3D Model From Images: A Practical Guide

3d model from images

What Is 3D Modeling From Images?

3D modeling from images is a process that converts two-dimensional images into three-dimensional models. This technique is important in many industries, including entertainment, product design, and eCommerce. It’s a technology that has evolved over the years, making it possible to construct detailed and realistic 3D models from simple 2D photographs.

The process involves the use of photogrammetry software, which analyzes the images, identifying common points in each one. These points serve as reference markers, which the software uses to calculate the distance and angle between different elements in the images, ultimately building a 3D model.

This is part of a series of articles about image editing.

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3d model from images

Use Cases for Creating 3D Model From Photos

Product Design and Prototyping

Designers can use photographs of existing products or prototypes to generate 3D models, which can then be used to analyze and improve the design. This process saves time and resources as it eliminates the need for physical prototypes at every stage of the design process.

In addition, 3D models created from images can be used to create realistic and interactive product demonstrations. These virtual prototypes allow designers to analyze their products in various of simulated environments and under different use scenarios.

As 3D printing technology evolves, designers increasingly use 3D models created from images to print physical prototypes. This way, they can quickly and affordably test their designs in real-world conditions.

Gaming and Virtual Reality

Game developers can use photographs of real-world environments or objects to create highly detailed and realistic 3D models for their games. This adds a level of authenticity and immersion that would be difficult to achieve with traditional 3D modeling techniques.

Similarly, the VR industry is leveraging 3D modeling from images to create virtual environments that mirror the real world. By using photographs to create 3D models, VR developers can ensure their virtual worlds are as realistic and immersive as possible.

Film and Animation

In film and animation, 3D modeling from images is used to create realistic and detailed 3D models of characters, environments, and props. This technique is especially useful in visual effects (VFX), allowing artists to create realistic 3D models of real-world objects or locations.

For instance, a VFX artist might use photographs of a real-world location to create a 3D model, which can be used as the basis for a digital set. This allows filmmakers to shoot scenes in places that would be difficult or impossible to access in real life.

Additionally, in animation, 3D modeling from images can be used to create realistic character models. By using photographs of real people or animals, animators can create 3D models that closely resemble their real-world counterparts.

Retail and eCommerce

Online retailers are creating 3D models of their products, which shoppers can view and interact with online. This provides a more engaging and interactive shopping experience, which can lead to increased sales.

For example, a furniture retailer might use photographs of a sofa to create a 3D model, which shoppers can view from different angles, change the color or fabric, and even place in a virtual room to see how it would look.

Additionally, 3D models created from images can be used in AR applications, allowing shoppers to virtually place products in their homes before purchasing. This enhances the shopping experience and also helps to reduce returns.

How to Create a 3D Model from an Image

While the process might differ according to the specific tool and technique used, here are some general steps used to create 3D models from photos.

Step 1: Importing Images into Photogrammetry Software

The first step in creating a 3D model from images is to import your photographs into a photogrammetry software. Most modern photogrammetry software supports a range of image formats, including JPEG, PNG, TIFF, and RAW.

Once the images are imported, the software will begin analyzing them, looking for shared points between the different images. The software uses these shared points, also known as control points, to understand how the images relate in three-dimensional space.

Step 2: Setting Control Points and Aligning Images

After the images have been imported, the next step is to set control points and align the images. Control points are specific locations in the photos that the software uses to align them properly. These points are usually high-contrast areas or distinctive features clearly visible in multiple images.

Once the control points have been set, the software will align the images, creating a rough 3D model known as a point cloud. This point cloud represents the location of the control points in three-dimensional space, providing a basic outline of the object or scene being modeled.

Step 3: Building a Dense Point Cloud

A dense point cloud represents the images in greater detail. The software analyzes the images, identifies additional points, and fills in the gaps between the control points.

The result is a dense point cloud, a more detailed and accurate representation of the object or scene. This point cloud can be viewed from different angles, giving you a better sense of the three-dimensional structure of the object or scene.

Step 4: Generating the Mesh and Texture

The final step in creating a 3D model from images is to generate the mesh and texture. The mesh is a network of interconnected triangles covering the point cloud’s surface, creating a solid 3D model. The texture is the color and detail applied to the mesh’s surface, making it look realistic.

Once the mesh and texture have been generated, the 3D model is complete. It can then be exported to a 3D format like OBJ, STL, and PLY. These are standard formats compatible with many 3D modeling and printing systems.

Best Practices for Creating 3D Models from Images

Here are a few best practices you can use to improve the quality and usefulness of your 3D models.

Clean up Artifacts and Noise

Artifacts and noise are unwanted elements that can appear in a 3D model during the initial modeling stages. They can be caused by various factors, such as poor-quality reference images, incorrect settings in the modeling software, or even errors in the initial modeling process.

Cleaning up artifacts involves identifying and removing unwanted elements from the model. This process can be tedious, but ensuring a clean, high-quality model is vital. Noise refers to random variations in color or brightness in an image. It can be reduced by applying noise reduction filters or techniques in 3D modeling software.

Smooth Surfaces and Fill in Gaps

Smoothing surfaces involves refining the model’s geometry to remove any rough edges or jagged surfaces. This helps to create a more realistic and visually appealing model.

Filling gaps is about identifying and filling any holes or gaps in the model. These gaps can occur during the initial modeling process and disrupt the model’s overall shape and appearance. Filling these gaps not only enhances the visual appeal of the model but also ensures its structural integrity.

Leverage Texture Mapping and UV Unwrapping

Texture mapping is a method that allows a 2D image to be wrapped around a 3D object. It’s like applying paint to a car or wallpaper to a wall. It gives the object color, detail, and realism. However, to apply a 2D image to a 3D object, we first need to unwrap the 3D object into a 2D surface. This process is known as UV unwrapping.

UV unwrapping can be a complex process, as it involves deciding how to ‘cut’ the 3D model and ‘flatten’ it into 2D while maintaining the correct proportions and avoiding distortion. Once the model is unwrapped, the 2D image, or texture, can be applied. Proper texture mapping and UV unwrapping are crucial to creating a realistic and visually appealing 3D model.

Use Sculpting and Retopology Techniques

Sculpting is a technique in 3D modeling that allows artists to shape and mold their models like clay. It’s a powerful tool that offers a high degree of control and flexibility, enabling artists to create intricate details and realistic features on their models.

Retopology, on the other hand, is the process of redefining the mesh topology of a 3D model. This can be necessary after sculpting, as the process can often create a dense and complex mesh that can be difficult to work with. Retopology simplifies this mesh, making it easier to animate, texture, and render the model.

Create 3D product Visuals with Dimensions

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Last updated: May 12, 2024