Historic preservation is something that film does quite well. With its ability to immerse us in sights and sounds, film as a creative medium bears a special promise of remembrance - of transportation to a particular time and place. Early enthusiasts immediately recognized this ability. Suddenly, they could take moments in time and preserve and rearrange them forever.
Does immersive digital content possess a similar promise? What new possibilities might it open to preserve the past - and to play with time and space as creative material?
Consider the Alex Theater, a Glendale landmark that for a time occupied center stage in a booming golden-age Hollywood. Its almost 100-year history spans the careers of Charlie Chaplain and Elizabeth Taylor, and its screen debuted films from Ben Hur to Star Wars. Over time, it has evolved, with renovations and rehabilitation that have sculpted its face over decades of decor trends and fluctuating audiences. Walking its renovated halls with modern amenities, its star-studded past remains distant from us.
Is Liz Taylor’s Alex Theater lost to the ages? With spatial modeling, maybe not. Like film, immersive content promises to preserve moments in time - but also in space. The total preservation offered by a complete, real-world visual and spatial data set means that spaces remain available to us over time. It also means they can be revisited, revised, and remixed, to tell stories and create experiences that go beyond what a physical visit allows.
Photographic, audio, and textual annotations are just the beginning. Upcoming computer vision technologies may allow us to reconstruct spaces from historic photographs, or create complete virtual environments by combining real-world spaces. We may soon be able to recreate historic moments - and create new ones of our own - by combining the power of film with that of 3D modeling. When virtual reality is added to the mix, it seems clear that digital replication of real spaces will imminently fulfill its historical and creative promise of unleashing a world of experience embedded in immersive content.
For now, we're excited to enable anyone to virtually immerse themselves in the Alex Theatre as if they were there, so be sure to take a stroll backstage, just as Hollywood royalty once did.
Special thanks to the Alex Theater and DIGGS for creating this Matterport 3D model. The Alex Theater currently operates as a performing arts venue and rental space. To learn more, visit them online. Still photo courtesy of Chris Yarzab.
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