Capturing Volterra’s 3000-year History

by | May 26, 2017 | Autodesk | 0 comments

Located on a hilltop in Tuscany, the city of Volterra is an archeological treasure, even by Italian standards. Its recorded history dates back almost 3000 years, when Etruscan craftsman used locally-mined alabaster to carve funerary urns and sarcophagi. It is one of the few cities that still has significant structures from the Etruscan, Roman, and Medieval periods. The Etruscan walls that originally surrounded the town were largely rebuilt or replaced in the Medieval period, but one of the Etruscan gates is still completely intact, and is one of only two such structures in Italy. Other important archaeological and historical sites include remains of a Roman amphitheater and baths, as well as many fine medieval structures such as the town square, city hall, and baptistery. To scan and capture this important site was an important step for the residents of Volterra and others invested in its historic preservation.

Drone Photo of Volterra province from above, overlooking town square - Autodesk ReCap

Technological Innovation Accelerates Historic Preservation

In October 2016, an international team of architects, engineers, historians, and students participated in a two-week project to digitally capture key sites in Volterra, as well as the walled-in portion of the city itself. Led by Autodesk, Case Technologies, and the Volterra-Detroit Foundation, the group used Faro laser scanners and camera-mounted 3DR drones to capture the sites.

This reality-captured data was then processed in ReCap, using its photogrammetry and laser scanning technology to create 3D point clouds that very accurately represent the sites. The point cloud models were combined with GIS data of the surrounding topography and roads to create 3D models of the sites presented in the context of the surrounding city and landscape.

With Building Information Modeling (BIM), they were able to create detailed 3D models complete with architectural features of these historic buildings. The team imported some of the point cloud models into Revit, and used that data as a backdrop for their modeling efforts. The result model can be used by the City of Volterra and the Volterra-Detroit Foundation for maintenance and future restoration projects.

The last phase of the project included the use of high-resolution digital cameras to capture some of the city’s important architectural features, as well as the ancient artwork and sculptures in its museums. The team used ReCap and ReMake to turn these images into high-definition 3D meshes and point cloud models. These models will be used to create virtual online exhibits and can even 3D printed to make replicas for research and conservation.

This reality capture effort was also important for the residents of Volterra, who are working to have the city become a UNESCO world heritage site. The 3D models and virtual exhibit could be used to support this effort and the UNESCO application process.

Footage of 3D models of the historic site, created from drone photography in Autodesk ReCap.

Footage of 3D model from drone photography of Volterra for historic preservation, made with Autodesk ReCap Pro

All video footage Courtesy of Autodesk, Inc. and Volterra-Detroit Foundation.

By Esther Dsouza

In addition to personnel from Autodesk, Case Technologies, and Volterra-Detroit Foundation, the project team included individuals from Civil and Environmental Consultants, Paul F. Aubin Consulting Services, The Beck Group, and CanFly Drones.