ixtract | Titanic

In a global exclusive, ixtract developed the currently most up-to-date model of the Titanic wreck for National Geographic and © 2012 RMS Titanic, Inc.. The Titanic sunk during its maiden voyage to New York as a result of a devastating collision with an iceberg in April 1912. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the catastrophe, National Geographic is publishing an up-to-date model of the wreck. It was realized by the Berlin infographics agency ixtract, which in doing so was globally the first able to exclusively get hold of the most up-to-date images from the last underwater expedition in 2010.

Titanic
National Geographic Magazine on iPad
In a global exclusive, ixtract developed the currently most up-to-date model of the Titanic wreck for National Geographic and RMS Titanic, Inc.. National Geographic  approached us with a set of orthogonal high resolution mosaics, each of them put together from thousands of individual shots, which were produced by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), displaying the current state of the Titanic wreckage from orthogonal views. These photos where taken from the last expedition to the Titanic wreck in 2010. The assignment was to create the most accurate 3D model of the bow section. The Titanic is hidden 3800 meters under the see, in total muddy eclipse, so this was the first time to see the whole current wreckage in a 360 degree view. Alltogether we spent about 400 hours within 4 weeks to create an animated model.
© 2012 RMS Titanic, Inc.; Produced by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Modeling by ixtract GmbH
As the final result, the client received a full 360º turn table sequence in 3 camera levels. The final application can be fully viewed in this video:
 
Anatomy Research
Camera distortion and possible human error made it hard to judge, if the three provided 127 megapixel mosaiks - wich where combined from 1500 single images each -  (top view, right and left side view) were accurate. With the goal to make a very precise duplicate in 3D, we acquired more references as blueprints and schematics to create original cross sections as guideline.
Based on thousands of individual pictures and a tremendous complex documentation by our own researchers we mapped hundreds of views collected in former expeditions to our basic mosaiks. This way it was possible for us to better understand the flat imagery and to clearify important details or spatial arrangements of the destruction.
Geometry
We could have tried building the decks destroyed from the clients reference material, but since we had doubts in the accuracy of it - as these where still mosaics from thousands of individual shots - the decision was made to build a clean and non destroyed basic model first, still trying to understand the geometry properly.
 
Distortion
Armed with a sledge hammer and confirmation on the reference material, it was time to put in some holes, starting out with areas of larger damage, such as the iceberg hole on the starboard and the back end folds.
Details
The accident itself, tremendous amounts of pressure at more than 3.700 m, corrosion but also bacteria have harmed the leftovers over the decades. Taking that into consideration, the process of destruction was further continued on the decks.
 
With windows and doors, first details were added to the ship hull itself as we decided to cut these elements directly into the hull while displaying other details later on just by textures.
Through aditional sonar scans we got at the end of the project, it was possible to identify the true height of the second chimney area, allowing adjustments to be made to the previous flat area.
It was not clear, what the back of the wreckage looked like, since the photo material wasn't at hand, when the project started. When we got access to the photos we constructed it as shown on the footage.
During the process, continuous feedback and material was provided by the client, leading to new discoveries for us. Not noticeable on the high resolution photos, but through schematics, it was required to adjust the boiler room with 5 instead of 4 boilers at the breach.
Texturing
As a goal to create a convincing underwater scene and with a wreckage that has been at the bottom of the ocean for a century, plant life had to be added to the ship hull. Low polygon objects have been placed along the ship hull and edges to apply algae textures to them.
High resolution photo material was then used to create textures from as small as 256x256 pixel up to 6000. In the end, the project covered over 100 different multi channel textures and more than 4,5 GB of texture data.
In an attempt to make the overall underwater scene feel more believable, plant life has been added to the hull and objects.
Lightning
With proudness we reached the reproduction of the Titanic in its current status. This project made it possible to get a detailed image of the appearance of the complete forcastle wreck. The actual conditions in the depth, like darkness and mud, make it impossible to get a view like this on the Titanic Bow. So far it is the only detailed reproduction of the real wreck worldwide.
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