Monday, 27 August 2012

Fossil Digital Model Preview

The laser scanning of fossil type specimens at BGS and our partner organisations in the JISC funded project is progressing well, with some stunning results. BGS now has several hundred specimens completed, in addition to those being scanned by our partner organisations.
Michela Contessi, one of the project team, operating the NextEngine HR Laser Scanner
Whilst the formal launch of the project website, with the database and portal to all the type specimen data, images, 3D anaglyphs and 3D digital models, is still almost a year away, I thought it would be useful to make a selection of digital models available for users to download, experiment with and comment on.
Please note: All the digital models are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-non Commercial-ShareAlike license.

Instructions for downloading and viewing models

1.       The models are available for downloading from the BGS FTP server. Go to  and download as many as you like. All the models are in “.PLY” format. This format is known as the “Polygon File Format” or “Stanford Triangle Format” and is a particularly simple and space efficient way of storing 3D scanned data.

2.       Each model is numbered with its specimen registration number. To obtain the metadata for each specimen (i.e. identification, locality, age, etc), visit the BGS PalaeoSaurus database at . Enter the registration number into the appropriate box on the search form (the bottom box). Registration numbers consist of one or more letters followed by a number. DO NOT leave a space between the letters and the numbers and ensure you enter the correct case (upper or lower case - capital or small letters).

3.       I recommend either MeshLab or SpiersView for viewing the models. Both are easily available as free downloads from the web.
4.       MeshLab can be downloaded from:  . MeshLab is a particularly useful tool for viewing and improving models and changing file formats.  It can also be used to measure distances between points of the displayed meshes and to export planar sections of a mesh in SVG format. 

MeshLab screen showing GSM 49299: the ammonite Xipheroceras binodulatum from Lyme Regis, Dorset

5,      SpiersView can be downloaded from . SpiersView is particularly useful for viewing models as coloured anaglyphs, i.e. they appear in full 3D when viewed through red – cyan glasses. SpiersView needs a VAXML file for each .PLY file.
Cut and paste the following into a basic text editor:
<?xml version='1.0'?>
<title>Minimal VAXML example</title>
<name>Single Object</name>
<file>GSE  482.ply</file>

Replace the file name (in this case GSE  482.ply) with the name of the file you wish to view and save with the file name suffixed with .vaxml (eg. GSE 482.vaxml).  When running SpiersView, you should then open the .vaxml file to open the corresponding .ply file. The advanatages of vaxml are explained on the SpiersView Site.

SpiersView stereo anaglyph view  of digital model of an ammonite

Feedback on the models is welcomed and should be sent via the email link at:

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