Project Photofly is a free early Autodesk Labs technology preview that allows anyone with a digital camera to create 3D models from photographs. Project Photofly is two parts one the cloud computing technology and the second the desktop application named Photo Scene Editor. Project Photofly’s desktop application named Photo Scene Editor is currently a Windows based application requiring a web connection.
This post is to provide some tips and tricks to help you get the best results and understand Project Photofly. Some things can change over time as Project Photofly is a technology preview and we can post updates and changes based on your feedback, so please provide your feedback in the Project Photofly discussion forum or in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Step One – Get Autodesk Project Photofly:
Step Two - Review the Project Photofly Resources:
- Watch the Photo Shooting Guidelines video (YouTube, Download)
- Review the Getting Started Guide (PDF) http://autode.sk/iGVloq
- Watch the Autodesk Labs Project Photofly v2 A to Z in 7 minutes: http://fb.me/vgyPHFJ2
The User Interface “UI” of the Project Photofly Photo Scene Editor
- ‘Heads-up Display’ – You can set the photo lock and change the object selection methods
- Tool panels – This is your main menu.
- Mesh Quality Settings (Draft, Standard, Maximum)
- Synchronize button - will show “Save & Synchronize” if the project is not saved.
- Display options – select to display mesh or texture, photos, grid, lines, etc.
- UCS indicator, the User Coordinate System for the X, Y, and Z axis
- Image Gallery – the scrollable image thumbnails. Thumbnails will indicate status of photo stitched, unstitched, or enough points
- Navigation arrows – use these arrows to easily manipulate the view of the photos scene.
- You don't need a high resolution expensive camera. You'll want at least 3 Megapixels for best results. Feel free to submit higher resolutions if convenient, but there is little improvement above 3 Megapixels. Good focus and reasonable and consistent lighting is more important than resolution.
- Check your photos first, and remove all the bad images such as fuzzy or incorrectly lit such as a dark image in a series of bright ones. Fuzzy unfocused images could be stitched but will “damage” the texture mapping of the mesh.
- While there is no hard-coded upper limit on the number of photos, there is little quality improvement in the model above about 40 photos but computation time does increase with the number of photos. Using more than 50 photos is not recommended as there are some maximum data size limits on the server and your job may be rejected or fail. Start with a smaller set of photos as you can always add more photos later to the photos scene.
- Wide angle camera lens work the best due to the underlying technology. Do not use rectilinear-corrected image produced from a tilt-shift lens or image correction software or use the really distorted lenses like the fisheye.
- Do not manual crop or edit the photos as that could prevent proper processing of the data and result in a bad model.
- You can perform limited color processing to the images such as making them black and white to balance lighting problems.
- The surface and materials of the objects are really important. Shiny, transparent, or thin surfaces or those without unique patterns or points will not work well.
- Multiple rooms can be difficult to capture in one scene as Project Photofly must be able to follow a path of unique point locators to understand the connected spaces and that would result in a ton of photos. It would be best to do each room space individually and then connect them in another application such as 3ds Max or AutoCAD. With interior walls you can place some pieces of paper with simple pen scribbles on the walls.
- Some people have asked about using video to create the models by extracting a still image from frames of the video. While this could be done the problem is the quality of the still frames. Most have compression or tweening that affect the clarity of the image.
- Do not keep the camera still while rotating an object against a blank background. To Project Photofly the background is unlikely to look completely blank and it likely won’t work. Project Photofly is not a panoramic photo software.
- You should plan your shots depending on the subject you want to create a model from such as a person, building, or that stuffed armadillo you have on your desk. You need to balance the number of planned photos with coverage of all faces and make sure that you get the same location or point in at least 3 photos.
Photo Scene Editor Tips:
- If you take your pictures in portrait orientation you can use Windows Explorer to first rotate them to landscape before importing them. If you bring portrait pictures into your photo scene, your model may be sideways. You can use the orbit tool to get around that, however you might find that in certain circumstances you’ll need to go to Preferences and change the “Up Axis” setting between X, Y, or Z.
- You do not need to go all the way to maximum quality as standard should be sufficient for most purposes and result in more success and performance.
- Use the ALT key with the left-mouse button to orbit without having to go into orbit mode. Very useful when doing mesh cleanup with the selection tool.
- It is normal for the edges of models to be flared. You should use the mesh selection and deletion tools to clean up the edges of the model. The artifacts like flaring is caused where we don’t have enough camera angles or enough surface detail to get a good signal of where the surface is. In general the best results happen when a particular point on the surface can be seen from at least 3 to 4 different camera angles/positions and with some surface texture that can be matched and triangulated on.
- You have to refine the mesh after the initial processing to draft mode. Some are posting their videos of models to YouTube in draft quality mode when standard would look much nicer.
- Check the camera alignment by making the mesh partially transparent and selecting the entire mesh (or parts of it) and then clicking photos in the Image Gallery. When the mesh is selected (highlighted red), it's very easy to see if it lines up with the content in the photos behind it.
- When doing mesh cleanup do the following: (a) turn on 2-sided viewing, (b) turn on pure wireframe mode, (c) select a region to delete, (d) use the ALT-left-mouse-button-drag to orbit and check that you haven’t selected a region you didn’t want to before deleting. There is no undo, and often when selecting on a surface you can accidentally select-through the object to the opposite side if you aren’t careful.
- If you right click on the photo thumbnails at the bottom you can choose to just show “Unstitched Photos”, making it easier to manually stitch the problem photos out of a difficult job.
- When making a movie, you can make it in wireframe or solid mode. Produce the same movie twice and use a video editor like to crossfade the same sequence between the two modes for a cool effect.
- If you like Microsoft Photosynth-like photo navigation, after you get a stitch of your photos you can go to preferences and turn on “Lock During Photo Orbit” and then use the orbit tool to rapidly navigate through your original photos. Note you’ll need to turn off the visibility of the mesh geometry first.
- You can change your background from the default blue to black or any other colors you prefer. You can change the background color in the Preferences dialog by pressing “P” and then setting it in the Color panel.
- Press the “I” to see the photo scene information like number of stitched photos, points, and faces.
- Remove all spaces, Chinese, and all accented letters like ~!@#$%^&*() from the path/folders of your images, the name of your images and the name of your project as this can currently cause problems for Project Photofly.
- If your views seem like it is an odd perspective view or not orbiting right try this solution. Press Ctrl + Alt + left mouse button and drag down several times to have the scene far enough (angle of view decrease by zooming out). Then use Ctrl + Alt + right mouse button and drag up to approximate the scene (the point of view move by doing the dolly). By resetting the perspective, the view should look better and the navigation should be easier.
Export Data Tips:
- Exporting the DWG contains only the manual points and lines you have created not the mesh or automatic points. If you want the points in AutoCAD try exporting to the .LAS point cloud format which can be imported into AutoCAD or many other applications.
- If you want to view your 3D model on your mobile device, simply export it as a .IPM file and use the free Autodesk Inventor Publisher Mobile available for both Apple and Android mobile devices.
- If you want to use your 3D Photo Scene in a 3D animation software like 3ds Max or Maya export the .OBJ file which contains the textures and mesh.
- Share your 3D photo scenes using the .3dp file. The small .3dp file when sent to another person by email will allow them to open it in Project Photofly Photo Scene Editor and it will download the photos and mesh for the 3D photos scene. Make sure you synchronize your changes to the cloud by clicking on the “Save & Sync” button before sharing the 3dp file. If it was already synchronized, the button will be grayed out and it’d say “Synchronized.”
The most important tips are to give this technology a try, you don’t know if your object will work until you try it, send us your feedback, and most of all have fun,