Optimizing the 3D Scan Character Pipeline
You have decided to use one of the many fine 3D scanning service bureaus available to have your characters 3D scanned, or transformed, into virtual characters for your project. Virtual characters are a great way to maximize story telling through visual effects.
The first questions you face are: Where? and When? If you need to shoot in full wardrobe, perhaps the answer is obvious. It is just a matter of actor availability on set. For facial replacement. you might have more options for scanning at the scanning facility, another location or on set. *Note: your scanning bureau should offer discounts for scans performed at their facility.
Once your talent is scanned who will integrate the scan into the project? Most times, it will be more efficient and cost effective to have your scanning facility take the raw scan, clean it up, then re-topologize it. This process is also known as resurfacing.
Resurfacing covers multiple areas of a character. It is important to know the topology determines how the model will deform and which areas will have more deformation. It also determines how heavy the mesh will be.
There is not one simple solution for resurfacing, the resurfacing process is a complex one and extremely important for the following reasons:
A. For a long time a checker board pattern was considered the ideal flow for a character until it became apparent that muscles, creases, and body definition don’t work in a checker board pattern flow. This is all part of the optimization process. For example, a grid pattern of one million polygons would work, however, you could get the same results with the topology following the anatomy and reducing the model to 250,000 poly’s. That 75% reduction will also allow for more workability of your model.
B. Scan data gives us the volume data. What to do after that is a hallway of endless doors and possibilities. Choosing the right one can make or break a pipeline.
C. Another production friendly approach is the topology recycling technique. A facility will have the average man mesh that should work in most cases. Check with the riggers to make sure they can use it. If not, there should be an average man used in house that the riggers can work with repeatedly.
These are just some of the reasons why having a team on your side who fully understands body deformation, mechanics and anatomy is very important to obtain the best results. An efficient virtual character creation pipeline will help keep your project on track, on time, and within budget.