The Cake Is A Cave

Photogrammetry Reveals Secret Landscapes

I’ve recently become fascinated by Photogrammetry, a technique used to 3D scan objects by combining a series of pictures taken from different angles. I haven’t created my own models yet, but I did spend hours browsing Sketchfab, marveling at the faithfully captured details of the most unlikely objects, such as a rusty clamp or an old shoe. It’s funny how the most mundane things become fascinating once they are virtualized.

Demo of 123DCatch, a popular photogrammetry software.

There’s only so much resolution you can squeeze out of even a few dozen pictures however. On closer inspection, the illusion breaks and the models reveal their glitchy beauty. Zoom in a bit more and you clip through the surface, entering a concave world.

Cookie or Cave?

The experience will be familiar to many (gamers and CGI artists in particular). However, the realism of photogrammetry adds an uncanny quality to the experience that human-designed models don’t have. Below are a few screenshots from my last expedition through the Sketchfab catalogue. I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I did.

Click on the links in the captions to view the original 3D models. Thanks to the authors of the scans for their wonderful work.

Note: If you want to create your own models, 123D Catch —a free app from Autodesk— gives decent results. Serious photographers will want to use a good camera and dedicated software like Agisoft Photoscan. There are also open source options if that’s what you’re into.

Addendum (29.10.2016): Check out Regard3D for a free, standalone, and OpenSource option. It comes with a rather handy tutorial. Here’s an even more comprehensive guide.

Addendum (13.11.2016): Here’s a great list of practical tips for photogrammetry.