3D Scanning: Art or Science?

3d head scan low resolution to film resolution

Should we consider 3D scanning art, or science? It’s a great question because 3D scanning for visual effects remains a driving technological endeavor. Take a quick browse on YouTube and you’ll see laser scanners, structured light scanners, photo -based modeling, emerging technologies, and even the Kinect getting their fair share of air time. Much of the information shared is geared toward ensuring we have a good understanding of how to get the best out of these technologies. 3D scanning work is then followed up by stitching parts together as precisely as possible. This is all part of the technical process. It’s a science of knowing how to get the best out of your equipment.

The process is then turned over to modelers and sculptors who take the 3D scan to the next level. This is where the real artists’ eyes come in to play. A well-skilled or naturally talented artist will know how to take the digital scans and mold it to fill in any holes, smooth seams and make sure the 3D models look exactly like the talent or object in reference. Many pipelines call for the re-topology of the 3D model with quad polygons equipped with UV’s. There’s also a need to have edge loops set up on the lips and other high poly areas. Now the texture map artists take the high resolution photos and place them on the model to give them a flat, consistent look that represents the real look of the character or object. The finishing touches are usually done with Zbrush or Mud Box to add the very fine detail.

This is a process that creates a photorealistic representation of the character or object needed for that perfect VFX shot. Yet, the question still begs the answer… Is 3D scanning art or science? Consider the use of computers, software and 3D scanning equipment needed to get the results you want. Then, consider the artists who bring the 3D models to completion. Years of sketching, sculpting, schooling, training and learning how to apply their talents to software programs enabling them to inject just the right amount of everything needed to get the look we demand from them. They are digital artists. And therein lies the answer. 3D scanning is a delicate fusion of both art and science.

 

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