ARTstor, in partnership with the Society of Architectural Historians, is pleased to announce its sponsorship of a forthcoming Guide to Best Practice for the use of Quick Time Virtual Reality (QTVR) in documenting archaeological, architectural and other cultural heritage sites. The Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH) at the University of Virginia is coordinating the production of this much-needed guide.

Quick Time Virtual Reality (QTVR) is playing an increasingly important role documenting the history of architecture. QTVR panoramas provide the beholder with a powerful new sense of spatiality and the interconnectedness of the different parts of a building, monument or site; they hold the promise of transforming the teaching and the study of architectural history and archaeology. QTVR can potentially free teachers from their traditional dependence upon still images. It can help them to put art into its context and to take their students on surrogate tours of complex works of architecture. And yet QTVR panoramas are not easy to make in a way that ensures high quality imagery, a long “shelf life” for the QTVR as technology advances, proper attention to legal and ethical issues related to copyright and cultural patrimony, and comprehensibility and usability from the user’s point of view. In the absence of recognized standards for the creation of QTVR panoramas, what is needed is a “best practice” guide, focusing especially but not exclusively on QTVR. Such a guide will make it easier for scholars and photographers to produce 360-degree digital panoramas of sufficient quality to meet the needs of students and scholars in the field of architectural history for years to come.

The forthcoming guide will address such key topics as:

  • The history and use of panoramic photography;
  • Pre-production issues such as defining goals, selecting the site and site nodes, taking into account environmental considerations and scheduling, selecting equipment, access issues and budget;
  • Copyright and permissions;
  • Production issues such as types of digital panorama photography and structures, file formats, image capturing systems, workflow, lighting, site documentation, and short-term backup and storage;
  • Related media such as audio and video;
  • Post-production work, including stitching and rendering, data and documentation standards;
  • Viewing, publication and use, including resource delivery and user issues;
  • Storage and preservation.

Appendices will include a directory of relevant organizations, workflow diagrams, sample floor plans, checklists, guides to permissions, customs, copyright and laws in example countries, sample legal forms, workflow for image capture, pre-processing, stitching and rendering, batch scripts, metadata tables, recommended viewer platforms, browsers and viewers, case studies, glossary, bibliography and references.

The Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH) is a research unit of the University of Virginia. Its goal is to explore and develop information technology as a tool for scholarly humanities research. To that end, it provides IATH Fellows with consulting, technical support, applications development, and networked publishing facilities. IATH also cultivates partnerships and participates in humanities computing initiatives with libraries, publishers, information technology companies, scholarly organizations, and other groups residing at the intersection of computers and cultural heritage.

The Society of Architectural Historians (SAH) is an international not-for-profit membership organization that promotes the study and preservation of the built environment worldwide. The Society’s 3,500 members include architectural historians, architects, preservationists, students, professionals in allied fields and the interested public. Founded in 1940, membership in SAH is open to everyone, regardless of profession or expertise, who is interested in the study, interpretation, and protection of historically significant buildings, sites, cities and landscapes. The forthcoming Guide to Best Practices in QTVR will be widely disseminated in 2007.