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Rapid Capture Composited Imagery and the Use of the XYZ Table

By Jon Barrett, Carl Bobrow, Ben Sullivan, Jim Walker, National Air and Space Museum on Wed, 06/04/2014 - 10:40

Over the past year the Collections Department of the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) has been developing a multi-image compositing technique, colloquially know as Rapid Capture Composited Imagery (RCCI). This process was developed in order to achieve high resolution photography of large, two dimensional and of nearly single-plane 3-D objects by utilizing off-the-shelf technology and equipment in a quick and efficient manner. In doing so we have established that images need to be captured in an orderly, symmetrical manner to have the most consistent and effective compositing, thereby producing a useful end product.  From these largely experimental efforts were we developed a “test rig” to prove the efficacy of this technique. Subsequently, with the assistance of the Digitization Program Office, we were able to build a stable photographic XYZ axis frame to replicate the process regardless of the locality of use or the end user.  Our positive results have convinced us that the technique can be widely used by other Smithsonian units. It is anticipated that the platform will assist photographers to achieve consistent, high resolution photography of large two dimensional and shallow 3-D objects with greater efficiency and quality.


Rapid capture digitization using composited imagery can benefit greatly from photographic equipment that achieves several important criteria:

  • Minimal object handling
  • Solid camera support
  • Easy operation to expedite capture of the sequence of images that form the composited final image
  • Standard off-the-shelf cameras and software

The design meets the most basic criteria above and offers additional benefits:

  • Low cost, modular construction components
  • Components selected “off the shelf” so no additional cutting or customization is required—simple assembly using only a few basic tools.
  • Compact footprint of 8’ x  6’ with a working footprint of 16’ x 6’
  • Full imaging coverage of a standard 4’ x 8’ XY surface with easy adjustment of all three axes; camera focal distances from 6” to 6’ 9”; all axes include measurement indicators for consistent and repeatable results; simple manual operation by a single user.