Below you'll see some early (2013 vintage) sample 3D content from the Gabii Project. When we began developing the 3D interactive content for our publications, this is the kind of scene we wanted to integrate with the text and database. To see the 2016 vintage interface, which is quite different, you should visit the publication of the Tincu House.

Please be patient while the scene loads. Now would be a good time to get a cup of tea. Or you could read a bit about some of the original choices we make when building scenes, below.
It will likely take from 1-5 minutes depending on the speed of your connection.

About the sample scene

This scene shows you a few stratigraphic contexts from 'Area B' of the Gabii excavations. In area B we uncovered the remains of a house which occupies part of a block delineated by two of the radial roads at Gabii. The house was constructed and occupied during the Republican Period. There is evidence for a second phase of construction activities, which may represent a renewal of the house, or a repurposing of the space for non-residential activities. During the Imperial Period a small necropolis develops, representing a significant change in the use of this space. In this scene you can see one of the burials from the necropolis in relation to a wall from the second phase of construction activities. Everything is covered by the stratigraphic context 1016, a post-abandonment accumulation layer.

Speed vs. Detail

There are two types of models in this scene. The translucent polygons are the outlines of 'simple' stratigraphic contexts like postholes or soil deposits which were recorded using total station survey. The textured meshes are image-based models, created from a collection of photos taken to record more complex features. Textured models are also represented by translucent polygons, representing their surveyed extents. This division between polygonal and mesh models is our first 'speed vs. detail' choice. Polygonal models are much smaller, and using them to represent "less important" features for any given scene ("less important" meaning those features which are not integral to the narrative with which the scene links up) improves the reader/viewer experience because everything runs faster. It also visually highlights those features which are most important to the narrative represented in the scene.

The textured meshes included in this scene are decimated. The original models are much more detailed, but also much bigger. Including full resolution models and high resolution textures makes scenes shared over the web run very slowly. Again, we've made a choice for speed, prioritizing the ability to move around the scene smoothly over having that extra bit of detail in the models. This represents a broader choice we've made. We have two 'tracks' for our image-based models: the archival track, where we produce high resolution models of individual contexts, and the web track, where we produce decimated models for inclusion in scenes like this one and for distribution as pdfs, which are attached to the context's ARK database entry. As material is published by the project, the high resolution models will become available via the ARK database. If you are interested in the high resolution models, get in touch with us at Gabii Project Data.

Past - Future features

In the early version of the interface you can look around the scene and connect from the models to the (now old and no longer being updated) ARK database. (n.b. You'll need to allow pop-ups and log in as a public user the first time you try to connect.) The ARK database is where we store the descriptive data for the excavation. This includes everything from photos to interpretations to sampling data. The scene was not yet connected to the narrative text. This feature was developed for later versions of the interface, including the published one. Our idea was that you can click on a reference to a particular stratigraphic context or collection of contexts in the text and the scene will be zoomed to show the relevant features.

Using Unity3D to deliver 3D content

The scene on this page is built using Unity3D. If you've never used Unity before you will need to download a plug-in to load the scene. If you can't see anything loading in the area below this paragraph, you need the Unity plug-in. We've provided some basic instructions for navigating in the scene (just to the right of this paragraph). We hope it helps you get started with our 3D content.

On a computer where you are not allowed to install anything? Wondering why we're not using some sort of webGL/javascript system to deliver our 3D content directly in browser? There are pros and cons to both Unity3D and the various direct 3D formats available to deliver complex scenes. Check back soon for a fuller discussion of our decision to use Unity3D, or argue for a direct 3D format by contacting us.


Want to see another ancient version of the interface? We've put a more complete version of this scene here. As always, please be patient while the scene loads.

Rapid GUI evolution

We went through dozens of versions of the GUI for the 3D content we wanted to include in the Gabii Project publications. What kinds of things changed? In early 2013, several people using the 3D sandbox said that they didn't find the 'human' perspective useful when trying to look at the substantially 2.xD stratigraphy presented, and that they thought a more conventional top-down aerial view would work better. So while in our original scene the primary viewpoint was that of a person of average height walking around at the level of the stratigraphy (the excavator's perspective) and the secondary viewpoint was an overhead view, we switched the two for the next iteration of the GUI. You still have access to both perspectives, but the starting position was changed. This change persisted into the published version of the interface for the Tincu HouseQuestions to consider: