For those that aren't aware Project Photofly 2.0 is an Autodesk Labs project (with a current rating of 4.7/5) that allows you to take standard photos (approx. 30-50) of an object or real world scene, and then upload the resulting jpgs or tiffs to an Autodesk cloud based server. This then reconstructs mesh data from the multiple photos and supplies you with a model to exported for use in other applications. The resultant mesh can be exported as a DWG or OBJ. Now this is where it gets very interesting for the 3ds Max user. As you may know we updated our OBJ importer a couple of releases back to allow for a smoother transition from applications such as Mudbox (before FBX was introduced) or Zbrush. This enhanced workflow allows us to bring in the extremely high res data into 3ds Max and optimise it for either rendering, scene reconstruction or environments.
As I'm sure your aware, 3ds Max has a huge array of tools and workflows for optimising the resultant mesh to ensure its efficiency. This is where it gets interesting for us Max users. Rather than spending half a day constructing complex models of window arches, vases, entire facades of buildings, then how about we just took some photos and then let an app do all the hard work. No matter which market you use Max in - be it Games, film, or Design Visualisation - then this tool should be of interest. For the games guys, this tool offers a way of quickly taking photos of existing real world locations/vehicles and using this a 3d blue print, to build upon using tools such as 'Graphite's' robust free form tools (extend, topology etc.) From here you can create Low Res geometry from the imported High Res, whilst retaining full control over the flow of the quads.
Project Photofly has already had a huge amount of downloads, and why not as its free! It is also in its second release, providing a very simple and optimised workflow for constructing the geometry with the utmost ease.
So let's have a look at the workflow and considerations when working with Photofly and 3ds Max. Its important to note, this is my first try with the workflow and includes the mistakes I made. I have also uploaded my models to allow you to work through the processes,and see the impressive mesh quality before you download Project Photofly.
The model we will be working with is shown below. This was rendered using the high-res mesh and iray. Each frame was specified to take only 30 seconds per frame. The total animation took just under 55minutes on a HP8730w laptop, using an NVidia FX 3700 mobile GPU. (Hence the minor ‘progressive’ defects in the render output.) No post was applied, and all effects such as DoF (depth of field) were rendered into the file. As you may know, DoF does not ‘cost’ anything when using iRay as the render engine.
Please note: the below process should took around 30 mins to work through.
1. First install the free application:
. Whilst installing, start taking multiple photos of the item you want to be automatically translated into a mesh. For my example I used the below Buddha. I would recommend you use a fixed focal length, and not a low f-stop. we don't want depth of field that may cause ‘blurryness’ in the model construction stage. (I shot using a Canon 7D with a 18mm lense.)
It is recommended you shot at 5 degree increments around the item. covering all angles that you want to see in the model. Copy these over to your computer, in an easy to reach file/folder location.
I took 56 photos of this object at a 2592x1728 resolution in a jpg format.
3. Make sure all photos are vertically set inside of windows explore. If not, a quick way to do this is, is select all the photos - then Right Click and choose rotate clockwise/anti-clockwise.
4. Once Project Photofly is installed you with be confronted by the apps main interface.
5. From here, select ‘Create a new Photo Scene’
6. and then choose your photos.
7. This will then upload all the photos to cloud server for you. A quick registration is needed.
and you can choose whether to ‘Wait’ or be notified by email when complete.
8. My upload took approx 3 minutes to complete before a had a low res mesh to work with. I’m sure you will agree this is speedy when you consider each image was approx 1.88mb in size, and I had 56 of them.
9. I chose to be emailed the link, to ensure i had it should I need it again. This then allowed me to download the completed “.3dp” file.
10. From here, you just need to open the returned file.
The model will first of all open in ‘draft’ mode. This is a low quality mesh, allowing you to asses if more photos are needed for areas that are incomplete or inaccurate.
11. If you don’t ensure your photos are vertically aligned you will end up with a model on its side, as seen below.
12. We now have a mesh in our viewport, that also shows are real world camera locations.
13. From here start removing parts of the mesh that are not required. For instance the ground plane. You do this by using the top left icon, selecting parts of the mesh in the viewport and pressing delete.
14. Once satisfied with the mesh, I would recommend converting the mesh to a higher quality. For 3ds Max I went for the ‘Maximum’ resolution. I will always choose Maximum as I am confident that 3ds Max’s tools allow me to quickly bring this down to a low res dependant on my requirements.
Chose this icon:
and then select ‘Maximum’
15. To improve efficiency, you can do this only on selected portions.
16. Again you have the choice to ‘Wait’ or be email notified. This submission process, understandably, took a little longer. 12 minutes for a very detailed model.
17. Once returned, the model takes around 30 seconds to be opened in Project Photofly.
18. From here we now need to export the model for 3ds Max.
19. Now lets get it into 3ds Max.
20. Go to the ‘Jewel’ icon>Import>Import>
21. Select the OBJ to import.
22. This will open the guruware interface for importing OBJ’s.
I would strongly recommend the below settings to be changed for a typical project of one object.
The below options will copy the unwrapped textures and original photos to your designated ‘Project Folder structure.’ On the odd occasion you may get an error message. Don’t worry, its still brought them across for you.
Finally, ensure this option in the top right corner is disabled: This will make certain your model is upright in the scene space.
23. It will then start to import:
24. and hey presto! you now have a textured and dense mesh inside of 3ds Max.
As an example of just how dense this mesh is:
25. As a final recommendation, I would explore the ‘ProOptimizer’ modifier options, to allow you to easily recalculate the geometry for redefining the mesh for other uses. Make certain you toggle ‘Keep materials’ and ‘Keep UV boundaries’ sub-options, before calculating the optimisation.
You will have then have a mesh that you can tweak for your needs. In this quick test I went down to 5%. (from 527083 faces to 21645 faces) before seeing ANY noticeable visual difference.
26. Finally you can also examine the Unwrapped textures, should you need to add or remove detail. These textures are created as a JPG.
27. From here, if you plan to use iRay with the models, I would recommend you swop out the ‘standard’ material for an Arch&Des material.
As a final, and probably most important tip, I would recommend not trying to do this when your cat is in the room, and in playful mood:
I would recommend you also look at the Project Photofly gallery to see other examples of what is possible. Below is an example of which show its potential with 3ds Max and iRay. You can view the full gallery by clicking here.
Whilst your over at Autodesk Labs, you should also explore Project Helix. This is a toolset for allowing 3ds Max to work with incredibly dense Point cloud data, as well as rendering directly with mental ray. By using Project Helix you can turn laser scans into models.
Download and view more details of Project Helix by clicking here.