3D Scanning: What Is It And How Can We Use It?

Yasuo Baba, Director of Europe Digital Imaging and European Product Marketing, Sony Digital Imaging explores…

Although three-dimensional (3D) scanning has been around since the 60s, as technology and computing capabilities have advanced, the quality and precision of images it is possible to capture has improved enormously.

From image capture for video gaming assets to scanning museum collections to create digital replicas, the potential applications for 3D scanning are endless and more and more sectors are harnessing the benefits – including time and cost savings – of this disruptive technology.

The key to faster character, set, and object scanning is the combination of raw processing power and a camera set-up that offers maximum resolution and rapid capture rate. However, another critical element is required to bring the two together – and is where the magic happens: the software development kit (SDK).

A flexible SDK allows VFX teams to automate processes, identify opportunities to reduce the time these processes take and trigger various sequences and scenarios to ensure cameras, lights, and processing are working as one.

At Sony Digital Imaging, we supply the most advanced camera technology to our customers that enables them to capture renders with a degree of realism previously unseen in 3D scanning. Here are some of our client use cases:

Spanish firm Peris Digital creates digital scans of any garment, material, or texture from any period, for use in TV and film. Its models have featured in TV series Bridgerton and in the movie, Dune, to name a few. Peris’ rig features 144 Sony Alpha 7C and 7R IV cameras with Sony’s G Master lenses to generate 3D models for use in post-production. Peris also uses NVIDIA software at all stages of production and NVIDIA computers to handle the VFX. Beyond supplying the cameras, Sony has supported Peris with their integration and synchronisation using Sony’s Camera Remote SDK. As a result, Peris can precisely replicate the unique texture of garments to ensure truly lifelike results.

Sony has also worked with Plymouth-based digital production agency Stasis Media, which specialises in the creation of digital human renders where precision is essential to ensure subjects look real. Stasis Media uses several Sony Alpha 7R IV cameras to capture intricate facial features, and a handful of the smaller Sony RX0 IIs to capture the body. The integration of the Sony SDK enables all the cameras to be controlled and triggered simultaneously, matching the movement of the turntable, or flaring of the LED lights, which is crucial for the images to be accurately stitched together.

Finally, UK-based Lidar Lounge creates digital humans, and in set and on location vehicle and object scanning. It provides a highly bespoke service including all aspects of visual FX and scanning to clients including Warner Bros, Disney, Universal, Netflix, the British Museum, Dyson, and Intel. Lidar Lounge has scanned artefacts for the British Museum including Egyptian mummies and the Rosetta Stone.

Using Sony A7R IV cameras with code Lidar Lounge created and built in conjunction with Sony’s Camera Remote SDK enables the cameras to be triggered with lighting in a specific photometric sequence; securing little delay between captures so multiple flashes can be fired in quick succession. Lidar Lounge is also looking to incorporate Sony’s Pixel Shift functionality in its light passes to increase image resolution, and developing multiple lighting setups that vary depending on the camera position within the rigs.

The ability to rapidly scan people, objects, and buildings in exceptionally high 3D detail presents a myriad of opportunities for a vast range of applications including health, reverse engineering, architecture, education, and science. As adoption of 3D scanning technology continues to grow, it will be exciting to see the diversity of its use cases and applications.