John Riley
4Pi-VR Media Solutions, 2007

John Riley talked with us about how his science and multimedia creation background has led to an interesting archival project for the National Museum of Costa Rica.

"I am trained as a nuclear physicist, but my more recent interests include the creation of media and multimedia for physics education. Along with my wife, Elena Mendez, a physicist at nearby Converse College, I've also developed a research program in archaeoastronomy. We do research in Costa Rica, where my wife was born and we enjoy visiting regularly.

"My first object movies were of instruments and setups that are used in my teaching labs; I used them in the CD-based introductory physics lab manual that I wrote. I initially designed and built my own 2-axis object rigs. As I discovered their limitations, I graduated to using professional rigs from Kaidan, such as the MDT-19 and C-60. I also enjoy the process of coordinating computer control of the Kaidan object rigs and camera via scripting on my Macintosh.

"My second passion is shooting Quicktime VR panoramas, which I have used to document Guayabo National Monument in Costa Rica (the site of our research in archaeoastronomy) as well as the National Museum of Costa Rica." Read more about John's project and work process below.

Click to play Flash VR movie.

Original photo against blue screen.

Click to play Flash VR movie.

Original photo against blue screen.

Click to play Flash VR movie.

Original photo against blue screen.

John explained more about his project, and how Primate Chromakey has helped him to prepare the museum images.

"Our work in archaeoastronomy put us in contact with folks at the National Museum of Costa Rica. They helped us gain access to restricted areas in Guayabo National Monument. My work on the object movies and panoramas at the museum were partly a way of thanking them for their help and partly done out of my love for Costa Rica.

"When I first began making object movies, I tried just using a black backdrop in my object movies. I tried flattening all the black out, but lighting the background evenly enough made that a challenge. Also, any speck of dust on the background had to be edited out manually.

"More recently, I tried regular chromakeying, but getting it to work well on a batch of images was the impossible dream. An unreasonable amount of work was needed, with each image having to be edited extensively. When a single-row object movie contains 36 images (and a multi-row might contain hundreds!), this workflow just wasn't going to be feasible.

"When I downloaded Primatte, I was amazed! I was able to remove backgrounds efficiently and batch a set of images using Photoshop's actions in a batch process. Sometimes a little cleanup was needed, but nothing terribly hard. Considering that I was batching a set of images of a rotating object on a turntable covered with bluescreen material on a bluescreen background, the results were astonishingly good. The ability to eliminate spilling of reflected blue light from the background was a huge advantage of using Primatte as well.

"I feel that the end result, where you can rotate the object in front of you and it looks suspended in empty space is outstanding. The ability to add a logo or other background, which would be easy with Primatte, is something that I am sure I will use on future projects."

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