Design Visualization

Autodesk ImageModeler 2009 (First Look Review)

31 Mar, 2009 By: Ron LaFon

Generate 3D models from 2D digital images in a flash.

Editor's Note: As of November 2, 2009, this product will no longer be available for standalone purchase. For complete details, see "Autodesk Discontinues Stand-Alone ImageModeler Sales."


Autodesk ImageModeler 2009 generates 3D models from 2D digital images, making it a highly useful tool for architects, product designers, civil engineers, and media and entertainment professionals. ImageModeler 2009 users can work from digital photographs or scanned images to reconstruct photorealistic objects, scenes, and cities; integrate CAD designs into existing environments; and measure buildings. ImageModeler and its sister application, Stitcher Unlimited, were developed by REALVIZ, which was acquired by Autodesk in 2008.

Autodesk ImageModeler 2009
Image-Based 3D Modeling Software


Easy to use; flexible; good
interoperability with other design

Cons: None significant

Overall Grade: A

US$995 (international pricing may vary)

ImageModeler 2009 supports a broad array of digital image formats, including JPG, TIF, Photoshop, TGA, bitmap, and PNG. Once you have your 2D images in hand, you're ready to create 3D models. Downstream success with the 3D model relies on a well-executed 2D-to-3D conversion, so step-by-step tutorials are available to explain how to obtain the best possible results for your projects.The workflow involves three phases.

• Calibration. In the first phase, you calibrate the software for one or more pictures by matching a few points between the images.

• Modeling. In the second phase, the software generates a 3D model using polygonal primitives, then you can refine this model as needed.

• Texturing. In the third phase, the software automatically extracts photorealistic texture maps from the pixel information in the source images. If you have only a single image, you can define the angles and perspectives in the image so ImageModeler can calibrate spatial coordinates from that single image.

Autodesk ImageModeler 2009 starts with 2D digital images and ends with a 3D model. (Image courtesy of Autodesk, and museum access made possible through the participation of the City of Salzburg and the Salzburg Museum.)

The simple interface of Autodesk ImageModeler 2009 -- and its ease of installation and use -- bely the depth of the application. Among the many useful features are a rules toolset that lets you make point-to-point measurements and a mapping feature that lets you define how each texture will be created.

New in the 2009 release, ImageModeler now fully supports 360-degree panoramas as entry images, calibrates single-image projects, and enables use of distance constraints to improve precision in photogrammetric work. Modeling enhancements include a new bevel tool for smoothing hard edges on an object. Texturing enhancements include texture blending and density preservation and enhancements to the UV mapping editor.

A new Autodesk FBX software exporter provides better interoperability with other Autodesk applications. ImageModeler 2009 can import OBJ files (3D objects and textures) and can export FBX files (3D points and objects, textures, and cameras), OBJ files (3D objects and textures), and DWG files (3D points and objects and measurements, for Windows only). The Autodesk FBX file-interchange format allows users to easily transfer information to Autodesk 3ds Max, Maya, and MotionBuilder software, as well as other content-creation packages that support FBX. The DWG format allows transfer to AutoCAD and Autodesk Revit.

The minimum system requirements for Autodesk ImageModeler 2009 are an Intel-based Mac or a PC running Windows with a 1-GHz or faster Intel Pentium 4 processor (equivalent or later), 512 MB of RAM for Windows XP systems or 1 GB of RAM for systems running Windows Vista (2 GB of RAM is recommended). You'll also need 200 MB of free hard drive space (2 GB recommended), an Ethernet adapter, a two-button mouse with the appropriate mouse driver software, and a qualified hardware-accelerated OpenGL 1.2 professional graphics card with the latest graphics driver available on the vendor's web site.

Autodesk ImageModeler 2009 runs on Mac OS X (10.4.11 and 10.5.2 and above), 32-bit versions of Microsoft Windows XP Professional (Service Pack 2 or higher), or 32-bit versions of Microsoft Windows Vista SP Business (or higher with Service Pack 1 installed). Internet Explorer v6 or higher, Mozilla Firefox v2, or higher browsers are required for accessing the ImageModeler 2009 documentation. To load panoramas in the QuickTime MOV file format, you'll need to have Apple QuickTime v7 (or later) installed.

Autodesk ImageModeler 2009 is US$995 for the full application; international pricing may vary. Further details and resources are available on the Autodesk ImageModeler web site, including a free 30-day trial version to download, ImageModeler 2009 tutorials and sample files, and a link to the Autodesk ImageModeler Store, which is the exclusive source for purchasing this application. Highly Recommended