ixtract | China's Supercave

Beneath Southern China‘s cone-shaped peaks, arches, and spires lie some of the largest caverns in the world. In 2013, a top-class team of experts set off in order to measure several giant chambers of the thitherto almost unknown network. In the course of this research project, the National Geographic Magazine now publishes an up-to-date 3D model in their print issue of their magazine as well as a facsimile animation in the corresponding iPad app. This animation demonstrates the biggest of the newly discovered chambers of the cave, which can be undergone in an interactive feature. The demonstration was implemented by Berlin-based infographic agency ixtract.

China's supercave
The worlds first insight to Miao Cave for National Geographic Magazine
Beneath Southern China‘s cone-shaped peaks, arches, and spires lie some of the largest caverns in the world. In 2013, a top-class team of experts set off in order to measure several giant chambers of the thitherto almost unknown network. In the course of this research project, the National Geographic Magazine now publishes an up-to-date 3D model in their print issue of their magazine as well as a facsimile animation in the corresponding iPad app. This animation demonstrates the biggest of the newly discovered chambers of the cave, which can be undergone in an interactive feature. The demonstration was implemented by Berlin-based infographic agency ixtract.
 
Here you will find the NGM Animationthrough the supercave online:
The final rendering of the ,Miao‘ chamber which is part of the so-called ,Gebihe cave system‘. The Miao room, with a maximum height of 109 meters and a length of ca. 852 meters, ranks as the second largest underground chamber of the world.
The measurement of these enormous chambers took place in an unprecedented detail level, which was set so high that it was possible to receive decemeter-exact results.
In order to achieve this accuracy, the chamber consists out of more than 15 million measuring points, a cutting-edge laser scanner was applied at 16 points inside of this chamber. Afterwards, the singular measuring clouds of these points were put together and allocated into one single cohesive cage.
To use this pointcloud in a common visualization software like Cinema 4D, we first had to check how much point could be tranformed into a polygon based surface, without suffering too much computing power while working on the model. So we increased the number of points step by step to get the perfect point count for further texturing and lighting.
The outer lights set was arranged after we reduced the number of points to 4 million, detailed enough for the printing issue.
The cut of the chamber was much more complicated then one would expect: the various intersections, gaps and boulders made it necessary to cut the whole model in a very special way. In the end the cut will look very straight instead!
As i mentioned the gaps above, these gaps were the reason, too, why we couldn't just generate the resulting mask with one click. We had to use three different ways of computing this cut in Cinema 4d before we were able to merge all of these trials together to generate a good resulting mask for cutting the cave.
After we recieved the rendering within 10 hours we had to compose the final print in Photoshop. Above you can see some of the mayor steps to still enlight the cave, which is much more complicated than an ordenary room with flat walls. There are so many intesecting shadows, reflections or places where you do not get enough light.
The last thing was to merge the gradient based backgound.
And here you can see the final layout which was layouted and composed by Juan Velasco from national Geographic Magazine. The whole cave is a 3-pages spread! Great!
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