3 Oct, 2013
By: Patrick Davis
First Look Review: Powerful pair of tools easily turns laser scans and photographs into quality visualizations and high-resolution 3D models.
On the heels of its successful launch of 123D Catch, a mobile app for consumers that turns photographs into 3D models, Autodesk this year introduced ReCap — a pair of reality-capture applications for professional designers, architects, and engineers who want to create intelligent 3D models from photos and point cloud data. Using these tools, which are said to be the first to bring together laser scanning and photogrammetry technologies, you can visualize massive point clouds as realistic surfaces and interact with them, doing CAD-like operations such as selection, tagging, moving, measuring, clash detection, and object extraction, all with native points.
Autodesk ReCap Photo and ReCap Pro
Reality Capture Tools
Overall Grade: A+
Pros: Easy to use; files can be used in Autodesk 2014 design suites.
Cons: None significant.
Price: ReCap Pro is included in 2014 Autodesk design and creation suites; ReCap Photo is freely accessible to users of the 2014 suites.
ReCap is designed for use in Autodesk design and creation suites. ReCap Pro, which is included in Autodesk 2014 suites, is a data-preparation environment designed to enable faster, better visualization of point clouds inside those applications. It runs on the desktop and provides functionality similar to other point cloud–viewing applications — that is, you can index, combine, view, and edit point cloud data, including light detection and ranging (LIDAR) data, prior to importing it into other Autodesk applications.
ReCap Photo turns photos into high-resolution 3D data that you can visualize and share. It is available via the Autodesk 360 cloud service and is freely accessible to any 2014 design suite user.
Autodesk ReCap Photo
Autodesk ReCap Photo creates high-resolution, textured 3D data from a series of photos taken from different angles around an object. The software leverages the Autodesk 360 cloud to process and store the photos and data. Unlike 123D Catch, ReCap Photo does not limit the number of photos you can submit and processes photos in full resolution for a more accurate 3D model. The geometry generated from the photos is a mesh rather than an ACIS-like solid.
A 3D model of a statue created using Autodesk ReCap Photo.
Prior to creating a model, ReCap Photo offers a few options you can use to control the model-conversion process. The first is mesh quality: draft, standard, or maximum. The better the mesh you desire, the more time is required to process the data. ReCap Photo provides an estimate of processing time based on your photos and the level of quality you select. In my very unscientific tests, producing a standard mesh took twice as long as draft, and maximum quality took approximately five times as long as draft.
Another option specifies the registration of matching points. Use this option to select survey points or reference distances to add scale to your project.
The final option lets you select the images that will be used to generate the texture map for the project. The selected photographs are uploaded to Autodesk cloud servers.
Using ReCap Photo is very easy, provided that you follow some simple but essential rules about photographing the object, which can be found in the "Autodesk ReCap Photo Getting Started Guide." In your Autodesk 360 account, start by uploading a series of photos to My Cloud Documents. Next, select files to use in creating the 3D model.
Click on the Submit Project button to begin converting your photos to a 3D model. When the scene has been created and the model generated, you will receive an e-mail notification with a link to your file.
You can view the finished model directly in your web browser or download it as a ZIP file with any accompanying textures and materials. ReCap Photo lets you save the resulting model to RCS (Autodesk ReCap), FBX (Autodesk), OBJ (Wavefront), or IPM (mobile viewer) format.
For my testing, I used images that Autodesk provided and I created several of my own scenes. I used draft, standard, and maximum-quality settings. I found it was critical to follow Autodesk's recommendations of how to photograph an object for conversion. Consistent camera angle and overlap between each image makes a better model.