lidar

Meshlab polygon reduction by Xuan Prada

Meshlab is probably the only available solution (proprietary Lidar software doesn't count) when you have to deal with very heavy poly count. I'm working with some complex terrains, some of them up to 50 million polys and Maya or Zbrush just can't handle that. I'm reducing the poly count considerably fast in Meshlab with its polygon reduction tools.

  • This terrain has more than 16 million polys. Maya can't handle this very well, and Zbrush can't manage memory to even open it. Just import it in Meshlab.
  • You will be using the Quadric Edge Collopse Decimation tool a lot.
  • There are different strategies available, I like to use the percentage one. In this case by 0.5
  • I'll be getting an 8 million poly terrain.
  • I just run the tool one more time to get a 4 million terrain. I can work in Maya with this :)

On-set tips: The importance of high frequency detail by Xuan Prada

Quick tip here. Whenever possible use some kind of high frequency detail to capture references for your assets. In this scenario I'm scanning with photos this huge rock, with only 50 images and very bad conditions. Low lighting situation, shot hand-held, no tripod at all, very windy and raining.
Thanks to all the great high frequency detail on the surface of this rock the output is quite good to use as modeling reference, even to extract highly detailed displacement maps.

Notice in the image below that I'm using only 50 pictures. Not much you might say. But thanks to all the tiny detail the photogrammetry software does very well reconstructing the point cloud to generate the 3D model. There is a lot of information to find common points between photos.

The shooting pattern couldn't be more simple. Just one eight all around the subject. The alignment was completely successfully in Photoscan.

As you can see here, even with a small number of photos and not the best lighting conditions, the output is quite good.

I did an automatic retopology in Zbrush. I don't care much about the topology, this asset is not going to be animated at all. I just need a manageable topology to create a nice uv mapping and reproject all the fine detail in Zbrush and use it later as displacement map.

A few render tests.

Environment reconstruction + HDR projections by Xuan Prada

I've been working on the reconstruction of this fancy environment in Hackney Wick, East London.
The idea behind this exercise was recreating the environment in terms of shape and volume, and then project HDRIs on the geometry. Doing this we can get more accurate lighting contribution, occlusion, reflections and color bleeding. Much better environment interaction between 3D assets. Which basically means better integrations for our VFX shots.

I tried to make it as simple as possible, spending just a couple of hours on location.

  • The first thing I did was drawing some diagrams of the environment and using a laser measurer cover the whole place writing down all the information needed for later when working on the virtual reconstruction.
  • Then I did a quick map of the environment in Photoshop with all the relevant information. Just to keep all my annotations clean and tidy.
  • With drawings and annotations would have been good enough for this environment, just because it's quite simple. But in order to make it better I decided to scan the whole place. Lidar scanning is probably the best solution for this, but I decided to do it using photogrammetry. I know it takes more time but you will get textures at the same time. Not only texture placeholders, but true HDR textures that I can use later for projections.
  • I took around 500 images of the whole environment and ended up with a very dense point cloud. Just perfect for geometry reconstruction.
  • For the photogrammetry process I took around 500 shots. Every single one composed of 3 bracketed exposures, 3 stops apart. This will give me a good dynamic range for this particular environment.
  • Combined the 3 brackets to create rectilinear HDR images. Then exported them as both HDR and LDR. The exr HDRs will be used for texturing and the jpg LDR for photogrammetry purpose.
  • Also did a few equirectangular HDRIs with even higher dynamic ranger. Then I projected these in Mari using the environment projection feature. Once I completed the projections from different tripod positions, cover the remaining areas with the rectilinear HDRs.
  • These are the five different HDRI positions and some render tests.
  • The next step is to create a proxy version of the environment. Having the 3D scan this so simple to do, and the final geometry will be very accurate because it's based on photos of the real environment. You could also do a very high detail model but in this case the proxy version was good enough for what I needed.
  • Then, high resolution UV mapping is required to get good texture resolution. Every single one of my photos is 6000x4000 pixels. The idea is to project some of them (we don't need all of them) through the photogrammetry cameras. This means great texture resolution if the UVs are good. We could even create full 3D shots and the resolution would hold up.
  • After that, I imported in Mari a few cameras exported from Photoscan and the correspondent rectilinear HDR images. Applied same lens distortion to them and project them in Mari and/or Nuke through the cameras. Always keeping the dynamic range.
  • Finally exported all the UDIMs to Maya (around 70). All of them 16 bit images with the original dynamic range required for 3D lighting.
  • After mipmapped them I did some render tests in Arnold and everything worked as expected. I can play with the exposure and get great lighting information from the walls, floor and ceiling. Did a few render tests with this old character.

Meshlab align to ground by Xuan Prada

If you deal a lot with 3D scans, Lidars, photogrammetry and other heavy models, you probably use Meshlab. This "little" software is great managing 75 million polygon Lidars and other complex meshes. Photoscan experienced users usually play with the align to ground tool to establish the correct axis for their resulting meshes.

If you look for this option in Meshlab you wouldn't find it, at least I didn't. Please let me know if you know how to do this.
What I found is a clever workaround to do the same same thing with a couple of clicks.

  • Import your Lidar or photogrammetry, and also import a ground plane exported from Maya. This is going to be your floor, ground or base axis.
  • This is a very simple example. The goal is to align the sneaker to the ground. I would like to deal with such a simple lidars at work :)
  • Click on the align icon.
  • In the align tool window, select the ground object and click on glue here mesh.
  • Notice the star that appears before the name of the object indicating that the mesh has been selected as base.
  • Select the lidar, photogrammetry or whatever geometry that need to be aligned and click on point based glueing.
  • In this little windows you can see both objects. Feel free to navigate around it behaves like a normal viewport.
  • Select one point at the base of the lidar by double clicking on top of it. Then do the same in one point of the base geo.
  • Repeat the same process. You'll need at least 4 points.
  • Done :)