I bought the Kinect v2 sensor. And it has been a bit of a let down but probably not for the reasons you might think. Well, there are two main reasons; (1)one is that vendors have been confounded by it and slow to support it and (2)two because it still has the same lame color resolution. While I have no answers on how to speed up vendors to support it sooner, I have been able to attack the problem of getting higher resolution color images for my Kinect scans. And that is what I'd like to share with you.
My first brush with the idea of affixing higher quality color imagery to Kinect scans came when I had the good fortune of connecting with the engineers over at Lynx labs. They were just a Kickstarter yet to be at the time and we talked at length about my fanaticism for depth mapping (and my many failed attempts at scanning for film-making) and their plans for give a Prime Sense sensor great software powers and making it an all-in-one appliance type solution.
As their development progressed we discussed desired features quite a bit. As a film maker my demands can be summarized as needing great (and sophisticated) color/texture resolution and detail and needing a little bit of depth. Where as an engineering heavy group might need super accuracy in their 3D information and not need color at all. Lynx Labs deployed a Raster Alignment feature in the software system of their A-cam and it was simply brilliant. It was based loosely on a similar Raster Alignment tool (which I have had very little success with) that was available in Meshlab. The results of applying high fidelity imagery to a mid-quality 3D scan was fantastic. So how do I go about reproducing this result with my Kinect scans?
Gather Photo Reference Under Ideal Lighting
An overcast day is great but selecting an object in shadow is equally valuable. The reason is that we are trying to capture a subject in ambient lighting so that we get a clean diffuse texture (without lighting perspective) that can be synthetically re-lit once it is on a 3D model.
I began this post wanting to share something about the amazing technologies that are surfacing for 3D character development. As technologies are always changing it is likely that this post may quickly age or also that I've missed a recently available or coming soon technology. Please don't hesitate to comment and let me know of such new tech. Some of this is not exactly new but may have recently come of age. The intent is to share the barriers being broken and to consider what an advanced 3D character development pipeline should look like and which technologies it should include.
You can't help but love the detail and image map quality that you get from a tricked out Photo Scan. And although it would be rather expensive to assemble one... I would love to have a Photo Scanning stage and the Pro Version of Agisoft PhotoScan (like the example below of James' rig at ten24). Oh and while I'm asking I'd like his experience as well.
Be sure and watch the awesome piece that the scans were used on!
Elm Tree with Hollows
I know everybody does tree trunks but this subject captivated me. I love the old, over-grown, rotted-out stumps around the base of this tree. I can totally imagine children's animation with some fantastic CG critters living in the hollows. Also the folds in the bark just show some of the fantastic details that age produces. So here you go an old elm tree. Enjoy!
I've been there, you've been there or you will eventually if you are working in filming or videography at all. A client wants to shoot interviews, testimonials or talking heads by any other name. Only one little restriction, the subjects will only be available for a specific time at a hotel. Hotels are beautiful, right? This should look good with the right lighting. But wait, we have a specific hotel conference room reserved so we can shoot. Ugh... have you ever actually noticed how blah a hotel room is? I mean it's fine if it is just a wall, but it just isn't anywhere near as attractive as shooting in an all glass office on the 23 floor of downtown. There really is only so much you can do with lighting (trust me I've tried). So how does the shooter take his work to the next level when placed in such limited constraints? I'm glad you asked.
Rear-lit Photographic Backdrops
There is a LOT of info and always more to improve on in an ever changing field. This is not an exhaustive breakdown of lighting gear and its use but it should be a reasonable starting explanation of differing types of gear.
Lighting. When you get more into lights you'll be overrun with all kinds of gear and it's hard to tell which is reputable and which isn't and most of all, why? So let's start with classic gear (i.e.-Tungsten type lighting) and then we'll get to the modern (i.e.-LED's).
Old World Well
It took the better part of several days to photograph the subject, align, generate points, mesh, section it, remesh, UV map, reproject, build textures, paint additional detail from the texture and reassemble. Whew! The final prop is ready to be dropped in to our Western game to hide evil gunmen anywhere we want in the scenes. Yes, it took that long and required 355 photos of the original subject in overcast lighting. But hey, look at that beautiful 3D-ness! :)
Rough Stone Wall Detailed
I found this sample along a steep drop off at Red Rocks Amphitheater. Wasn't too hard to reach and the lighting was ambient enough for me to capture this one.
I have wanted to return to this subject ever since I first did a very low detail scan. So here it is. I finally caught it on an overcast day and scanned it in 167 close up photos. :) I love it!
I wanted to share some of my PhotoScanning work as I build up wall assets. I was really excited to find this top sample because I need that rougher hewn feel if I'm going to use these assets to build old world or fantasy elements.
Many years ago in a standard definition world tapes ruled and media professionals on a budget were forced to wrangle with an evil which has been dubbed HDV. That archaic world had to make all media fit in an overbearing limitation of 25 megabits per second and everyone suffered for it. Those who were hungry for the future spoke of something called, HD.
Engineers worked tirelessly to make HD possible in that land of limits called DV tape. Their magic held and HDV was born. It promised a new era where all could take the path to HD. But something went wrong and the color went out of the world. HDV was compressing the life out of our colors. And the computational power of our machines was being drained. The 15 GOP (Group Of Pictures) compression was demanding power and editing was at a stand still. We paid dearly for our premature thirst for HD.
Those who saw the light escaped into a world of tape-less media. I’m told they no longer have computer video captures and data is native from lens to screen. How many generations must pass before our video is poor enough for HDV to be eradicated! I promise you if you are still infected with HDV, there is a cure!
You can find freedom and life in the new SOLID STATE!
All joking aside, you really need to abandon HDV as a format. It was MPEG-2 and incredibly lacking in color depth. It was made to get HD resolutions to fit into the 25 megabits per second tape speeds of DV tapes. Solid state media such as SD cards and P2 media freed video from that limitation. Tape based video also required a video capture to get the media from the tape to the computer. That process cost a generation of quality (although digital got around that) and required you to sit through that capture (for a two hour event recording from three cameras you could expect to spend at least six hours capturing).
HDV was great for about two years and then it was obvious that better technologies had come along. I’m shocked at how many groups are still using HDV. It is a terrible format for today. Because of the heavy compression inherent in HDV, editing the content is far more processor intensive than HD video editing needs to be.
I just wanted to let you know that there is a much better world out there in video.
We had very limited resources when we began this game so we tried to develop concepts which would play well with our limitations. So we went with a Sci-fi Post-Apocalyptic theme. You are fighting a clone army we call The Mutuals. That way we only needed a single actor to play all our bad guys.
A solid eight hour shoot and we'd worn our actor (Cougar Littlefield) out completely. He was covered in sweat. It was more like a type of eight hour workout with a break for lunch. You can see him below as he runs out from a covered position and fires on the player before running back. Then a run out and get shot up.
Permissions & Copyrights
Please feel free to use my 3D scans in your commercial productions. Credit is always welcome but not required.
Staying busy dreaming of synthetic film making while working as a VFX artist and scratching out time to write novels and be a dad to three.