Issue: Volume: 25 Issue: 5 (May 2002)

A Silver Lining




Digital technology gives hockey fans a close-up look at the Stanley Cup

By Karen Moltenbrey

The Stanley Cup-hockey's oldest, most coveted prize-has journeyed more miles than the most seasoned of business travelers. That's because every summer, during the sport's off-season, each member of the reigning championship team gets to spend 24 hours with the trophy. As a result of this unique tradition, the three-foot, 35-pound cup has circled the globe, with stays in foreign countries from Russia to Japan to Switzerland, and brief stops atop mountain peaks, in hot tubs, and inside igloos.

Despite this exposure, relatively few people have ever seen the Stanley Cup close enough to read the individual names engraved on it. Even visitors to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, where the trophy is displayed, cannot see all the engravings, especially those inside the bowl. But thanks to digital technology, hockey fans throughout the world can now obtain a personal, close-up look at every inch of the Stanley Cup by using their home computers.

"The Stanley Cup is the people's and players' trophy, so we want to give everyone the opportunity to have their own personal time with it," says Peter Jagla, producer of new media for the Hockey Hall of Fame. This can be accomplished in two ways: through an interactive 3D model or a high-resolution still image with a zoom feature, both of which are available on the Hall of Fame's Web site (www.legendsofhockey.net).

Both types of imagery were created by diginiche, a Toronto- and New York-based visualization company that specializes in merging photography with digital technologies. To generate the 3D model, diginiche used Viewpoint's 3D Photo Studio software, which is based on a photographic rather than conventional computer-generated imaging process. First, the diginiche team snapped a series of 60 photos of the Cup in six-degree increments, as well as a registration grid, using a Kodak Professional DCS 330 digital camera. The camera, as well as the motorized turntable and strobes used for the photo shoot, were controlled through Photo Studio. By backlighting the trophy-no side or top lights were used-the team captured silhouette images of the Cup. Photo Studio then interpreted this information, and automatically generated a 3D model. The artists later imported the digital object into Alias|Wavefront's Maya, where they tweaked the geometry.
Using Viewpoint's 3D Photo Studio, Diginiche generated a realistic interactive 3D model of the NHL's Stanley Cup trophy for the Hockey Hall of Fame's Web site. The visualization company also created a high-resolution 2D model, using Viewpoint&




For the textures, the team again photographed the trophy, this time using top and side lights, then mapped the surface data onto the digital model using Photo Studio. "The end result is not a photorealistic 3D model; it's a photographic 3D model," notes Barry Fogarty, president of diginiche. "The point being that it is not almost as real as a photo; in many ways it is a photo."

To ensure that the 3D model was Web-friendly, diginiche reduced the number of polygons and the texture resolution of the model. "This way it could be downloaded quickly," says Fogarty, "but the users couldn't see any of the fine details." As a solution, diginiche added a separate high-resolution, "zoomable" image to the Hall of Fame's Internet site. To generate the still image, diginiche used Kodak's ProBack Plus camera to create a 48mb file, which was repurposed for the Web using Viewpoint's ZoomView. "ZoomView converts the high-resolution image so users can interact with it in real-time by zooming and panning," notes Fogarty. "You can view the entire trophy, then zoom in on the individual names."

According to Fogarty, the Cup's reflective properties made lighting the object for the project extremely difficult. "The Cup reflected everything in the studio," he says. To minimize the reflections, the group set up a customized lighting environment in which strobe lights were bounced off curved foam board to spread out the light evenly.

In the near future, a pull-down interface will be added to the Internet site that will allow visitors to search for a year, team name, or individual's name, and the ZoomView software will automatically zoom in to that portion of the trophy. "There's a lot of history associated with the Stanley Cup, and many of the trophy's imperfections-such as dents and scratches-are reminders of memorable mo ments from the past," says the Hockey Hall of Fame's Jagla. For instance, there are names that are misspelled, and in one instance, there's a name that is x-ed out after the NHL discovered that the person was not on the roster for that particular championship team.

"It would have been extremely expensive and time-consuming to have included these little nuances in a photorealistic 3D model created by hand," Fogarty says.




Key Tools: Photo Studio and ZoomView, Viewpoint (www.viewpoint.com)
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