Virtual museums are popular because of the health crisis and the cultural establishments closing.
Crédits photos : Real Catcher
Created in 2020, Real Catcher is a start-up specializing in 3D scanning and the conception of 3D models. It distinguished itself with the creation of 3D environments to generate 100% virtual museums, facing the health crisis. We met the founder, Sebastien Salaun.
First, could you introduce your company?
Real Catcher was created less than a year ago. It’s therefore a “young” start-up but with solid assets: ten-year experience in 3D environments, cutting-edge tools and, of course, a strong motivation to serve new clients and increase our expertise.
In recent years, we have become specialists in 3D scanning, and today we conceive virtual environments in which we integrate all kind of elements: small or large mechanical pieces, cars, sculptures and other artworks, properties, big industrial structures, etc.
We rely on our know-how as well as on the latest generation tools (camera, 3D scan laser, drone, virtual reality headsets, 3D printers, reproduction workshops).
What innovative solutions do you work with?
First of all, the “compliance” of 3D models. When other professionals stop at very heavy 3D models resulting from digitization, we go further so that they can be exploited in real time 3D engines. This approach consists in reducing the number of polygons of the model, and thus reducing its weight, while keeping a very high level of details for a realistic rendering. This innovation ensures an exceptional quality of 3D rendering, whether on PC, smartphone, tablet, web browser… We can detail the work with a very high level of detail and realism. It is now possible to use these 3D models from scan in virtual environments.
It’s easy to understand the interest that virtual visits represent for museums: for the public, absent for 1 year, it’s a new chance to visit museums. But also for people with reduced mobility who can visit museums freely. Let’s take a concrete example: we can, on the website of a museum, integrate virtual tours (the museum): the visitor will be able to walk in different rooms of the museum, approach the artworks, see them from all angles, and discover the history of each of them by clicking on information panels, whether it is text, illustrations, music or videos.
Is it complicated to create a virtual museum?
Yes, you need to have solid skills. It’s a job that requires knowledge of many technical and artistic fields. From digitization to the design of virtual environments, you have to master a lot of technical steps to get there, as well as a lot of software, each of which has its own essential use. We work with the 3D engine Unreal Engine. The most powerful 3D engine currently available. Most commonly used for video game development, it is also used today in cinema and television events.
Where can we see what you do?
It’s easy, just go to our Real Catcher site, in the Virtual Environments section. You will be able to view and download our virtual museum. A PC version is available, which is played with a mouse and keyboard arrows, but also a VR version, with a virtual reality headset and controllers. You are then immersed in the museum and can interact with the works, manipulate them, see them move, etc. If you don’t have a computer or virtual reality equipment, you can still view and manipulate the 3D models via a simple web browser.
How did you become interested in virtual museums?
Personally, I come from the world of 3D digitization, and given all the requirements of social distancing for more than a year, the virtual and 3D have taken over and become the new technology to use, especially in museums that have so many works to show, and some of which are already digitized!
The world is changing, and so are the new technologies. We want to bring these actors of museography (but not only) in this new digital era. Culture must remain accessible to all, even if the future is rather pessimistic, tomorrow you will still be able to contemplate many things, even while staying at home.
How do you manage to have such a quality rendering of the works?
First of all we use a 3D laser scan which generates a very detailed 3D model. We also use photogrammetry, with a professional camera, or by drone, which allows us to have beautiful textures (from photos). By combining the two techniques we can recover a lot of surface information. By optimizing the mesh of the 3D models, and by exploiting this information, it is possible to have a very realistic rendering called “PBR” (Physical Based Rendering).