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T-Rex's and Dark Knights with LASERs in their eyes...

Video - Laser scanning a sculpted clay knight here at Monster City Studios.


One of the biggest challenges in creating the real world in duplicate is the problem with taking a physical, live object and capturing it digitally so it can be manipulated in a computer. Over the past 10 years, it's gotten easier and easier to capture 3D data of a real object, import it into a PC or MAC, modify it and then output it in another form. Some captures stay digital, such as in video games or movies and some are exported out of the computer and re-introduced into the physical world in another media via #D printing for CNC machining.

Most of the the sculptures we make here at Monster City Studios are created directly in the PC, then either milled on our large format Frog 3D system, or 3D printed and used in a physical model. However, there are times that a client would like to start with a maquette model made of clay or another sculptable material and then have it either reproduced in the same scale, or more often than not, enlarged in a more "human" scale or larger form.


Video - Point Cloud file scanned into PC


Sometimes it's hard for an individual to grasp what a solely 3D digital model on a monitor will look like in the real world, enlarged in real 3D space. Often a committee approves a design and maybe a few of the members will get it, but others will not. In those cases, we can create a model in 3D, render that model in a rendering program such as Keyshot, Lightware or Indigo and then provide "photos" of the sculpture in a realistic setting. However, this isn't always adequate and sometimes the client will additionally want a small physical model. When that's requested, we can 3D print a version and the client can touch it and feel the proposed piece.

This workflow usually functions well, but a problem can arise from this tact of the creative process. Maybe the client wants to start with a physical model, speak with the sculptor, make changes in clay or whatever the original sculpting material is, and THEN bring it into the computer for modifications in a 3D editing program such as ZBrush. That's where 3D scanning comes in.

As mentioned before, 3D scanning used to be a slow and laborious process. Originally a needle like "stylus" would have to be introduced and then be mounted into a computer controlled mechanism such as an arm or CNC gantry. The stylus would then take samples of the objects by just ever so slightly dropping down and touching the sculpt every fraction of an inch. (read: physical contact with a model, even slight, isnt good!) The more samples the item would take, the higher resolution the "point cloud" that was created could be. Those points, were then placed into a 3D space and a polygonal mesh was created to make a "physical" object digitally inside the computer. Because the input stylus could only take "top down" views of and object, multiple full scans would be needed for each side. The many versions of these scans could be assembled and eventually, a full 3D object could be created.

Laser scanning came a bit later and improved accuracy, and speed exponentially, but was/is still slow. We actually still use laser scanning here at Monster City Studios for some objects as we can capture data as small as details down to the thousandth of an inch (.001 -- really, really small!) This is great for things like engineering and parts analysis, but is overkill for 99.9% of most theming jobs. It also can be very slow to scan that accurately.


Image - 123D Catch Directly to ZBrush with NO Editing


A much faster way to capture data from the real world and dump it into the computer is to use programs like Autodesk's 123D Catch. All you need for this is a good digital camera, most smartphones will work- and a computer... Heck, for most applications a computer isn't even needed anymore. Most capture can be done right from a phone or tablet. The user is instructed to take multiple photos around an object in a 360 degree pattern and from multiple heights. The images are then uploaded to Autodesk's servers and the their algorithms take it from there. Your images are put into a queue and once they are done rendering, a 3D, full color file is created to view in a browser or app. A 3D model can even be downloaded for modification in any 3D program. Once again, our choice for editing here at Monster City Studios is ZBrush because of the multitudes of modeling styles available and the speed at which changes can be made to a model. Once in the computer, CNC output in foam, wood or urethane is literally a click away. 3D printing also allows us to visualize these items quickly, in the real world. Virtual reality is the next step, we'll be able to actually walk around, touch and move items without even waiting for them to be made... like everyone keeps saying, the future is here, right now. Clients can now make changes on the fly and expensive materials like foam or 3D print resins aren't wasted for a prototype that needs reworked. Imagine the client can actually make 3D markups on models for requested changes in real time over the internet. For jobs like experiential marketing activations or new product reveals where deadlines are tight and hard deadlines are real, the minutes and hours saved can be worth their weight in gold.


Click on the image and then the "3D" button to move TREX around. He starts off upside down.


Current hand held scanners make use of all of the previous functions to take full color, highly detailed scans in a matter of minutes. There's even new pop up stores, like Doop that can scan your whole body, and print a full color 3" tall action figure of yourself in less than an hour for about $100. Amazing!

We provide these services here at Monster City Studios, so if your looking to move forward into the future with your themed environment projects, have super tight deadlines for your experiential marketing gigs and need quick turnover, we're here for you! Heck, we can even make dinosaurs that shoot lasers from their eyes! Give us a ring at 559-355-6286!

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