Three communications fields turn to 3-dimensional visualizations

The maker movement has stretched itself over dozens of industries over the past 10 years — and now, it’s begun its foray into communications.

Journalists turn maps 3D

Journalist Matthew Schroyer is one of the earliest to use the 3D model repository Sketchfab to tell stories within an embeddable, three-dimensional box. Annotations serve as anchors on a guided tour through the model.

By using what’s called photogrammetry software, he was able to take drone footage from a citizen group in Ukraine, and turn it into a model within three hours for the Professional Society of Drone Journalists he founded.

If you compare it to the Atlantic’s own coverage of the tragedy — a photo essay — you can see for yourself how this new form of storytelling has its merits. Mainly, it can show scope in a way that even the most wide-angle photos can’t — and it can leverage that scope with annotations. You can also layer different maps to show changes.

Designers use it to help sell their products

Industrial designers use modeling and rendering software to make products, so they can just upload their products straight to SketchFab without much extra work.

You can compare the SketchFab below to this picture. SketchFabs can be used in Facebook posts too. Which would inform you more from that cursory glance on social media?

Science Illustrator sees potential in her field

Science and Animal Illustrator Mieke Roth started modeling to make her 2D illustrations more accurate and faster to produce about 10 years ago. The traditional method that most illustrators still use, she says, involves painting a new picture for each angle. Now she can just scroll around models to take pictures.

In the past few years, she’s taken many these models and uploaded them to SketchFab. Her page is a portfolio, meant to market this new form of illustrating to people in her field.

“I hope in the next few years it’s going to become a big presence on science websites,” Mieke says, adding that she’s working on her first commission for a 3D model embedded with SketchFab.

Other potential uses

The free smartphone app 123d Catch can make some decently high-quality scans. An ipad add-on can deliver even better scans. Radiolab used a high-end scanner for a podcast on “things.”

The Internet is a vast repository of scans and models, and quite often, you’ll find one that’s in the public domain and matches what you need to tell your story better. Someone took a public model and made the Sketchfab featured below during the Philae comet lander incident.

It’s also important to note that all of these can be viewed in virtual reality with tech like the Oculus Rift, which has several storytelling capabilities, elaborated here by Grace Donnelly.

The take away

Some of the highest praise a writer will ever receive is when someone calls their work “dimensional” — meaning their points are nuanced, their characters are eclectic, etc.

The point here is that we can literally make our communications dimensional, and in the process, make our work potentially more compelling.

Me, I’m just starting out my career as a journalist and communicator, but I do model spaceships, like this one. I hope to use Sketchfab in the near future for a short story I’m writing, and for some of my environmental coverage.

Follow me on twitter @akeatin. You can also check out my website akeatin.com.