To round out today’s adventures in imaging programs, click on the image above to see a video of what I am about to describe. VideoTrace is a new program in development at the The Australian Centre for Visual Technologies that allows you to quickly create a 3d model of an object from video footage. There are other image-based modeling applications out there already, most notably Imagemodeler, but this one has some interesting features worth discussing. Reconstructing 3D geometry from photography is an extremely useful and important aspect of almost all VFX work. Currently, geometry is created from a combination of on-set stills and measurements, blueprints, 3D tracking data, laser or LIDAR surveys, and sometimes even sheer guesswork. Measuring and modeling are full time jobs, often with entire departments dedicated to the task, but once you have an accurate model, almost anything is possible.
What Video Trace does that I have not seen in any other application is fast, easy geometry definition (reminds me of Google’s SketchUp) mixed with automated 3D tracking. Imagemodeler can be a time-consuming pain in the ass, and when you are done with the model, you still need to track and line it up in the shot, which can take even more time. By combining the modeling and tracking into one program, these guys have started down the path to creating an extremely useful and powerful application. If you do watch the video, at the end of the Jeep part you can see some of the possibilities that having a good tracked model offers.
I think we may see a lot of really interesting projects come out of this one- any time complex and expensive processes are made cheap and easy, the results are impressive. Just look at what happened when video shooting and editing suddenly became affordable for everyone. Sure there’s a lot of crap, but there’s also some sheer brilliance that never would have had a chance to be created had the access to the tools not been easy.