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Video - 3D Interpretation/Future of modelling

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I just got back from seeing Chronicles of Narnia the other day, and the CGI is very good. I guess that I'm really out of touch with modeling techniques these days, but I'm wondering about something. In my experience, the way that CGI is done is that some artists use modeling tools to create the 3D models which lead eventually to a finished piece of video. My question is how much success have people had in going backwards through this process--start with a video and turn it into a 3D model? It seems like if your brain can do it to some extent, then a computer can be told how to do it. Chris Arthur

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This is a fairly major research area in Computer Science, and is known as Computer Vision. As you might expect, humans are still far better at this.

In some cases it is easily possible to generate a 3d model from a 2d photo (e.g using shape-from-shading), but that's generating a 3d model of the visible parts of whatever's in the photo. Us humans are pretty good at visualising parts of an object that we can't see. For a computer to do that, it needs to be able to match the 3d model to some model it has seen before and knows.

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