The International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences
Publications Copernicus
Articles | Volume XL-5/W1
13 Feb 2013
 | 13 Feb 2013


A. Merlo, C. Sánchez Belenguer, E. Vendrell Vidal, F. Fantini, and A. Aliperta

Keywords: Real-time simulations, displacement map, normal map, laser scanning, mesh processing, photogrammetry

Abstract. This paper describes two procedures used to disseminate tangible cultural heritage through real-time 3D simulations providing accurate-scientific representations. The main idea is to create simple geometries (with low-poly count) and apply two different texture maps to them: a normal map and a displacement map. There are two ways to achieve models that fit with normal or displacement maps: with the former (normal maps), the number of polygons in the reality-based model may be dramatically reduced by decimation algorithms and then normals may be calculated by rendering them to texture solutions (baking). With the latter, a LOD model is needed; its topology has to be quad-dominant for it to be converted to a good quality subdivision surface (with consistent tangency and curvature all over). The subdivision surface is constructed using methodologies for the construction of assets borrowed from character animation: these techniques have been recently implemented in many entertainment applications known as “retopology”. The normal map is used as usual, in order to shade the surface of the model in a realistic way. The displacement map is used to finish, in real-time, the flat faces of the object, by adding the geometric detail missing in the low-poly models. The accuracy of the resulting geometry is progressively refined based on the distance from the viewing point, so the result is like a continuous level of detail, the only difference being that there is no need to create different 3D models for one and the same object. All geometric detail is calculated in real-time according to the displacement map. This approach can be used in Unity, a real-time 3D engine originally designed for developing computer games. It provides a powerful rendering engine, fully integrated with a complete set of intuitive tools and rapid workflows that allow users to easily create interactive 3D contents. With the release of Unity 4.0, new rendering features have been added, including DirectX 11 support. Real-time tessellation is a technique that can be applied by using such technology. Since the displacement and the resulting geometry are calculated by the GPU, the time-based execution cost of this technique is very low.