3D Laser Scanner picks up an Oscar

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The film The Golden Compass won an Oscar in the category of ‘Best Visual Effects' at the 2008 Academy Awards and these effects were helped by a laser scanner.

The Konica Minolta VI-910 laser scanner was used to generate the computer graphics of the armoured polar bears. Art department sculptures and real skeletons were scanned to capture crystal-clear 3D high-resolution model with colour textures. The result enabled a blend of 3D animation and real film footage that can be seen in the film.

A 200-strong team at Framestore-CFC, the largest visual effects and computer animation studio in Europe, spent 15 months creating the animation for The Golden Compass. On 24 February 2008, the film from New Line Cinema won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects. ‘The task of creating such highly realistic, computer-generated Bears does not start on the computer,’ said Sean Varney, who heads Film Set Metrology at Framestore-CFC and is responsible for digitising film sets, actors and props. ‘The entire movement of the virtual figure has to be recreated based on the real anatomy of a polar bear to ensure each expression of an armoured bear looks realistic, from running to the different reflecting metal plates of armour which move and shift over its fur. Our work starts not with the PC but with creating real models and the lifting of their 3D form into Computer Space for which we needed a good 3D scanning system.

’Three-dimensional fibreglass models of the individual figures had to be created in many different poses based on real photos and videos and then digitised.

Varney added: ‘We use the VI-910 digitiser from Konica Minolta to capture 3D data sets of each of the models, something we have already used to create special effects for films such as Harry Potter and TV shows like Primeval. The portable VI-910, with its telescopic, middle and wide-angle lenses, lets us produce high-resolution 3D scans of all models from miniature to life-sized, to us this is a grate plus with the system. Also its a non-contact surface structure, colour scanner, each scan takes just a matter of seconds. When your on a live film set that's a life saver. For post-processing we used the Easy Align software with the system, it merges the individual perspectives to create the 3D model.’

Framestore-CFC will continue to use the technology in its current and future film projects such as the The Chronicles of Narnia – Prince Caspian and the new James Bond film, Quantum of Solace