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lidar scan

lidar scan

VFX Today

There are many articles circling the internet that talk about visual effects and how much they are actually used. Automatically one thinks of big budget films like Spider-Man, Captain America and Godzilla, and yes they are used in those types of films, however, they can also be found in projects like video games, commercials, and even lower budget independent films. Here is a list of some projects that have used VFX.

1. The Polar Express: Released in 2004, this was the first feature film to be shot entirely on a motion capture stage. In The Polar Express, starring Tom Hanks as the dad, train operator and mysterious roof passenger, it was incredible to see an animated actor that really looked like a cartoon version of himself. To capture the specific details of Hanks face and characteristics, facial recognition technology was used through a series of 3D scanning and motion capture sessions.

Tom Hanks, Polar Express, motion capture

2. Avatar: Released in 2009, James Cameron described this film as a hybrid with full live-action shot in combination with computer generated characters and live environments. With half the film being set on the planet Pandora, actors such as Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana and Sigourney Weaver spent months on a motion capture stage while acting out each scene that involved their Na’vi alien characters.

Zoe Saldana, Avatar, motion capture

3. Tron: Legacy: In 2010 Jeff Bridges reprised his role as Kevin Flynn in the Tron sequel, Tron: Legacy, and plays a new character CLU which is a program that resembles a younger version of Flynn. To create CLU, Bridges performed the scenes in motion capture gear and later his head was replaced by the younger digital version. To mimic his facial movements, micro cameras with infrared sensors were used.

Jeff Bridges, Tron, motion capture

4. David Guetta’s Music Video Featuring Nicki Minaj: The music video Turn Me On that came out in 2012 featured a mechanical version of Nicki Minaj, along with other doll-like creatures. To create Minaj’s character, she first went through a 3D scanning session to create a digital version that could be used in the video.

Nicki Minaj, Turn Me On, 3d scan

5. Beyond: Two Souls was released in September of 2013 and featured actors Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe. David Cage, CEO of Quantic Dream, stated having an emotional narrative was an important point to the development of the game. To capture the actors specific facial expressions and body movements, they were first 3D scanned and then went through several sessions of motion capture to make the virtual versions of themselves as close to life-like as possible. The entire process took over one year to collect enough data to create the game.

Beyond 2 Souls, motion capture

6. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare will be released on November 4, 2014 and features actor Kevin Spacey. To recreate someone as iconic as Spacey, he went through a series of 3D scanning and motion capture sessions. It takes highly skilled artists to make true replicas of people, objects, and locations that are well-know.

Kevin Spacey, Call of Duty, 3d facial scan

Click here to view more films that used VFX.


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The Future of Visual Effects

Visual Effects are used more than ever in the entertainment industry. Each year more sets, machinery, props, and characters are becoming digital.

full body and lidar scanning

With the use of green screens and stand-in props, an actor can be anywhere in the world, fighting off monsters or flying an alien spacecraft. The character or prop can be scanned or modeled and then sculpted, or if you have the proper permissions, taken from another show and used again.

Before you know it, there will be a world of digital images accessible to the entire industry through a virtual library. Shows and projects will be completely computer generated from the characters to the weapons to even the locations. The human element will exist only through motion capture and voiceovers. Story generators exist today, but maybe in a dozen years such programs will develop blockbuster scripts. Perhaps there will still be a need for a director to make sense of it all.

mocap stage

What are we getting at? We believe that in the near future movies, commercials, and television programs will be 90-100% digital. Today, 3D scanning is used as a starting point to create a digital asset, but if our predictions become reality, are you ready?

3d scanning before & after

The cameras on set may be able to capture 3D scan data as well as visual color, allowing for the viewer to pan around environments in movies – to be able to basically be your own 3D camera flying around in a free roam – or to be able to have a viewpoint from each character in a 360 degree bubble.


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5 Ways to Prep for a 3D Scanning Session

Preparing for a 3d scan is a breeze. Production life however is more chaotic because of the many scheduled activities. The right people must be available and things must be synchronized.

Here is a list we put together to help the process run smoothly:

1. Have a Visual Effects person on site with the talent with a detailed list of what needs to be scanned, as well as someone from Wardrobe to ensure they have the correct outfit that will match the scene. Determine if the talent needs their face, head, and/or full body scanned and how each part needs to be scanned: do jackets need to be open, do zippers need to be zipped up or down, does the clothing need to be layered, will their caps/masks need to be scanned separately, should jewelry be on or off, will there be any other props that need scanning? This will make sure the final product looks correct and will eliminate any back and forth during final quality control.

full body 3d scan

2. Determine if facial expressions will be needed. Will the final product need the use of blend shapes or should just a neutral pose be used for the scan?

Facial Expression Capture, 3d scans

3. Consider briefing the talent on what will be scanned. Most are OK whether they know or not, but on occasion a talent has just come out of hair and makeup and the last thing they want to do is put a wig cap over what took hours to create.

4. Coordinate the timing. What are the expectations? Always add additional time as a buffer for unexpected events and situations.

5. Prep for the scanning crew. Their needs are typically small, however it is helpful to have a table for computers and cameras, electricity, some chairs, and a certain amount of room to do the scanning.

full body 3d scan

As you can see there is not a lot of overhead, but when there are a lot of things going on at the same time, this can be more difficult than it needs to be. If done with minimal man power and some planning, it will be an easy operation. Good luck with all of your projects.

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tng vfx locations

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Laser Scanning Captures Objects in True 3D

More organizations are realizing the potential of laser scanning technology for being able to quickly and effectively capture detailed 3D information of their objects of interest, whether it is an entire street scene, an entire set, a single building, or a single artifact.

lidar scan_carousel

The results of the laser scanning process are millions of captured points to a very high level of accuracy which can also include color data that recreates the captured object in true 3D. Often over 3 billion points will be used to capture a buildings precise layout, capturing every unique feature.

Sufficient building detail is also captured through scanning and the overlaying of digital photography. This enables the production of a virtual tour of a historic site, and allows the creation of highly accurate graphic drawings.

lidar scan_white house

Scanning can also be used to compare damage and erosion to existing structures by comparing the current 3D capture to a previously laser scanned model. This allows conservationists and interested parties to plan for maintenance and refurbishment more accurately.

lidar scan_brown house

Organizations such as UNESCO/CYARK and English Heritage are currently using detailed 3D laser scans of world heritage sites in order to record and preserve unique areas of public interest, allowing more people to be able to view the sites through digital media as well as accurately preserve the details of each site as currently found.

Article and images courtesy of Gary Ponting

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Have You Thought About Insurance Scanning?

What do we mean when we say insurance scanning? It means to have 3D scan data available on any model you may need due to unforeseen circumstances during the length of your project. This data comes in handy most commonly during post, when you realize there are shots that need to be inserted or changed.

Nina_full body 3d scan

There are other instances as well, such as the main or supporting talent becomes ill or has an accident preventing them from finishing the project. This is where the doubles and digital doubles  are called in to complete the project (especially if the project is more that 50% complete and would be too expensive to start over with new talent).


Another idea is to scan each set that is used in your project before you strike it. Some or all of the data can be used in pre-vis as well as in the project, but the bottom line is knowing you have the scan data available as a backup in case you need it. Other items that can be scanned and archived are vehicles, buildings, props and animals.


This service is inexpensive when compared to the alternative. Contact us for more information or if you have questions.

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tng vfx locations

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