Laboratory to create a 1,600 gigapixel “digital twin” of an 1893 panoramic painting

An EPFL laboratory is preparing the digitization The panorama of the Battle of Murtena 100 by 10 meter painting created by Louis Braun in 1893 in an endeavor that will yield one of the largest digital images of all time.

The EPFL (École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne) is one of two Federal Institutes of Technology on the shores of Lake Geneva.

Sarah Kenderdine, Head of the Laboratory for Experimental Museology at EPFL, is leading the digitization of a massive panoramic work called The panorama of the Battle of Murten by Ludwig Braun. Braun, who lived from 1836 to 1916, was a history painter known as a master of large-scale canvases. At the end of the 19th century he was the most important panorama painter in Germany, a genre that died out with Braun.

Describe The panorama of the Battle of Murten since massively undercuts its size:

Transporting the Scrolls | Credits: 2022 EPFL eM+

The painting depicts the moment when the Confederates gained the upper hand during the invasion of the Duchy of Burgundy in 1476. It was never permanently mounted for public display. Except for only twice, once in Zurich and Geneva in the late 19th century and again briefly in 2002 at the Swiss National Exhibition, the huge panoramic painting has spent most of its existence hidden from the public eye, including the last 20 years in a military camp.

Currently, one of the few ways to enjoy the painting is through the Murten Panorama website

Transporting the Scrolls | Credits: 2022 EPFL eM+

But thanks to a collaboration between EPFL and the Foundation for the Panorama of the Battle of Murten, the painting will be meticulously photographed and transformed into a giant ‘digital twin’ for it to be enjoyed by the public.

Analysis of the Scrolls | Credits: 2022 EPFL eM+

According to EPFL, the researchers, led by Kenderdine, are preparing a large mechanical platform that will hold the restorers above the painting, as well as the camera rig that will take approximately 400,000 photos of the masterpiece to create a 1,600 gigapixel final photo .

A huge 1,600 gigapixel photo

The team intends to use Phase One’s 150-megapixel iXH digital camera, a device specifically designed for digitizing cultural heritage objects. According to EPFL, the process is expected to take four months as the camera will take photos with and across the RGB (red, green and blue) color spectrum thanks to multispectral imaging.

“As far as published research has shown, this is expected to be the largest seamless frame ever created at 1,600 gigapixels. That’s 1.6 trillion pixels, or picture elements,” says Kenderdine.

“The post-production and data science aspects of handling such a large image for a range of stakeholders are critical to the research outcomes.”

Panoramic scroll close-up | Credits: Foundation for the Panorama of the Battle of Murten

The original painting was intended to be displayed in a circle or rotunda and therefore has what is known as a hyperboloidal shape. As a result, it doesn’t lay flat particularly well in 2D and must be carefully spooled across a substrate to ensure a smooth acquisition process.

But once the recording process is complete, EPFL says it will be able to integrate into a 360-degree interactive viewing experience for the public. The goal is to complete this endeavor by 2026 to celebrate the 550th anniversary of the battle depicted in the painting.

“The Murten panorama is a national treasure and our project gives us a new perspective on Swiss history and culture,” says Daniel Jaquet, military historian and member of the Foundation Board.

“It contains not only very detailed accounts of a battle, but also very rich socio-cultural aspects through the lens of the late 19th century worldview. With their digitization, we break away from the limitations of a traditional military-historical approach.”


Photo credit: School of Humanities, CDH, Creative Commons

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