Capturing the Canadian Rockies in 3D

Dec 20 2017, 2:15 am

The Discovery Channel recently turned its eye to the Vancouver arts and film industry to highlight a local company who recently 3D scanned and printed the largest mountain in the Canadian Rockies.

Technology is becoming ever more common in our daily lives with 3D Printing being on the forefront of technological innovation over the past few years. We routinely hear about all the new exciting ways it is being used to save lives, capture memories, conduct research and design new innovative products. However, it becomes even more exciting when the buzz is made by companies from our own local visual effects community, and this time it’s BIG, literally.

Corbel 3D is a Vancouver based 3D Printing and 3D Scanning company specializing in engineering and visual effects. They recently made a buzz on the Discovery Channel for bringing together their technologies to scan and print the largest peak in the Canadian Rockies in a six minute mini-documentary featured on Daily Planet’s “Anything for the Shot” week.

Their project has numerous applications in the Vancouver film & television industry as digital artists frequently rely on 3D scans of real props, environments and actors for use in visual effects. This gives digital artists the ability to use real data as a starting point to work from when creating CGI, allowing them to make the digital version appear indiscernibly real in the movie.

Recently, the movie Mad Max: Fury Road demonstrated it is possible to scan on a much larger scale to digitally capture large landmarks. Visual effects supervisor Andrew Jackson used 3D scanning to capture rock cliffs in Namibia allowing them to use real landscapes, cracks, stains, and erosion as a starting point to build the detailed Citadel.

Corbel 3D was inspired by this application of technology and wanted to see how big they could go with digitally capturing large natural landmarks. They ambitiously chose Mt. Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies at 3,954m, making it one of the most difficult objects to scan.

“We had no idea if this was going to work, especially considering the weather conditions that naturally exist at that kind of altitude and the equipment we were using,” Patrick Wirt of Corbel 3D stated.

Mt. Robson is notorious for its unpredictable weather, meaning that even on a clear day, the peak can be completely shrouded by clouds making it very difficult to photograph. This unrestricted view was essential as 3D scanning was done using a technique called Photogrammetry which uses hundreds of photographic images from a camera to construct a three-dimensional digital model.

Ian Nakamoto, Creative Director at Pixel Light Effects, a visual effects 3D scanning company in Vancouver describes photogrammetry as being similar to the way our two eyes perceive depth and reconstructs a three-dimensional model from two 2D image.

“Each eye views the same area from a slightly different angle and when these two images are pieced together subconsciously by our brains we are able to determine how far away an object is and perceive a 3D object,” said Nakamoto.

By capturing nearly a thousand images of the mountain from a number of different angles allows them to construct a three-dimensional model from the positions of recognizable points in each different photograph. The company then took it one step further and 3D Printed the mountain to capture all of the complexities & beauty of the mountain and its surrounding terrain with remarkable detail as a physical model.

This kind of innovation in 3D technology from local companies such as Pixel Light Effects and Corbel 3D help to support our booming local visual effects industry which is employing more local Vancouver digital artists than ever before.

Watch the video here:

[youtube id=”l28yHub-yjI”]

DH Vancouver StaffDH Vancouver Staff

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