What is 3D Scanning?

3D scanning is becoming a favored service by several industries such as entertainment, medical, crime scene investigation, and merchandising. It can be thought of as a type of photography in which you capture a person, object or scene in 3D, allowing for it to be rotated 360 degrees. You may also projection map photos on to whatever you have 3D scanned thus making a true to life in-color 3D replica that can be inserted and composited into any form of video or computer generated (CG) render.

Lidar Scanned Charger

To scan an environment, a type of 3D scanner is used that emits lasers for measurements and 3D reconstruction. This is called LIDAR, and will capture what is called a point cloud of 3D data. Accurate measurements of the real life scene will copy over to the 3D data, allowing for correct proportions, and to have an entire environment converted to 3D. This data can be used for many things, and will allow for use of 3D cameras, which are not under any type of real world constraints.

lidar scan of old building

It’s becoming more common for the main cast of a film or episodic to be 3D scanned for visual effects purposes, which include stunt work and digital manipulation through the use of 3d shaders and texture maps. Green screens are used to switch out the background on a set and allows a location to be anywhere, likewise a 3D scanned object can be inserted into any location.

For 3D scanning humans, white light technology has many advantages. It is safe, fast, and transportable while still capturing dense accurate data. An alternative is to use photogrammetry, in which DSLR cameras capture the data, and that data is fed through software with complex algorithms that can interpret the photos from 2D to 3D by having enough variety of angles for overage, determining X, Y, Z space.

3d scanning, lidar scanning

Regardless of the type of 3D scanning used, there will be post-processing to clean up the data and to fit the data into a quad shaped mesh over the 3D scan data. This will make the data more flexible, allowing for sculpting, UVs to be applied, and texture maps afterwards. At this point, the 3D object or person can be rigged (inserting digital joints/bones), and then animated either like a CG cartoon with plenty of squash and stretch, or like the real world characters like you and I.

Ultimately the result is of a 3D object that is a replica of their real life counterpart. It can be used in a CG scene or a real life scene by compositing it in. The viewer will be able to experience the performance, and may not even notice when the 3D effect is on screen. This art is becoming more seamless and allows for an array of creative choices that at one time wasn’t even possible.

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