Virtual Crib

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More than a hundred years after their first exhibition, the nativity scene of the Mariendom was carefully restored and then scanned by the Ars Electronica Futurelab using photogrammetry. It has been restaged as an interactive and audiovisual experience for the Mariendom and the Ars Electronica Center’s Deep Space 8K.

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An extensive assessment in spring 2020 has highlighted the urgent need for restoration of the crib of the Mariendom in Linz. The Christmas ensemble by the Munich sculptor Sebastian Osterrieder is one of the largest nativity scenes in the world. The up to one meter tall figures, the crib landscape and paintings have been carefully cleaned, restored, supplemented and conserved.

By means of an innovative, non-contact mapping and conservation method, the nativity scene figures were scanned and visualized in the course of a digitization process. The photogrammetric procedure, which can indirectly determine the position and form of the objects on the basis of countless photographs from 360 different perspectives, makes it possible to carefully digitize cultural heritage such as the Osterrieder crib and to transform it into a virtual reality, thus preserving it for the future generations. The images recorded with digital SLR cameras are finally transferred into a 3D model and can be projected stereoscopically.

The digitization process of the cathedral nativity scene was carried out in two steps: The first digitization phase in 2020 has been able to capture the most important elements, in total 33 figures and objects. In a second digitization phase in 2021 a virtual image of the nativity scene architecture and landscape has been created in addition to the remaining figures and objects. Now the nativity scene is presented in full splendour. It is available for virtual experience not only in the crypt of Linz’s Mariendom but also in Deep Space 8K at the Ars Electronica Center, giving viewers the opportunity to examine the digitized nativity scene figures in detail.

A virtual Advent programme:

For more than a hundred years, the Nativity scene by Munich sculptor Sebastian Osterrieder has charmed visitors to Linz’s St. Mary’s Cathedral in the weeks around Christmas. in 2021, for the first time, the Nativity scene appears in all its glory as an interactive 3D Advent program. Every detail has been digitized and virtually re-staged for the Ars Electronica Center’s Deep Space 8K and the Cathedral’s crypt. As an audiovisual, interactive VR experience, the virtual crib offers a vivid 360 degree perspective on the biblical story. The famous protagonists appear gradually at the virtual stage in the time around Christmas. This way, viewers can discover new details and stories in the crib during Advent.

2.12.21 19:00, Deep Space Live: Die Virtuelle Krippe in voller Pracht
12.12.21 16:00, Inside Futurelab: Advent in der Virtuellen Krippe
24.12.21 16:00, Inside Futurelab: Weihnachten in der Virtuellen Krippe
06.01.22 16:00, Inside Futurelab: Dreikönigszeit in der Virtuellen Krippe

Some background infos and technical insights into how the first phase of digitization of the nativity scene was achieved:
3.12.20 Inside Futurelab: Hinter den Kulissen der virtuellen Krippe.
22.12.20 Deep Space LIVE: Die virtuelle Krippe des Mariendoms Linz