Film production is the art of data capture. When the Lumière brothers pointed their primitive camera at a locomotive and recorded Arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat (known in the UK as Train Pulling into a Station), they were capturing data. In the 1927 movie The Jazz Singer (the first full-length feature film to use synchronised sound), when Al Jolson told the crowd, “You ain’t heard nothing’ yet!”, what was the microphone doing? That's right: capturing data.
Nowadays, on the average film set, you'll find dozens of pieces of data capture equipment. You may also find someone with the job title “data wrangler”, whose job it is to manage the gigabytes of information streaming from the digital recording equipment.
One such piece of equipment is known within the film industry as "lidar". In fact, lidar is used so often in film production, the word has become a verb! It's not uncommon to hear someone say, "We lidared the exterior of the building", or something similar when speaking about the process.
You may already know that lidar scanners are used to make 3D digital models of film sets or locations, but what exactly is lidar? What does the word stand for, and how do the scanners work?
Our scanner works by putting out a pulse (or photon) of light. By timing how long the light takes to return and measuring how the angle changes, we can accurately calculate the size of a space, the location of any objects within the space, and the dimensions of those objects. A 3D laser scanner can capture over 900,000 data points per second. A large film set could require upwards of 100 scans.
The sum total of the data points is known as a “point cloud”; a group of points, represented in three dimensions, that digitally recreate a space and the objects within. Point clouds contain not only information on an object’s location, but also on the colour and reflectivity of its surface. With all this data, it's possible to create a highly detailed 3D model of the space. However, when scanning for the film industry, an OBJ (a polygonal mesh created from the point cloud) is usually sufficient.
The huge amount of data captured by the 3D laser scanning process is too much for a lot of people to work with. We're able to provide the individual point clouds from each of the scans and a merged point cloud resurfaced into a polygonal mesh. This creates a clean scene which is easy to work with. If a client wants part of the set in a high-resolution format, we can create it from the original point cloud and present it as a 3D CAD model.
If you're interested in our 3D laser scanning services, whether it's for a film set or any other project, you can learn more here or contact us via the form below: