4.2 Real-time 3D vector documentation

Figure 6: (VIDEO) Conceptual illustration of the documentation of an archaeological excavation; real-time 3D vector data acquisition using for example optical ranging with total station or point tracking by radio waves through RF positioning systems. Illustration based on data from the Alken Enge excavation (Holst et al. in press)

Some noteworthy research has gone into retaining the characteristics of a hand drawing by means of real-time 3D vector documentation, perhaps primarily as a response to the overemphasis on photographic representations and the supposed lack of interpretation or the notion of absolute objectivity (Figure 6). This has the clear advantage of being more or less directly comparable to historic documentation – the line drawing being a well-known concept. A few commercial products have emerged, such as the Digital Laser Pantograph by ArcTron Ltd, Termite for Rhino3D and Nikon iSpace (Schaich 2010; Hyttel 2012; Avern and Franssens 2012). Although their technological approaches are different, combining mechanical and optical techniques, the outcome is basically a conversion of consecutive 3D measurements of the positioning of a probe or a 'pencil' in 3D space into 3D polylines real-time, instantly resulting in a visualisation on a connected laptop computer or tablet, which is not that different from DGPS. Although the notion of supporting the reflexive and interpretative incentive is sound, and it works really well on flat surfaces and walls, it is not an all-round solution. Most 3D objects, such as standing structures, especially if they are not rectangular, are very difficult to translate into a 3D vector without subjecting some kind of projected view, which unfortunately brings us straight back to the projected 2D drawing. It does have the advantage of interfacing directly with GIS or CAD, and is born digital and integrated, and from a data collecting and documentation point of view – more data are usually better. In this case, however, there are challenges in using these methods for recording interpretations as well as observations.


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