Step-By-Step guide to free and simple 3D imaging!

123D catch. profile image
123D catch. profile image

This blog is a continuation of my previous post about 3-D images and artifacts. As I stated before user-friendly 3-D imaging can be very helpful for archaeologists, especially for those who work on sites were artifacts removal may not be available or even excess handling may cause problems with data collection. As, I noted before, there are a variety of 3-D imaging methods out there for you to use. Your choice should depend on your end goal. If simple display is your goal then an inexpensive or free service may be helpful. If preservation or high-resolution analysis is your goal, than you may need to look into more expensive hi-tech equipment. For example, here is an image I found of some one’s site profile captured in 3D. 3D technology isn’t just for the lab but an interesting method to help with data collection at every level! 

The following is a guide to producing your very own 3-D image for free using your smart phone.

  1. CAP 3D image 1
    CAP 3D image 1

    Decide on an object. You can literally choose any object you want. A good first object should be smaller than one cubic foot, colorful, with good textures. Be sure that neither the texture nor the color blend into your background because that will cause problems with your image latter on. Place your object on a surface which will allow you to take pictures a full 360 degrees around the object.

  2. Download 123d Catch from the Google  play store to your smart phone device.
  3. Once you are signed in to 123d Catch, follow the (+) link to start a new project. This will activate your camera.
  4. The camera feature is definitely a nice feature within this app. It has a neat double circle in the lower left hand corner. Use this double circle as a guide to help you take pictures at the correct angels around your object. Make sure you touch the screen to focus your pictures. You can click on the camera roll in the top right hand of the camera screen to delete bad pictures as you take them.
  5. Once you are finished taking all of the pictures in the circle, click done. Your photos will then be sent to the cloud for processing. You will wait roughly 15-20 mins for
    123D Catch home screen
    123D Catch home screen

    your photos to be processed and sent to the appropriate location.

  6. Wait about 10 more mins for the photos to be processed some more…
  7. Once your scan is ready, zoom in to see it. At first you may think that you messed up but you really just need to zoom in to the image find your object. You can now manipulate the image in 3-D space inside the app on your phone!
  8. Then complete the steps to publish your image. You can make it private or public and share the link inside a variety of methods like email or dropbox.
  9. Check out my link to see the image in 3D.
  10. Share your appropriate attempts in the comments below
    123D Catch processing screen
    123D Catch processing screen
CAP 3D Artifact 1
CAP 3D Artifact 1

In conclusion, this method is a rather simple way to create a sharable 3-D image. It is also a good way to introduce yourself to some of the basic components with 3-D images: object selection, camera angles, and patience. For archaeology, as with most of our methods and tools, the end goal plays a significant role into how and why we create 3-D images. Are we concerned with display or curation and preservation; public engagement or increasing access and awareness of our data collections. These concerns vary from project to project and object to object. Nonetheless, hopefully as we continue to critically engage these issues, our virtual collections become a creative way to build a better understanding of our collective past.


Author: Blair Zaid

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