Zen and the art of 3D reality capture

Recently, I was introduced to some incredible tools in my emerging media class that allow you to easily create your own 3D reality capture objects. Using my iPad Air 2, I captured approximately 50 photographs of a Buddha mask that I purchased in Thailand years ago. When photographing the mask, I took care to deliberately photograph it in a systematic way that covered every angle of its surface. I then imported the folder of images into AutoDesk’s ReMake software–free for students–which features an intuitive, easy to use cloud interface that does all of the work for you. The software spat out an .obj file and a texture file that I imported into Meshlab, another standalone piece of software that according to its website, “provides a set of tools for editing, cleaning, healing, inspecting, rendering, texturing and converting meshes.” Ummm, sure. After running the file through a magical filter that did some file size optimization, I imported a .zip file of my project into Sketchfab, a 3D reality capture publishing platform. The software did its magic and voila! A 3D version of my Buddha mask emerged. The Smithsonian has long been capturing its collection of artifacts, from primitive tools to spacecraft, providing a truly awesome way to connect with interactive content. I can imagine 3D reality capture becoming a standard way we digest elements of journalism, such as 3D infographic sidecar content for feature stories, annotated with interesting facts or background info that provide additional context. I’m excited for the possibilities these new tools provide storytellers and look forward to capturing and sharing more artifacts and stories. Shout out to Syracuse Newhouse Prof. Dan Pacheco for the instruction.

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