New 3D Modeling Tool – 123D Catch Review

I came across an article on a new way of building 3D virtual worlds. (Thanks Hamlet NWN) Well, may be not so new, it came out in 2011 I think. But, the process, new to me, is being used to create the independent adventure game: Rustclad. The development team has a video out showing the process they are using and early scenes from their game.

You can see they are using a more organic style than we typically see in Second Life™. Sculpties were introduced to Second Life to enable the creation of this more organic style. I am not sure we have ever taken advantage of sculpties as intended by the creator of them: Karl Stiefvater (Qarl Fizz, formerly Qarl Linden). May be I’ll ask him some day.

Several of Rustclad’s blog posts are interesting and informative about their modeling process.

As to Rustclad, it is too soon to tell what the game will be like. I think it has a cuter feel-look than the Myst games and what we currently see in Second Life. Rustclad looks much more organic and storybook like. But, that is NOT a factor of this new tool 123D Catch. The feel is Rustclad’s choice for style for the game. We can see that by looking at Autodesk’s tutorial, which is interesting in many ways.

The Rustclad people describe their Photogrammetery Process of modeling their world and describe it in more detail in this post: [url=http://skulltheatre.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/photogrammetry-in-video-games-frequently-asked-questions/]Photogrammetry in Video Games: Frequently Asked Questions[/url]. It links to a forum they have where one is supposed to be able to get even more information on using 123D Catch.

A highlight of their article is the link to the [b]free[/b] program they use for their process: Autodesk’s [url=http://www.123dapp.com/catch]123D Catch[[/url]. There is a 1:40 minute video on the 123D Catch page and it is on Youtube too.

123D Catch is free but requires a login with social media or opening or a previous Autodesk account. The process is confusing or maybe it is my browser, Chrome. The first time I clicked DOWNLOAD I had to login and then was looped back to the page I started from. The second time a clicked download, the program downloaded. The download file is 75mb. Install requires 121mb of space.

This software is made by Autodesk so we can guess it is going to work with 3DS, Maya, and FBX. A company rep answered the question about a year ago saying the file types are:

  1. fbx: textured model, with cameras
  2. obj: textured model - Blender
  3. dwg: linework - Blender
  4. rzi: Image modeler and photoscene editor
  5. ipm: Autodesk inventor viewer
  6. las: point clouds

So, we have at least two ways to take things into Blender. If you have MeshLab or MeshMixer, you can convert to Collada (dae).

123D Catch works with most any digital camera, even crappy phone cameras. Of course, the better the camera the better the result will be. The Rustclad site has information on how they are using the software and their technical design process.  Plus there are tutorial videos on the 123D Catch site.

From using the program, reading the site, and watching the videos I know this tools works on phones, iPads, and computers. It might be some competition for CreatorVerse as it runs in the same spaces… not really, too different.

The actual conversion process is done server side in the cloud. You upload images 20 to 40 of an object and they email you the result. If your on a workstation you can wait for the download, but wait time is dependent on cue length. So, far it is all free. The financial model is apparently to sell you 3D printing and laser cutting services. I’m not sure how that is going to work.

The 123D Catch site has a model download section. So, I am not sure whether all free conversions are posted for anyone to use or not. Obviously I did not read the ToS. Anyone up for that?

The download page does display the copyright status of the model: Creative Commons – Attribution – Non Commercial – Share Alike License, which appears to have been selected by Sofia Carpinteri, who uploaded the model.

The model I got is shown below. I don’t know much about the model. Was it optimized? How many photos were used? They recommend 20 to 40. The polygon mesh is not as bad as I expected. But it is also not as good as the 3D view shown on the site. See the comparison photos below.

123D Catch

The Wire Frame, Solid, and Textured Model in Blender – Enlarge

From the images I suspect what I could down load is not as complete as what I see on the 123D Catch site.

123D Catch Download

Comparison – My Download Left – Onsite Right – Enlarge

I suspect that for use with Second Life 123D Catch is going to create polygon models too intense for simple import to SL. So, I think, these are the hi-rez models one would use to create normal and occlusion maps. The model will then need to be retopologized to a lower poly count for even the high LoD version.

I found the UVMap confusing. I think it is a mess. But, it works. It will be hard to work with.

123D Catch UVMap in Blender - Enlarge

123D Catch UVMap in Blender – Enlarge

I do think this program could be a huge time saver. That the system creates the texture and UVMap is way handy. The photograph based textures make for photo-realistic models.

…did I mention this is all free?

Also, this is not the only free program being offered. There are other related programs.

Summary

I think this is an excellent tool for those of us that are NOT expert model builders and texturing geniuses. This tool will allow one to start with complex models that could take months to build and texture. It gives one a very advanced starting point.

The Second Life user is still left with the task of simplifying the model and texture map to create usable models and the various LoD levels. But, it is still a huge reduction in work.

Let me know if you try the program and how it works. If you bring a 123D Catch model into SL, I would love to see it. Send me a landmark.

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