in recreating object texture and the geometry. Give files run into they only have 256 colors that they can use within their spectrum. One of the the questions moving forward is figuring out how those colors can be recreated in the space and how they can be used to mimic surface texture, which is one thing that gifts cannot recreate as in comparison to photogrammetry. So moving forward, it would be interesting to look at how that can be embedded as well as in moving to an archival document in the future. Something that wouldn't have all of those geometric spaces. How GIF files can be used to create an archival quality that has the transparency but also has the color accuracy that would be needed up to up to snuff for use in object collections for

Unknown Speaker 19:44

Unknown Speaker 19:52
Please do Here we go. So from Drew robarge to get files have the ability to embed alt text for example. ability?

Unknown Speaker 20:00
That's a wonderful question. That's what I'm currently hoping to explore. Because one of one of the things that I do love about 3d, I do love 3d object digitization is that a lot of different file formats, especially the example I highlighted in the presentation with the chess pieces from the British Museum was the ability to embed catalog and curation content into the 3d model. I give files are working towards that they are able to embed written text within the different files, especially using giffy and some other software's that are available. But that's what I'm definitely hoping to explore in the future. Hopefully, that text can be recognized by an all text reading program. But it hasn't thoroughly been explored for how that can be used to increase accessibility for people who are using it an online collection database formats, but a wonderful question moving forward.

Unknown Speaker 20:55
have just a few minutes left, I'm curious. There's I'm sure there are people on this call who are considering doing this kind of activity in their, their small museums, maybe without a lot of resources. What are some of the practical kind of first steps somebody could take to to experiment with creating gifts for for this kind of purpose?

Unknown Speaker 21:15
That's a wonderful question. That's what I was hoping moving forward is for somebody who's eager to engage in GIF files, they can either use a telephone which a lot of 3d, softwares, and even photogrammetry are utilizing now with mobile devices, as well as DSLR cameras, including Nikon or Canon. Using that files, they can work to either create object videos that are surrounding the object moving in different angles and lighting that somebody who's viewing it behind a display case made of glass might not be able to gain the full 360 degree experience. So experimenting with the best setting and lighting that you have accessible in your institution. And then taking those different images or the video around the object that can then be embedded into the GIF creation software and produce this GIF file that can be embedded in the collection software. So moving forward in similar in the same pipeline pipeline is photogrammetry. And taking different images at different altitudes at different angles, and figuring out the best way that those can be integrated together to similar to an object flipbook or a movie. So moving forward, just working on that experimenting step, knowing what resources are available. And it's such an accessible technology for many people that use them, like you mentioned, for beam gifts or gifts that they can share on their phone, that people that are in institutions can actually move forward with sharing them on telephones. So one thing I was hoping is, like a lot of different institutions are using 3d models for visitors to to zoom in and out to flip around to turn an object virtually on its head. But with gift files, you can easily embed QR codes throughout institutions so that people can scan and take those with them. So that might be an exciting way moving forward, that institutions can engage with visitors and can also start undertaking that process.

Unknown Speaker 23:04
And I just wanted to check. I know you had a couple other polls you wanted to know, before we do that, let's clear the question from Steve Brady. What is the practical difference in quality between using the best mobile devices, phones, and DIY versus traditional DSLR and contractors? For smaller, especially for smaller museums or less resource institutions to accomplish this?

Unknown Speaker 23:24
That's a wonderful question. And that's what I was hoping to highlight. Just like photogrammetry was some research in the literature that documents the use of mobile devices. mobile devices are geared for the creation of gifts, a lot of them are pulling either from the internet or you're just taking movies with your phone. So one of the beauties that I love of GIF files is that you can actually just open your camera on your phone, move around your object and create that object movie or create the stills that are used to create that flipbook. You can also use that with a DSLR camera that will probably capture a better color and surface color that you're you're attaining because of the level of accuracy with that technology, but not necessarily. So especially for smaller to medium sized institutions, gifts may be an excellent option because they can be downloaded using that app, or it can be used with a browser on your on your phone that can be uploaded. So I would say that gift files using your telephone as the the data extraction method may not have as as accurate or as color specific a an outcome or a product, but it will definitely provide a product that can be then used moving forward.

Unknown Speaker 24:33
If I can jump in on that this is this is part of the differences that we were talking about before to, from our perspective, while you can do photogrammetry with a phone, you will will not get the kind of geometric precision that you will get if you use a DSLR locked down properly managing everything. So again, it goes everything's about fit for purpose, right if you want to just have something on the web that people can spin around and look at, even if you're a business Hi museum that could this can be a really quick and dirty way to get some of that kind of content out there. If you really need high precision geometry of a subject, then you're going to need to be able to not just take the pictures but carefully manage how you take those pictures in order to get the precision that you need. But properly done. photogrammetry can have very high precisions way sub millimeter, we repeatedly get measurable data down to a 10th of a millimeter. So again, it depends on your goal and the certain you know the project and costs, all the trade offs that you need that you need to make.

Unknown Speaker 25:35
I really appreciate I'm so your your interjections have been wonderful for the presentation.

Unknown Speaker 25:39
I really appreciate it.

Unknown Speaker 25:41
And it's definitely brought a wonderful perspective to photogrammetry.

Unknown Speaker 25:44
So I'm so glad you could be here.

Unknown Speaker 25:46
And that's actually what I was hoping. And with our last poll moving forward, I know we only have a couple more minutes. I was hoping if we could bring up the poll focused on what you're going to take away from the session moving forward. Yes, so after watching the session, and I know that everyone is at a different place where they are in terms of their presentation, or what technology they're currently using. So I'm just curious, after watching my presentation, will you investigate the use of GIF files for your collection? One? Yes, two, maybe three? Totally. Okay, probably not.

Unknown Speaker 26:20
Or for No.

Unknown Speaker 26:31
Wonder wonderful. That's so exciting. So it looks like we're about half and half with Yes. And maybe I really appreciate it. It's a new preliminary field to study the use of gift files within cultural heritage and, and with everything that's wonderful happening with photogrammetry, it will definitely have hard competition to beat for the wonderful, the wonderful work happening with photogrammetry. But I'm excited to continue the research moving moving forward, and seeing what can be done.

Unknown Speaker 26:59
So if there are no further questions I do, I do want to call out a couple of really positive comments from Anca in the chatbox definitely should read that Emma. It's like it's a compliment to so and I want to just thank you for your your time and wisdom today. I thought it was a really great presentation. And also thank the audience for your participation and interest.

Unknown Speaker 27:21
I really appreciate it. And moving forward, please all I'll make sure to to keep moving forward with that paper. But I'm also really excited to move forward with the suggestion about all texts and accessibility. I think that it'll be interesting to see what can be done in the future with gift files. But also moving forward where work with gift files won't be as unnecessary as moving forward with 3d models that become more accurate every single day and and we're accessible with wonderful different technologies and and different opportunities and trainings that are becoming available for cultural heritage professionals. So I really appreciate everyone that tuned in and the wonderful wisdom that that helps with my presentation. I really appreciate it.