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Making Good Photorealistic 3D Models from 2D Pictures

March 25th, 2011 Comments off
Making 3D models is time consuming. Recent programs like Google's SketchUp (it's free) have simplified the process of making digital 3D models, but SketchUp is definitely not automatic.

Example of photorealistic SketchUp Model created manually and placed into Google Earth

To make a 3D model look photorealistic, real world pictures can be "projected" onto a SketchUp model. While this technique can add realism, SketchUp is still a manual approach that can take hours, weeks, or even months to produce good results.   Many in the 3D and animation world would like an automatic process that can produce 3D models from a series of 2D pictures. Our goal is to create a system that automatically produces photorealistic digital 3D models that can be processed in existing 3D programs like 3D Studio Max, GeoMagic, or SketchUp. The Microsoft Photosynth project can automatically create 3D-like effects (some call it 2.5D) by automatically processing 10s to 100s of 2D images. While this process is automatic, it does not produce a 3D model that can be used by other programs. Garbage in........ Garbage out. A challenge for Photosynth and other automatic stitching/panoramic approaches is that they often use regular uncalibrated cameras. While this is convenient, it forces the programs to analyze each camera image to determine the field of view and other essential lens/camera characteristics: the cameras are essentially calibrated during processing. Precisely calibrating a camera is challenging in a lab setting, so it is reasonable to expect that on-the-fly calibration results will not be very precise. Any errors in the camera calibration step will build on each other and cause problems later in the process. While calibration problems cause annoying alignment errors in panoramic 2D & 2.5D images, they cause unacceptable distortion in 3D models. Here is a list of variables that must be determined before using a 2D image to create an accurate 3D model: Camera Variables that must be determined for Precise Stereoscopic 3D Reconstruction - The exact center of the image sensor behind the lens: sensors are normally a few pixels off-center - Camera Horizontal & Vertical Field of View to within 1/100 degree - Camera lens distortion correction variables: Pincushion, barrel, radial. - Camera horizontal orientation (0.00 to 360.00 degrees) to within 1/100 of a degree - Camera vertical orientation (tilt, roll) to within 1/100 degree - Camera location for each shot: X, Y, and Z coordinates to within one millimeter - Camera dynamic range and gamma The quality of a 3D model is limited by the quality of the 2D pictures used to make it. Here's how we calibrate our camera system: 1) Design and build a calibration routine/facility to determine the key camera variables. 2) Design and build a system of cameras that can be easily calibrated. The important point is that the camera system and the calibration system need to be built for each other: they literally fit together like a lock and key. As we see it, a calibrated system produces "clean" images that simplify and speed up the 3D reconstruction process. Our current 8-camera system (Proto-4F) has been designed to produce sets of calibrated images, and these images are used to automatically produce 3D models.

First Low Resolution 3D Point Cloud from Proto-4F

October 25th, 2010 Comments off
The cameras are finally calibrated, and the communications and power systems are installed and working. Now I can finally begin producing scans to test and fine tune the software. 7-shot Today I scanned part of the lab, and the animated GIF illustrates the 3D nature of the scan. When producing a 3D model, multiple perspectives must be captured to fill in occlusions (blind spots). For this model, three scans from different locations were merged to produce a point cloud. The GIF consists of 7 different screen-shots of the point-cloud. While there are still occlusions, many have been filled. For example, notice that you can see both above and below the table. The original 32-bit software that we use to turn pictures into 3D models is almost 5 years old, and it runs on 32-bit Windows XP. The old software often crashes when processing high resolution images because the 2GB memory limit isn't enough to process the gigabytes of data that our scanner can quickly produce. Today's scan was made on a computer running 64-bit Windows 7, and we are currently replacing the old 32-bits software with more advanced 64-bit code. The new software runs much faster in 64-bit mode because it can keep temporary files in RAM instead of writing them to and reading them from a slow disk. Even using a Solid State Drive (SSD) wastes minutes of unnecessary processing. COMING UP: Much better scans processed by SketchUp & posted into Google Earth.

Web Promotion with Google Earth

June 21st, 2010 Comments off

Four buildings that we have recently uploaded

We can now create 3D buildings and place them into Google Earth. The results can be viewed with a normal web browser, and we are exploring how to take advantage of this new low cost form of web promotion. Creating 3D models for Google Earth is a useful capability that we intend to continue refining, and we will begin offering the service of modeling local buildings and placing them into Google Earth. Click here to go to Purcellville Virginia and see one of our 3D model on Google Maps. Use the left, right, and center mouse buttons for navigation. Here is an overview of how to put images onto Google Earth. The program Google SketchUp can be used to create photorealistic 3D models of real buildings. Once a model is built it can be uploaded to Google for possible placement into Google Earth. A model is integrated into Google Earth only after a reviewer decides that it satisfies all of Google's acceptance criteria. Our early efforts were rejected for reasons like being too big, being too complex, or for exhibiting "Z-fighting." At times we have experienced delays of over four weeks during the review process, but after nearly three months of effort we have learned how to efficiently make models that Google will accept and place into Google Earth. While creating 3D content for Google Earth is interesting, our main objective is to build a practical 3D-360 photorealistic scanner. Prototype-4E is in the final stages of assembly, and this July we plan to begin using it to create photorealistic interiors for our 3D models. When the results are good enough we plan to use SketchUp and Google Earth to demonstrate the ability to create models that you can walk around and also into. Once inside you will see detailed photorealistic interiors that are too complex to model with most traditional techniques.

SketchUp Expert Adrian Bonifant

April 4th, 2010 1 comment
Adrian with porch of SketchUp Model #2 Adrian and I have started investigating how to merge the 3D-360 output into Google SketchUp, and ultimately into Google Earth. This April we expect to expand his latest 3D model of a porch into a 3D models of a complete house. Once the house is complete we will add a photorealistic interior. The interior will be produced by scanning real rooms with Prototype 4E of the 3D-360. Adrian's portfolio of SketchUp models can be found here
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