Three-dimensional scanning is a process by which people, objects, or environments are analyzed by a device that can transmit that data for constructing digital 3-D representations of the subject. This process differs from motion capture.
The 3-D scanning technician is responsible for the installation and operation of scanning equipment and associated software, which is often portable to meet the needs of clients on location. There are numerous systems available for 3-D scanning, and many studios use proprietary systems. The devices used can vary from a handheld unit, which transmits real-time images to a software program, to a stationary pad with an automated rotating sensor. In either case, the technician prepares the subject for scanning, adjusts and calibrates the machine, and conducts the scan. In real time, the technician can monitor the accuracy of the scan and initiate duplicate scans to ensure that the subject is properly analyzed.
Upon conclusion of the scanning process, which generally takes only minutes, the 3-D scanning technician reviews the image constructed by the software and may make minor adjustments to the polygon model. At this point, he or she exports the virtual object to a separate software application, where a modeling artist will take on the task of adding color and texture. Another artist will be responsible for animating the object. In some instances, the 3-D scanning technician may be given the opportunity to complete the model refinement.
Skills & Education
Employment in the field of 3-D scanning requires training in the relevant technology, including scanning devices and computer modeling software. A college degree in computer animation or other program that teaches the techniques of three-dimensional modeling and visual effects is recommended. Depending on the needs of the studio, 3-D scanning technicians may be required to have a background in computer programming relevant to writing and editing code associated with software. In such cases, a degree in computer science or related field is necessary. Additionally, this career requires artistic experience in one or more areas of modeling, animation, texturing, lighting, or character rigging.
What to Expect
Employment opportunities exist with visual effects studios, game developers, and companies that exclusively specialize in 3-D scanning and motion capture services. As systems will vary widely from one studio to the next, new hires will be trained on the operation of proprietary systems and software. However, applicants are expected to have experience with at least one model of stationary and handheld scanner. The position can be an entry-level role with appropriate education.
Three-dimensional visuals represent expanding technology in entertainment, frequently used within film, television, and video game development. The field is growing and constantly innovating to keep pace with the increasingly ambitious visions of creative producers. Those that venture into the field should commit to continuing their education within the craft.
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