Updated Milkscanner V1.5





Introduction: Updated Milkscanner V1.5

The Milkscanner is a tool that allows the scanning of objects and creates a Displacement map for use with Moviesandbox or any other 3D App that would allow for displacement mapping.

1 Webcam
1 Tupperware Bowl
3 cups of Milk
1 custom LEGO rig

You can download the Milkscanner PC-Application and SourceCode (creates the displacement map automatically from a webcam image) from the Milkscanner webpage:


If you have questions, please feel free to leave a comment on the Moviesandbox forums at:


Check out a life-size version of the milkscanner using Ink on vimeo!

Thanks for your interest!

Step 1: Scanning...

You fix the webcam above the bowl (you don't necessarily have to use LEGO, but it is a fast way to build and adjust...) and put the object to be scanned in it. Note that the Scanner can only scan half an object at a time.You then cover it half in milk. The milk basically "slices" through the object.

You can subtract the white part form the picture the webcam takes and the rest serves as your "slice". You then add some more milk and make another picture. That way you slice through the whole object, three spoons of milk at a time.

Step 2: Use Your Displacement Map

After creating a Displacement-map from your scanning, you can use it with the Trace-Tool and bring it into Moviesandbox, as shown in the youtube-video.

You can also import it as a displacement Map in Blender or Maya or any other Application that uses Displacement Maps. But remember - the displacement map only covers half the object!




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    you are genius


    i think a good solution would be to have the camera attached to the same screw drive that lowers the object into the milk, like sort of have the whole assembly lowering into the milk (without having the camera ever reach the milk of course ;)

    Another enhancement, which would make it not a "milk scanner" anymore, would be to replace the milk with a horizontally scanning laser. You can get one for $10, regularly on sale at www.harborfreight.com. It's a laser level that paints a line. To paint the object all the way around, you could position the laser level so that part of its scan hits the object from the front, and part of it bounces off a mirror and hits it from the back. (Or better, do it from three angles 120 degrees apart, with the middle of the laser stripe hitting the object directly, and each end of the stripe reflected off a mirror behind the object and to one side and the other.)

    Picking out such a laser line against dispersed light coming in from the surroundings can be tricky, especially since you are looking at a reflection of the light at non-tasty angles. You'd then best use a darkroom box to take the pictures in. And even if you do that, there are parts (most notably car tires and other black rubber parts) that don't reflect much light, and won't be picked up at all. An added problem can be angular distorsion (perspective), if you can't make it so the laser and webcam's axes of orientation are virtually identical. You'll still have a mapping, but it'll be skewed. We once built a 3D scanner that scanned moving parts on a conveyor belt. Fun times. In short: Milk (or any opaque liquid) is probably easier. Except for parts of the same color, of course...

    The problem with lasers is that it would narrow down the types of objects you could scan. For example, you couldn't scan a ring anymore, or anything that has holes in it. A fluid can do that because you can pour it in. Also, one other thing to remember when going for precision is that the milk level rises depending on the size of the object in the pool (unless you use the infinity pool idea) when you lower the object.

    You can't scan a lot of objects with this setup anyway - for instance, how would you scan something like a yo-yo where the camera cannot see the milk because at whatever angle, some part which is narrower is obscured by some part which is wider.

    Still won't work for *all* shapes, but for a yo-yo, rotate it 90 degrees around an axis other than the axle. In other words, put the slot in the vertical plane. And for a symmetrical object like the yo-yo, you only need half the scan (one hemisphere.)

    This is a great idea, and probably needed a good imagination to think up! For problems of not being able to see everything, can't you just use more than one camera? They could be at angles, although, the may totally screw up the thing from the perspective.