Have you ever wanted to 3D scan a stuffed animal, or a little ceramic dinosaur, or perhaps an owl whistle? You know, to contribute to the volumetric digital repository of civilization. Well, I have good news for you - all you need is a lightbox, a cheap turntable display, a big sheet of white paper, and a phone (with camera). Or you could use an old microwave.
This rig is 10x less expensive than every monochrome 3D scanner out there - and it's in color.
Background: I was trying to 3D scan a small ceramic owl whistle* and found out that my favorite 3D scanning rig for people and scenes (the Primesense Carmine 1.09 with Skanect) couldn't do it - the whistle was too small. So I did a quick search online and to my surprise, there was nothing on the market for under $1000 that could make high quality color 3D scans of objects smaller than a basketball. I shrugged and decided to drown my disappointment with some Orville Redenbacher's popcorn. And then it hit me.
This is how to make your own Microwave -- a color 3D scanner for digitizing the small things in your life.
*The keen observer may ask, why was I was trying to scan a small ceramic owl whistle? For this project.
A lot of people have used photo-stitching software like 123D Catch. And almost as many people think it sucks. The background always seems to get blended into the subject matter being scanned, making for terrible 3D models of small objects. The problem is, the software is designed to force the photographer to walk around the subject, leading to uneven lighting and a bunch of undesired background imagery being pulled into the final 3D model.
Quite a few folks (myself included) have naively tried to take photos of spinning objects to get around this issue - I once tried to 3D scan a turkey in a rotisserrie oven - but alas, if the background is static and the subject is rotating/spinning, photogrammetry software like 123D Catch doesn't work at all.
Turns out, the solution to this problem and the key to using photogrammetry to 3D scan small objects is to eliminate the background and all shadows with a trick photographers call the infinity wall.
It's insanely simple. And it works.