An immersive 3D experience by Dassault Systemes

Using 3D audiovisuals in interpretation

Simon Stephens, 15.08.2013
This technology can create new experiences for visitors and has research potential
Until fairly recently, most people probably associated 3D technology with cinematic blockbusters.

While 3D continues to play a role in the film industry, in recent years the use of the technology has expanded to include other areas such as television and the internet.

But the future of 3D on the big and small screen is far from clear. The BBC recently announced that it was to suspend its 3D programming for an indefinite period due to a “lack of public appetite” for the technology.

And last year a survey by consumer research firm Mintel found that only a fifth of cinema-goers thought that 3D films were worth the higher ticket prices. Only three in 10 cinema-goers said that 3D films really improved their viewing experience.


Despite this uncertainty, some museums are started to use 3D audiovisuals in their interpretation – although cost is a barrier for many.

French-based 3D design specialist Dassault Systemes has worked in partnership with the Carnavalet Museum in Paris to create Paris: the Great Saga, an interactive 3D tour of the city through the ages.

This ambitious project took more than two years to complete and the result can be experienced on a range of platforms, from an iPad or smartphone to a desktop computer.

The tour was recently exhibited at the Notre Dame cathedral, while a public event run with the Carnavalet Museum in Paris featured a 180-degree projection on nine screens.

Dassault Systemes has also worked with the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston to develop a 3D recreation of the pyramids at Giza.

The Giza 3D website allows users to roam through the Necropolis, visit restored tombs, shafts, and connected burial chambers and enter some of the site’s ancient temples. Users can browse contemporary and ancient pictures and view 30 objects reconstructed in 3D.

Giza 3D is aimed at the general public as well as academics who can use it for teaching and research. Dassault Systemes says it could also be used by museums in exhibitions.

These Dassault projects show the potential of 3D technology for research and also to create new experiences for the public.

In the UK, the Royal Armouries developed a 3D film as part of its 2008-09 Henry VIII: Dressed to Kill exhibition. And the Vindolanda Trust has a 3D film at its Roman Army Museum.

There are also more specialist applications. Nottingham Trent University has developed a virtual tour for the Galleries of Justice Museum that uses 3D gaming technologies. The system is designed to allow mobility-impaired visitors to guide themselves on a real-time tour of the lower levels of the jail.

Challenges and benefits

Obviously there are some challenges with developing 3D audiovisuals for museum exhibitions. The technology and expertise are relatively costly. And giving visitors 3D glasses can create problems.

But 3D audiovisual interpretation can make a museum visit exciting and engaging.

The new visitor centre that the National Trust for Scotland is developing at Bannockburn is going to use 3D technology in a big way. This is the site where in 1314 Robert Bruce and his men fought the English army led by King Edward II. The idea is that 3D technology will allow visitors to experience medieval combat.

The new centre is opening in March 2014 and the 3D research, development and realisation is being delivered by the Centre for Digital Documentation and Visualisation, a partnership between Historic Scotland and the Glasgow School of Art.

Bannockburn might provide a new benchmark in 3D interpretation that other museum and heritage sites could learn from.