From movies to gaming to cutting edge medical research, 3D imaging is used in a diverse range of industries and sectors. It is an area of technology that has seen major advances over the past 10 years, and software has become ever more readily available, including a number of highly advances open source solutions.
Here, we examine the background of 3D imaging, along with software solutions to meet a range of needs.
Background of 3D graphics
The idea of creating 3D images on a computer screen was first explored in the 1970s, with Fred Parke and Edwin Catmull’s painstakingly created animation A Computer Generated Hand being widely regarded as one of the first 3D animations ever produced.
The 3D imaging process has three stages as follows:
- 1) Modelling
- 2) Layout
- 3) Rendering
This is the process of creating a computer model of the object’s shape. The earliest models were created procedurally, using sets of overlaid polygons.
This is essentially the placement of the objects into a scene. This defines their special relationship. A more complex (sometimes known as 4D) process is when there is movement or animation, ie the spatial relationship changes over time.
The final stage is rendering. Here, the model is transformed into an image, by either simulating light transport or using what is called non-photorealistic rendering.
In those pioneering days, each of these steps took laborious time and effort, but modern software completes the tasks in the blink of an eye. Let’s take a look at some of the best software solutions in some diverse areas.
Cutting edge new software solutions are revolutionising medical research in a whole variety of arenas, including neuroscience and cell biology. Developers have really pushed the boundaries in translating from microscopy to digital imaging, and the IMS file format, which was developed to work with high multidimensional data, became available as open source in 2015.
Surveys and mapping
Think of 3D software, and you will immediately associate it with mapping. Drones have brought a whole new dimension to the surveying sector, and a host of software solutions have started filling the shelves. Which one to choose really depends on what you are looking to achieve, your platform of choice and so on, but Agisoft PhotoScan and Virtual Surveyor are two of the most popular.
From the dawn of personal computers, we have all made out that we need them for high brow research activities, but really, all we want to do is play games. This is as true today as ever, and when there is any sort of cutting edge product development going on, you can bet the game designers are right there in the thick of it. Again, you will not be surprised to hear there is plenty of software to choose from, and if you ask 10 designer, you will probably get five or six answers. Among these, you will certainly find 3DX Max, Autodesk Maya and Blender, which as an open-source solution, is immensely popular with hobbyists.
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