Are you staying ahead of the technology curve?

The steady march of visual effects technology means the newest way to create models could leave your VFX team in the dust. LiDAR technology is the next big break for speeding up visual effects work, and anyone not using it could see their contracts wither away.

LiDAR has existed in many forms since the early 1960s and was first developed to study clouds and pollution for weather research. Now, LiDAR is a core component to several industries to cut costs and save time.

How popular is LiDAR technology? It has become central to many engineering and visual effects firms due to its cost-efficiency. As a result, the market for LiDAR will more than double from $1.1 billion to $ 2.8 billion over five years.

Not up to speed on LiDAR? Read on to find out what it does and how your team can leverage it to create models at a fraction of the time and cost.

What Is LiDAR Technology?

LiDAR, or Light Detection and Ranging, is a method for determining ranges using a light pulse that reflects off a surface and then measures the time it takes for that light to return to the receiver.  The LiDAR receiver calculates and stores the amount of time (also known as time-of-flight) for later use.

After recording thousands of these light pulses, a computer reads the data to produce a high-resolution point cloud of information that reflects what you see in real life.

A World in a Point-Cloud

Point-Clouds are the end product of a LiDAR scan; each laser pulse produces a coordinate the system then records on a computer. Objects are then recreated in software using millions (sometimes billions) of points, creating a high-resolution 3D model with the exact dimensions as the real-life object.

This high-resolution 3D model is turned into a mesh object and animated or texturized by VFX teams, effectively cutting out the modeling part of asset creation.

The Many Applications for LiDAR Scanning

The opportunities are endless when it comes to using LiDAR. Several industries are taking advantage of the technology by cutting down on costs that have plagued them for decades.

Land surveying companies used to send out entire crews of engineers with dozens of tools to calculate the features of any given landscape. Now they can use a single drone with LiDAR to scan land, vegetation, and buildings simultaneously.

Transportation and car companies are also betting on LiDAR. Removing the need for human drivers means any car can become an autonomous taxi, and human error will no longer factor in accidents.

The visual effects industry is poised to see the most significant benefit early on. LiDAR technology is perfect for recreating just about any object in 3D. Moreover, the process is completed at a fraction of the time and cost compared to creating assets by hand.

Building Out Reality

LiDAR hits its stride when used for VFX and has recently been used in the film industry to create a realistic representation of the Las Vegas strip with stunning detail. A concept that would have taken years to be built in 3D by artists alone.

Creating realistic building models is achieved by using aerial drones with LiDAR. The drones fly around a building and capture every detail down to 2mm in size. Once uploaded to the computer, VFX artists can take the point-cloud data and create 3D models of the building.

In comparison, the old way requires artists to cross-reference building measurements, blueprints, and thousands of pictures to craft the structure by hand.

Quality control is also vital for any VFX team; LiDAR solves this issue by capturing building detail with surprising accuracy, reducing time spent fixing sizing and detail errors associated with any project.

Use Real Models to Make Realistic Models

LiDAR is the perfect tool for creating 3D models of real-life people. For example, 3D scanning can ensure every wrinkle and detail in clothing is replicated without building a model by hand.

Is your visual effects department short on time? With LiDAR, you can shave weeks off the process by having your digital doubles scanned in minutes, producing the base model that would take your artists weeks to complete.

Because LiDAR replaces the modeling stage of character creation, VFX artists can go straight to rigging and meshing without having to worry about skewing the character’s size or dimensions during the creation process.

LiDAR technology can also cut down on the ‘uncanny valley’ effect seen in 3D models of humans. Point-Cloud models ensure every dimension down to the shape of a character’s ear cartilage is accurately represented.

Scan Almost Any Object

LiDAR is perfect for scanning props used in video games and movies. You can accurately recreate objects in 3D with stunning accuracy, allowing those real-to-digital scene transitions to be as convincing as possible without having to pay AAA costs.

Even companies selling furniture or equipment can give an accurate representation of their products. New technology allows companies to put their 3D models in augmented reality so customers can see how products would fit in their homes and hands.

See What LiDAR Can Do for You

Staying ahead of the technology curve is essential for visual effects companies. If you lag, your competitors will price you out of the industry, and LiDAR technology is the next step to making your work more efficient.

While LiDAR scanners are still expensive to buy, there are plenty of services out there willing to scan your projects for you at a fraction of the price. But, of course, the biggest challenge is finding them, and that’s where we come in.

Don’t waste time hiring a legion of VFX artists to hand-build 3d models for your next filming or gaming project. Instead, get in touch with us today and see what our LiDAR services can do for you.