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​Obama sits for historic 3D presidential portrait session

President Obama made history this year as the first president with a 3D portrait
3D portrait captures Obama from every angle 00:33
Digital Program Office / Smithsonian Institution

The Smithsonian has created the first-ever 3D-printed presidential bust.

The White House released a YouTube video Tuesday of the President sitting for his historic portrait session, which was orchestrated by the Smithsonian Institution in collaboration with the University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technologies. (Watch the video below.)

To create the likeness, Obama was flashed with 50 custom-built LED lights that flickered precisely to create ten different lighting conditions in just one second, ensuring that every crease and crevice could be captured and copied.

Photos were taken by eight high-resolution cameras designed for sports and six wider-angle cameras. Technicians also scanned POTUS with two handheld structured-light 3D scanners.

The inspiration from the project came from the Lincoln life mask housed in the National Portrait Gallery. The mask was created by covering the then-President's face with plaster and poking two holes in the nostrils so he could breathe, explained Gunter Waibel, director of the Smithsonian digitization program office.

The process was easier for Obama, who only had to hold his presidential pose for a moment's time.

"This is the first bust that's created of a head of state from objective 3D scan data," said Adam Metallo, 3D digitization program officer at the Smithsonian. "So this isn't an artistic likeness of the president, this is actually millions upon millions of measurements...that we can now 3D print and make something that's never been done before."

The astonishingly accurate bust is now on view in the Commons Gallery of the Smithsonian Castle.

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