Creating a 3D Model of Charlottetown

I got curious about whether it might be possible to use the 1878 Panoramic of Charlottetown to create a 3D model of the city.  So I set out to create a proof-of-concept using Google Sketchup.  Aided by two very helpful videos, Getting Set up for Photo Matching and Modeling by Photo Matching I took a snippet of the panoramic, the area around Province House, and used Sketchup’s “match photo” feature to load the snippet, place it in 3D space, and then build a model by tracing over it.  I’m by no means a skilled Sketchup user, but with some trial and error I was able to achieve some promising results:

One challenge, especially if you set out to use the entire 1878 panoramic image to model the city, is that it doesn’t map directly to actual 3D space: the image is warped for artistic effect. But for individual buildings it’s not a bad starting point, and it would be neat is someone more skilled in Sketchup could take a stab and doing this with more finesse.


Josh MacFadyen's picture
Josh MacFadyen on November 18, 2009 - 05:50

Nice work!
Another challenge in historical 3D modeling is elevation. Elevation is rarely represented accurately in bird’s eye maps (especially places like Quebec City!), but georeferencing them in a GIS lets you add that feature. I believe sketchup even has an extension for ArcGIS. A friend of mine did this for the city of Guelph in 1878 (… ) where steep streets pose problems for 3D modelers. I’ve used the Goad fire insurance maps to add another layer with incredible structural details necessary for rebuilding. Thanks for posting this — I’ve seen some of the excellent digitization work they’re doing at UPEI, and I hope this turns into more historical mapping on the Island.

nicholassimon's picture
nicholassimon on November 18, 2009 - 06:29

If you are interested in 3D modelling software for free then check out this post here for a comprehensive list of free software for working with 3D:

nicholassimon's picture
nicholassimon on November 26, 2009 - 08:05

If you are interested in free, alternative 3D modeling programs then check out this post here, which details some great software to try out for creating models, scenes or games, all completely free:

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