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Scanning a Mayan Figurine Whistle


Snip of Figurine orientation and settings

Mayan Figurine Whistles are often accentuated by deeply carved details - such as crevices defining limbs and headdresses - serving up quite a challenge for line-of-sight 3-D scanners like the NextEngine portable laser scanner and ScanStudio HD scanning software. This post will outline my process for scanning a figurine finial, now disconnected from its music-making part.


To begin, I oriented the artifact on the scanning bed mostly upright - held at a slight diagonal to lift up one side of the figure's feet. This allows the scanning lasers to get both the sides, the top and the bottom of the figure. This diagonal orientation can also widen otherwise tight horizontally focused carved details. The first scan family was set to Neutral and Macro on a 360 degree scan with 7 divisions, at 29K High Definition detail. By dividing this scan into seven sections, I can work to ensure any out-of-line areas will likely be scanned in the next segment (any entirely missed areas will be scanned later). The scan is set to Macro for the figurine's small size, and Neutral for is medium, matte tone. Following the first scan, I'm left with a somewhat "Swiss cheese" figurine with a missing top and bottom corner missing. For the most part, however, this first scan family provides a very nice scan of the figurine - only deep carved detail makes up its Swiss cheese surface. The gallery above depicts each of these seven states in order, from one to the next.

Next, the artifact is oriented diagonally, mirrored from the first scan; from left to right foot so to speak. The scan settings are identical to the previous scan family as it is very much the same scan. Now, however, the slightly altered orientation helps to widen areas previously missed, as well as lifting the un-scanned foot. Much of this will be overlap, but this single 360 scan will take less time to get started than multiple smaller scans pointed directly at specific holes. It also provides me with ample points for alignment (each scan family provides separate files that need to be meshed together). While this scan will likely still leave some holes in the scan, which themselves will be individually scanned and aligned.

With these two large scan families finished, I now need to find any holes in the scan and orient the figurine in such a way as to allow the scanning lasers to fully delve into the deep detail causing that hole. One such area, likely, will be the section where the figuring was attached to the whistle; this area has very deep recesses in a small, broken-edged circle. The line-of-sight constriction of NextEngine scanners makes fully scanning this impossible. Any "undercuts" inside of these circular recesses will never be scanned, even with the broken connection oriented directly in front of the scanner, which will leave the final scan with at least a few holes. These however, will need to be filled digitally using other software.

After all the scanning is finished, each family is trimmed to remove excess scanned areas (such as the scanning bed), aligned, and fused. To align all the scans together, I will place markers on various points the two scans currently being aligned. These points include areas like facial details, elbows, corners, and so on.

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