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Heritage Acoustics and Lidar Explained

image of Heritage Acoustics and Lidar

3D technologies offer opportunities to broaden access to culture, preserve Europe’s shared cultural heritage and spur creativity and innovation. As part of the EuropeanaTech community’s new Pro series, and in support of the ‘Twin It! 3D for Europe’s culture’ campaign, Greg Markus tells us about the developments taking place in the field of 3D and heritage acoustics.

From an article in Europeana Pro by Gregory Markus.

3D visualisation and reconstruction of extinct cultural heritage sites has been a paramount topic for the Europeana Initiative and EuropeanaTech for years. Shepherded by initiatives like CARARE, 3D visualisation and experiences have gone from novel, primitive renderings or prohibitively expensive undertakings to ubiquitous, cutting edge and financially reasonable. The Europeana Initiative, together with the European Commission, is increasing focus on 3D and digital cultural heritage through the common European data space for cultural heritage and the recently launched Twin It! campaign, which will mobilise EU Member States to submit one 3D digitised heritage asset to the data space by the end of the campaign in 2024.

Now, with the visual work well underway, more and more heritage organisations are paying closer attention to the sonic characteristics of historic sites in the field of heritage acoustics. EuropeanaTech has been waving the flag for heritage acoustics for most of 2023 because we feel it’s an underrepresented field which offers undeniable interdisciplinary value for the Europeana Network Association at large. Read on to discover some examples that we hope inspire colleagues from across the network.

About heritage acoustics

A little introduction to heritage acoustics. Heritage acoustics uses different measurement techniques, in particular impulse responses, to document how sound reacts in a specific space. This can range from something as primitive as popping a balloon in a chapel and recording the reverberation reflections, to using LIDAR (a light detection technique, sometimes called laser scanning) on the rocky hills of Greece to capture the reflective contours of a long-extinct amphitheater. These techniques and everything in between provide researchers with specific sonic data that allow them to understand how sound reacts and responds in specific spaces.

This data allows researchers and developers to input a specific sound and the output would be how that sound sounds in a specific space. For instance, let’s say a piano player recorded themselves playing a piano in their living room. Using specific processing software trained by the acoustic data, the same piano player could input their home recording and the output would be how that recording would sound in a specific cathedral. Now, a caveat. This an extremely rudimentary example that omits countless variables but the principle remains the same.

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