Three-dimensional modeling lets design professionals bring their creations to life. But what if your creation already exists in real space? Then you can use Realviz’s ImageModeler 3.5 — a photo-realistic 3-D modeling program now available on the Mac for the first time — to generate a 3-D model from photos. Anyone who makes models for a living should consider this easy-to-use tool.
Orderly Modeling Process
ImageModeler’s wizardlike interface guides you through importing photos, finding common reference points in the photos, entering key measurements, and watching your model come to life.
The first step is simple: clicking on selected points in your photographs. ImageModeler needs multiple pictures taken from all around the building; the documentation provides helpful tips on taking the photos you’ll need.
The trickiest — and most important — part of using ImageModeler is telling the software how your photographs relate to one another. Once you’ve identified several consistent and clearly visible points in multiple images, ImageModeler calibrates the image and places your points in 3-D space. To perform this important calibration step, ImageModeler typically needs at least seven points (each of which must appear in more than one photograph) identified in each photo. ImageModeler is somewhat unforgiving in this respect, and pinning down these points can be a bit frustrating.
Once ImageModeler has successfully calibrated the image based on its points, you have to identify only one known measurement between two points in your pictures. Then you extract any other dimension you need from the photographs. So to get the dimensions of a building, you simply photograph it and take one accurate measurement of it at its location. For some users, this amazing ability alone will be worth the price of admission. Others may feel that $750 is a bit steep.
To finish creating a 3-D model from your photographs in ImageModeler, you use fairly simple 3-D tools to place basic shapes such as planes, cubes, cylinders, and spheres on top of the photographs of your subject.
Adding Polish to the Models
In addition to generating a model, ImageModeler can enhance it by applying textures or images from the underlying photographs onto its surfaces. This creates a photo-realistic 3-D model that you can view from multiple angles and zoom levels. ImageModeler considers all available views of each surface in your photos and intelligently creates the best texture for the surface.
ImageModeler lets you export your completed models in a number of formats familiar to design professionals, including Alias|Wavefront’s Maya, Discreet’s 3D StudioMax, Abvent’s Artlantis Render, Autodesk’s DXF, and VRML. We’d like to be able to export models in common graphics formats such as JPEG and TIFF, too.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
ImageModeler 3.5’s price may be a bit too high for the casual user or hobbyist. But for architects, product designers, and animators who need to extract measurements from photographic information and/or quickly create 3-D models of existing buildings and objects, ImageModeler 3.5 is a good buy — and a great deal of fun.