Digitizing the physical world through photogrammetry and 3d scanning has nowadays become part of our common vernacular in the creation of 3D virtual environments. However, it is near equally common for these technologies to be employed at the expense of design. The primary motivation behind "Beacon" is twofold: (1) to ensure that art creation for virtual environments continues to serve design, rather than dictate it, and (2) to encourage a more collaborative experience between physical and digital artists in computer graphics production. In this pipeline, 3D printing has enabled us to preserve our design at a very high fidelity as we transition into a physical format where we can safely leverage the talents of physical sculptors and painters without jeopardizing design intent. In turn, through photogrammetry, we then digitize the physical sculptures and integrate them back into our native virtual environments. By employing both 3D printing and photogrammetry in a single pipeline, we have helped to maximize the value that both designers and artists can contribute to the creation of virtual environments.
Concept art serves as the vision holder and is the equalizer through which modeling, texturing, and lighting will be filtered to ensure a consistent look and feel is achieved in terms of aesthetics. The ‘white-box is a low-resolution collision model that serves as the foundation for all interactions between the ‘player’ and the 3D world in terms of mechanics, collision, layout, and flow. While the white-box isn’t actually rendered in the final product, it does in fact exist in memory so that collision computations can be made against it instead of a high-resolution mesh. In addition to saving on performance, the low-resolution white-box also makes iterating far simpler when designing the virtual environment. 3D-printing
As we move to work physically at this point in our pipeline, it is critical that we remain mindful of our design choices in getting here. Because player interactions within virtual spaces are so inextricably tied to the collision model of the white-box, using a 3D printer would ensure that the collision model’s integrity would also be preserved as we converted it to a physical format. To preserve the original intent of the designer, printing the white box in 3D became a necessary step in our process as we are able to print at a very high resolution and without deviating from the white box’s specific form and proportions. Sculpting and surfacing In traditional virtual environment pipelines, the completed white box is handed over to an art team who outfits it with 3D models and textures. During this process, special care is taken to not add any geometry that would obstruct the player’s progression along the alpha path. Doing so could significantly alter the original intent of the designer. The same care must be taken when sculpting physically.
After finishing our sculpture, we photograph it and digitize it using a process called photogrammetry – where a point cloud is generated from a series of photographs. Here, the point cloud gets generated after photographing our sculpture and the point cloud is then used to generate a dense point cloud, and ultimately, compute a 3D mesh. The dense point cloud and resulting mesh created through the process of photogrammetry.
Upon digitizing our sculpture, we must then re-align it with the original white box as it exists inside Unity 3D. Using Meshlab’s alignment tools, we are able to transform, scale, and reorient our new model through Point-Based Glueing. In the original white box, we sculpted two parallel arms that protruded from its side. The tips of these arms also exist in digitized sculpture. By using matching pairs of points on both meshes, we are able to align them with one another. After the digitized sculpture is aligned with the original white box, we import it into Unity 3D where the match is nearly perfect.
In future projects, moving one of the arms to the opposite side of the mesh should lessen the amount of shared influence the points have during alignment to make the fit even more water-tight. After the digitized sculpture has been successfully integrated with the original white box inside of Unity 3D, we then begin our lighting and post-processing pass to reach parity with the original concept art. While more and more artists and educators are using Photogrammetry in tandem with 3D Printing, we found that the processes they employed were just as varied and unique. Our hope is that "Beacon" will help to organize ways of thinking about these technologies in relation to one another and help illuminate novel research on the topic. In addition, we seek to provide artists and studios the opportunity to learn a new process that is visually flexible, affordable, and helps to leverage a broader spectrum of talent.
Lighting and Post Processing
3D Whitebox Design
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