3D Modeling Using Digital Photos Only

Effortless Digital Photo to 3D Scanning

3D Modeling Using Digital Photos Only
Credit: Alex RIeger

What Exactly is 123D Catch?

I am a graphic designer with knowledge and experience in 3d modeling and rendering for about 7 years now. Doing CG work is extremely time consuming and the amount of skill required to be good  at this is enormous.  Since CG artists are usually working on a deadline, we're always looking for neat tools to help streamline the process and make the whole process faster without sacrificing quality of work. One day while digging the web for new tools I stumbled upon 123D Catch, a new free app from Autodesk. This digital scanning software takes photos and converts them into 3d with the click of a button. There are a few guidelines you need to follow in order for the program to work and I will explain why.



Using a Camera with High Resolution

I am listing this as the first guideline because I believe it is the most important. Although some tutorials out there say that this does not matter, it actually does. Alot. 123D Catch has a very unique way of scanning photos that allows even fine texture details to be extracted from photos. These details are then transferred onto the geometry of the model to produce photorealistic results in minutes. There is the saying that states the qualty of materials will reflect the quality of the final product, which is something that is absolutely correct. Anything below 12 Megapixels is a waste of time really. I prefer to use my trusty Canon PowerShot ELPH 110 HS, which is 16.1 MP compact digital camera and probably your best choice for this kind of project. The nice thing about this camera is that it produces studio-quality shots and also records in 1080p HD. 

You must take over 40+ pictures from various angles with sharp quality in order for this to work properly. Remove any photos from your shoot that are dark or have  depth of field blurring. You can avoid these problems using specific shooting guidelines.

Rotating around object

Shooting Process
Credit: Alex Rieger

Guidelines for Shooting Photos

The diagram illustrates how to properly shoot a person or object. Basically, this program reads information based off of lighting in a scene. This means if we have hard shadows, blurry spots, or other problems then the model will come out looking like a disfigured hunk of swiss cheese. When setting up your scene, you should create a 4-point lighting setup, more if you are feeling  you can lighting things up even more. I only have four extra lamps laying around so that's why I used four for this article. Imagine you are shooting the pictures with the object at the center of your scene. Do not rotate or move the object, ever. You will screw things up big time. Instead, rotate around the object and shoot your photos from different angles. A good rule of thumb is 5 shots for every 90 degrees you rotate around the object. Repeat this process all the way around the object several times, hitting every angle you can.

Once you have around 60 photographs, you're ready to rock and roll! Just open the program, load the photos and the work will be done for you. Viola! A 3D Photorealistic models should now be at your fingertips, which you can then manipulate in the user window. The advanced cg artist can further refine this mesh to be used in any form of media including film, video games, advertising, and many other forms of media. The possibilities are endless, so get out there and get modeling!