Scanning the Diefenbunker – Part 2

Scanning the Diefenbunker – Part 2

[This multi-part series will document photographing the Diefenbunker in Carp, Ontario. In this first part, I’ll talk about the challenges I faced in capturing such a large and historic space.] 

Part 2 – Into the Belly of the Beast

After my success at Level 400, I was ready to take the challenges of the museum head on. I decided to take on the most difficult area of the entire installation: The Machine Room. This part of the bunker was rarely accessible to the public due to its high level of danger and likely copious amounts of asbestos. Ignoring the carcinogens, I focused on the real problem: No one knew how big the area actually was. It was actually spread over two levels, and took up a substantial portion of the facility. It housed equipment dating all the way back to the original construction, and was densely packed with pipes and conduits.

Just another day in paradise

The best part about being a 3D photographer is, every space is a giant puzzle. The Machine Room proved to be more complicated and challenging than anything I had done up to this point. The awkward, tight spaces and abundance of sharp corners and low clearances gave me a literal headache. I was smart enough to wear a hardhat, because otherwise I definitely would have seriously injured myself several times over!

The Machine Room about about 1/4 of the lower two levels, and it proved to be more fun than difficult. I crawled, I hopped, I probably did some rather silly ballet-style moves. But after only four hours, I had captured the entire space. I managed to use just under 200 individual scans, but there was no way I was getting all of Level 100 and 200 done in one model. I figured that could be a model unto itself, as the two spaces were not entirely accessible like the top two levels. There were large sections completely empty and of no real value to preserve, so I decided to try to get the Cafeteria, Morgue and Vault as one model.

Next up, I would tackle my favourite part of the museum: Level 300. It had almost the same level of openness as Level 400, and with all that I had learned I figured it would be an easy area to get out of the way. I had some serious misalignment problems doing such a large, interconnected space, so I devised some new techniques for this floor. I started with the hallway, and this time I worked down one side, doing two of the four ‘sides’ of the square corridor. Then I went back to my starting location and worked my way around the other two sides. Sure enough, my alignment was almost bang on compared to doing it in a big long run on Level 400. I will never understand how it could look so wrong on my iPad and come out looking perfect, but I thank the engineers at Matterport every day!

I was almost exactly true to my estimates of how many scans each individual room would take. I even got them to add some areas not normally open to the public, and I still managed to get the space done in just over 200 scans. The biggest difficulty was simple staging. The first day I worked Level 300 they had a school tour group, and they moved all the props from the War Room. When I came back the next day to finish, they had everything restaged. I decided to basically delete everything I had scanned in that area and do it again to capture the relic items in their proper spot. Thanks to some careful reference points taken, I was able to redo the necessary scans without too much difficulty.

It wouldn’t be fun if it wasn’t a challenge

Oddly enough, I only really had trouble capturing the CBC Radio area. The DJ booth is a very small, tight room full of equipment. For whatever reason, I just couldn’t get the camera to align in this room! I think it has something to do with the small size and large window that opens into the ‘studio’ area. You wouldn’t know it, but I spent over 30 minutes to get that tiny room! As with Level 400 and the Machine Room, my abundance of imagery did not stop the Matterport Cloud from rendering it.

I had been scanning the Diefenbunker for over 30 hours, and I still had almost half the museum to capture! My next challenge would be the blast tunnel, and it was going to prove to be my greatest challenge yet.