Google’s Gigapixel ‘Art Camera’

06th February 2021

While reading the OCAs course folder I am informed that,

‘Google Arts and Culture’ offer a digitally immersive exploration of cultural institutions around the world through a combination of very high-resolution images and Google’s own ‘Street View’ technology. While Holbein’s ‘The Ambassadors’ shot on a gigapixel camera is admittedly impressive, zooming in to it ultimately just resolves to craquelure and dust.’

OCAs Expressing Your Vision course folder p.41

On viewing the webpage and then subsequently surfing Google’s Cultural Institutes website, I decided to research Google’s gigapixel ‘art camera’ as well as look at some of the artwork that had already been catalogued for viewing. I was impressed with the technology and equally as impressed with the zoom capability that I could perform on my iPad. I was literally able to get close to the work as though viewing it in a gallery space, well those artworks you are allowed to get close to that is.

Zooming in, just like looking at the artwork up close, enables the viewer to explore the artworks close enough to see, for example, the brushstrokes. But on reading the technical blurb for the camera we are told that actually it captures such ultra high resolution images that it picks up details that the human eye is unable to pick up. So I am wondering if this means the capabilities of the software which lets us able to perform that on our screens is limiting, because I know that I couldn’t zoom that close using my iPad or my iMac. This can be seen in the slideshow that I created below, the final image shows how close I was able to zoom in on the painting.

There are 1848 artworks on the Google site (accessed 06.02.21) that you are able to get up close and personal with and I am happy to report that a variety of media, themes and artists through different times are represented.

Google’s ‘gigapixel’ art camera

Google’s art camera has produced some excellent results and I am not surprised when I read the camera’s capabilities, I was in awe of it’s ability compared to my Panasonic GH5.

Reading about the camera further, I found out that the gigapixel images contain more than 1 billion pixels which enables the viewer to see the minute details that the human eye is unable to focus in on. Below is a photograph of Google’s ‘gigapixel’ art camera.

Google’s gigapixel ‘art camera’
image: PetaPixel (accessed 06.02.21)

Steered via a robotic system, the camera moves from one small detail to the next. Laser and sonar help the camera focus on each brushstroke by measuring the artwork’s distance using high-frequency sound. By taking hundreds of close-up, high-resolution images, Google’s software pieces the images together to create a digital copy of the art.

Deamer K, (May 2016)
Meet the Google ‘gigapixel’ art camera
YouTube uploaded by Google Cultural Institute, May 2016 (accessed 06.02.21)

Karl Bryullov, The Last Day of Pompeii (1830/1833)

With so many artworks to choose from, I chose Bryullov’s ‘The Last Day of Pompeii’ (1830-1833) to view on Google’s Art and Culture website. I chose this painting because I love Neoclassical artworks and also themes connected with history, destruction, death and the wrath of God.

The dimensions of the canvas artwork is: Height: 456.5 cm (14.9 ft); Width: 651 cm (21.3 ft) and to be able to see every cm in such detailed high resolution is absolutely astounding. Although I could not obtain exceptional closeness when zooming in on my iPad, I was still able to get a very good enlargement. The progression of zooming in can be seen in the slideshow below.

The Last Day of Pompeii (1830/1833), Karl Bryullov
image: Zoom views Google Arts and Culture (accessed 06.02.21)

Below is a quick video showing close up images of parts of Briullov’s painting. The accompanying music has been chosen so well that it moved me, I felt the drama and chaos, the fright and despair as though I was in the painting myself.

This also made me think about presenting some of my photographs with music so to add an extra dimension to the experience of viewing them, all though this is only if appropriate.

Karl Briullov – The Last Day of Pompeii, (1830-33)
YouTube uploaded by Faces of Ancient Europe, Feb 2018


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s