Apr 26, 2016 | By Benedict

To celebrate “Alien Day”, 3D scan library SnapTank has 3D scanned a “xenomorph” model in three different ways: “beginner” smartphone photogrammetry, “amateur” Olympus E-M10 photogrammetry, and “professional” home studio photogrammetry. The resulting 3D scans have been posted online for comparison.

If you’re still trying to work out why today, April 26, has been dubbed “Alien Day” by Twentieth Century Fox, you can stop looking at those release dates on IMDB right now: April 26, 4/26, is—of course—a nod to LV-426, the exmoon where the xenomorphs first appear in 1979 cult classic Alien. Luckily for the 3D scanning community, the folks at online 3D scan library SnapTank are fans of the franchise, and decided to spend Alien Day performing an Alien-themed 3D scanning experiment.

The experiment was centered around one main participant: a xenomorph—or rather, a highly detailed model xenomorph, suitable for putting three different 3D scanning techniques through their paces. SnapTank wanted to compare and contrast three varied levels of photogrammetry scanning, to see just how different the results between professional techniques and amateur efforts can be. In ascending order of professionalism, the three methods were:

Beginner: iPhone SE 3D scanning

To start with, the SnapTank team used a 12MP iPhone camera to capture a photogrammetry scan of the model alien. The setup was far from professional, being carried out in the SnapTank office with no professional lighting or other equipment. The photographer used only the camera’s automatic settings, as well as the “touch to focus” feature, to take a series of 405 photos. These photos were then processed using Agisoft Photoscan with “high” alignment, “high” density, 2 million poly mesh, and 4k texture.

Although the 3D model assembled from the iPhone photos certainly isn’t terrible, its creator, SnapTank’s Ross Martin, admits to the faults of the method: “I had fun scanning this with my new phone, although we know it could have been better. The camera just isn’t really up to the detailed photographs required to scan such an intricate object—would be nice to use a little Macro lens on there to get into the nooks and crannies. Apps like Camera+ and going higher ProCamera+ could have helped as you get more control over the settings of the camera. This might be a good shout for next time.”

Amateur: Olympus E-M10 3D scanning

For the second grade of 3D scanning, SnapTank outsourced the experiment to Connor Snedecor, an amateur 3D capture artist. Snedecor favors scanning with a point-and-shoot Olympus E-M10 camera with a built-in lens, which he used to capture the xenomorph. The E-M10, with a slightly higher 16.1MP resolution, was set to an aperture of f8 and a shutter speed of 1/30 of a second. 180 photos were taken at these settings, on a wooden table outdoors on an overcast day. Again, the collection of photos was processed with Photoscan, but this time with a 5 million poly mesh and 8k texture.

The Olympus E-M10 provided good quality photographs which were processed into a credible 3D model of the xenomorph. While the smaller number of photographs may have hampered the final product, the method certainly was not embarrassed by the more professional alternative. “Looks alright,” said a modest Snedecor. “Glad it didn’t come out a total disaster.”

Professional: Canon 5DS 3D scanning

For the final and most professional method of 3D scanning, SnapTank commissioned 3D artist Jonty Smith to shoot the xenomorph with his trusty Canon 5DS, using professional photography and lighting equipment. "The subject was small, about 6 inches tall, with lots of tiny details. It made it really difficult to scan, so I had to be careful," said Smith.

With a 50mm lens attached, the 5DS, mounted on a tripod for stability, was set to an f8 aperture and a much slower shutter speed of 2 seconds. 437 images were captured in Smith’s professional studio, where two 500 watt lights were set up. To ensure a smooth mesh, Smith placed the alien model on a turntable, where it was gradually rotated for each shot.

The professional 3D scan was, unsurprisingly, the most successful of the three, with Smith’s high-end equipment producing the telling difference between his and the more basic techniques. Ross Martin at SnapTank says, "It's one of the best raw scans we've seen... We hope other artists can learn from it, benefiting the 3D scanning community as a whole."

To enable 3D scanning enthusiasts to get a closer look at the differences between the three 3D scans, SnapTank has made each model available for free download. Happy Alien Day to you all!



Posted in 3D Scanning



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Mike wrote at 4/27/2016 5:55:42 AM:

looking good, great job! I bet though that better results can be generated even for the iphone dataset if you replace Photoscan with a better solution. I use 3Dnovator software and I get in general better results in less time.

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