Breakthrough: A 3D Head Scan Using One Camera

By on March 13, 2013

So over the last couple of months, Cory & I have been working on putting together an augmented reality short and we’ve been chipping away at all sorts of workflow obstacles to overcome. One of the big challenges is figuring out a way to not have to use 45 cameras because A. it’s freaking expensive & B. it’s really freaking expensive.  45 cameras means 45x lenses, 45x batteries, 45x memory cards, etc. So until we swimming pools full of gold coins like Scrooge McDuck, we have to rely on some clever workarounds.

Stereo Pair Camera Setup

Amazingly, Cory discovered that using stereo pairs when using photogrammetry results in superbly clean meshes.  When we captured Jade Bryce, we only had one camera and had Jade hold really still. Cory walked around Jade and took 45 shots that were evenly spaced. A couple of weeks ago, Cory had a stroke of genius and realized that if instead you pair two cameras close to each other, the geometry that’s built from them comes out looking a million times cleaner.  So now, instead of trying to photograph our subjects with an evenly spaced pattern of cameras, we’re employing a stereo-pair pattern.  We use two pairs of cameras close to each other, similar to how you would film 3D video.  Each stereo pair can be evenly spaced although we’re experimenting with what the optimal configuration should be.

But you said you used one camera?

Correct. The way it was faked was by having Cory on a chair while Heather took a series of vertical shots. Then Cory would rotate on the chair and then we would repeat.  The camera captures were close enough so that it mimicked the stereo pair setup I was talking about earlier.

Photogrammetry Stereo Pair Illustration

Amazingly detailed illustration of the test setup

What’s most surprising about this setup is how cleanly the geometry comes out using only one camera.  Because the person can be on a rotating platform (chair), the acquisition time is cut down from 5 minutes (impossibly long to hold still for that long) to < minute.  We’ve taken this idea to build out an automated turntable platform for our shoot day when we capture our characters so I’ll have more information on that later but here’s a picture of what’s going on:

Automated 3D Capture System Preview

A preview of the system that we’re building featuring our star model Cory

  1. Reply


    September 14, 2013

    Any News about that ?
    Thanks !

  2. Reply


    September 19, 2013

    Your article is brilliant! I’m currently trying to mimic the same set up you have. I was keen to know if you have any issues with lighting or blurry-ness at all? Did you use flash for the capture or just the normal light?

    Thanks for your time.


    • Reply


      September 19, 2013

      It’s worked out amazingly well. There was definitely some blurryness on some of the harder poses that added a day of clean-up that wouldn’t have normally been there. Synchronizing the lighting was one of the biggest challenges since the DSLRs are not really built for shutter sync. I’ve been meaning to blog about it but I’ve been swamped. Shoot me an email and I can tell you more about it. What’re you trying to do?

  3. Reply


    March 2, 2014

    Hi guys, iv been experimenting with photogrammetry as well, and it looks like you guys have overcome the noisy output.

    I was curious how you managed to get a clean build by rotating your model instead of walking around it ? i was under the impression that the walking was a must?

    thanks for any info and looking forward to seeing more

  4. Reply


    March 8, 2014


    im curious, how did you manage to get camera alignment with a static camera and the subject spinning on a chair vs static subject and walking around it with the camera?


  5. Reply


    June 7, 2014

    Very nice work! What kind of software are you using for this?

    • Reply


      June 7, 2014

      We’re using agisoft photoscan!

  6. Reply

    Wei Jian Leong

    July 15, 2017

    Hi there,
    really intrigued about this process you had. I’m about to experiment with photogrammetry with a Person as the subject.
    I have done a few projects of small objects and I mainly used static camera with turntable. I’m wondering if you could share some more details about this process and any other helpful information, as I’d really like to get a really good result.



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