First Look Review: PhotoModeler Pro

26 Feb, 2006 By: Ron LaFon

Versatile tool creates models from photographs as well as fully textured visual models

Highly RecommendedAs might be surmised by its name, PhotoModeler Pro creates models from photographs. The product was developed originally as a high-accuracy measurement tool, but its ability to produce fully textured visual models has proved to be an important application in its own right.

In terms of pure measurement tasks, PhotoModeler Pro is suitable for industrial, engineering, surveying, process plant management, materials analysis (under applications of pressure, heat, force, vibration and so forth) and other scientific projects. Users in the gaming, film or entertainment industries who are doing purely visual models also make good use of PhotoModeler's capabilities.

PhotoModeler Pro is used in a number of professional fields where high accuracy measurements are required.

Projects begin with a digital photographic image, which can come directly from a digital camera or scanned by a flatbed scanner (for prints) or a film scanner (for slides). Images from negatives or slides can be transferred to Kodak photo CDs in digital form.

You must first calibrate the camera; calibration is necessary for each discreet lens focal length, with calibration methods varying depending on the type of camera used. Zoom lens users will need to calibrate for individual discreet focal lengths to be used. A known scale is derived (knowing, for example, that an object is 6ft tall), and you can add lines to the model by selecting points to generate a basic 2D wireframe. Using additional photographs taken from different angles or perspectives, you can generate a 3D model.

PhotoModeler Pro
Pros: Lots of options, high accuracy, supports a wide range of digital camera files.
Cons: None significant
Price: $895; upgrade pricing available


My description simplifies the process, but the full procedure is not particularly difficult. I highly recommend that new users work through the beginning tutorials to better understand PhotoModeler Pro. The application interface is straightforward and easy to understand.

The accuracy of the measurements depends on several factors, such as the number of photographs, quality of the camera and the number of reference points. PhotoModeler Pro includes image-enhancement tools for less-than-ideal photographic originals. The length of time required to create each model might vary from ten minutes for a simple model to a day or so for a complex one.

PhotoModeler Pro exports in DXF (2D and 3D), 3DS, Wavefront OBJ, VRML (1 & 2), IGES, RAW, 3DM and STL. Photo textures are exported using 3DS, OBJ, VRML and 3DM. PhotoModeler Pro supports features such as lines, points, curves, edges, cylinders and silhouette marking tools, as well as mesh and NURBS surfaces.

Whether your final output is destined for an accurate measurement in its own right, or for a model that is imported into AutoCAD or 3ds max or another capable modeling or visualization tool, PhotoModeler Pro provides a path to get you there.

A detailed model of a wood cabin, created in PhotoModeler Pro.

You can download a demo version of PhotoModeler Pro 5 from the PhotoModeler Web site -- this includes the demo program, Help file and a Getting Started tutorial. Note that the demo only works with the supplied tutorial data, though it is unlimited in any other way. Here you can also download the PhotoModeler Pro 5 Tutorial Add-ons, which provide more than four hours of detailed video tutorials, and you can download the Skid Mark Measurement Project Tutorial (PDF) as an example of an accident reconstruction project.

PhotoModeler Pro is available for $895, with upgrade pricing available for registered users of previous versions. Specialized add-on software modules Coded Targets and PhotoModeler Video are available for industrial and scientific projects. Accessories include dot slides, large calibration sheets and a precalibrated Canon Digital Rebel XT camera. PhotoModeler Pro offers a broader range of capabilities and features than we can possibly detail in this review, so I suggest you visit the company's Web site for more details. Highly Recommended.

About the Author: Ron LaFon

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