For years I’ve been looking for ways to capture objects in 3D—specifically flowers, lichens, bugs, and other small and weird objects. Last summer I bought a Structure Sensor, which is a decent solution at larger scales. A few months ago I bought a Lytro Illum for the same reason, though it’s depth resolution is fairly low. And I’ve used a few photogrammetry solutions in the past, though vsfm only works on PCs (though I did have nice results), and COLMAP (along with most photogrammetry software) doesn’t do dense reconstruction without a CUDA enabled graphics card. So I had been watching for Apple to introduce eGPU support for nVidia cards (because CUDA is an nVidia technology). There is a community of people who’ve hacked nVidia eGPUs to work with macs, but their focus tends to be on games and I didn’t want to risk spending a bunch of money and time on those things with so much uncertainty as to whether I could get it to work.

A few days ago I got a bunch of suggestions about other software to try, including PhotoScan, and I realized it was odd that I was willing to spend so much money on hardware but never on software. So I bought it. I’m not completely positive, but I think this might be the first piece of software I’ve bought in the ~20+ years I’ve been using computers.

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Last summer while camping I took photos around my favorite swimming spot, including 15 photos of this small section of sand that had significant erosion due to heavy rains the night before.

PhotoScan generated a 4.8 million polygon mesh based on those 15 photos, and decimated it in Blender to 264,000.

I did this several years ago with AutoDesk’s 123D app on an iphone years ago. The subject looked very similar, it was a tiny washed out section of ice in my brother’s driveway in the winter. The resulting model was kind of similar, though much lower resolution, and I thought it’d be neat to create levels in games out of these sorts of models. I played Quake III in high school with friends and I think being able to create levels from the environment around me would have kept me interested in it longer than I was.