Ancient Lives at the British Museum

Ancient Lives at the British Museum

AllofUs were asked to work with the British Museum to help tell the story of eight mummies via a series of linear and interactive exhibits. The mummies were scanned using CT scanners which produce thousands of 2D image slices.

Working with the Museum curators and specialist third-party software, the slices were transformed into photo-realistic volumetric models. Working with interpretation staff and curators we crafted storyboards that would take visitors on a journey through the anatomy, and contents of the eight mummies.

Full-HD renders of the volumetric models were then produced inline with the storyboards. We layered key content messages using a simple typographical treatment over the renders and added a final step of post-production using After Effects to highlight key areas and to grade the overall output.

Seven of these HD sequences were turned into interactive exhibits which allow visitors to experience the content at their own pace; slowing down, speeding up, pausing and reversing where desired. The control mechanic had to be as intuitive as possible to cater for the wide range of visitors that the British Museum attracts. We embedded capacitive touch pads under circular grooves in the bespoke information panels placed in front of each the 46" digital displays. I wrote a simple algorithm to convert circular movement around the touch surface into linear momentum in the digital content.

The software was built using openFrameworks. Each of the 7 interactives consists of around 3000 HD images. Early tests with scrubbing through video gave poor results so I developed a threaded system for buffering, loading and clearing images as a sequence. Using SSD hard drives meant that the bottleneck here was not in loading images from the hard drive but in uploading textures to the GPU. To optimise this process, I converted all images to uncompressed TGA format and used an openGL pixel buffer object to upload textures to the GPU. TGA files are larger than compressed formats like PNG or JPG but don't require an un-compression step before being sent to the graphics card. The result was super smooth animation at both high and low user input speeds.

I used a 64 bit PC version of openFrameworks (https://github.com/liquidzym/openframeworks_X64) in order to be able to exceed the 4GB RAM limit imposed on 32bit applications. I also used https://github.com/rezaali/ofxUI to develop a custom UI for tweaking parameters.

All objects and IP remain the copyright of the British Museum

Ancient Lives at the British Museum
Ancient Lives at the British Museum
Ancient Lives at the British Museum
Ancient Lives at the British Museum
Ancient Lives at the British Museum
Ancient Lives at the British Museum
Ancient Lives at the British Museum