Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Virtual steality - take your own Disney Treasures - AKA Me-Gifting - AKA out of word play

It's not that I don't appreciate the fine merchandise in the souvenir store at Disneyland Park. It's just that Duffy, Itchy and the Gang are not for me. So if I am to leave Disneyland Paris with a tchotchke that I can appreciate, I am going to have to be creative. Enter Agisoft.

Ignoring the mournful gaze of the Phantom Manor cast member (or was it mere pity?) I began photographing the plaque outside the queue entrance. By taking a couple of dozen shots with a Sony A7S2, I was able to rebuild my would-be souvenir as a 3D model in Agisoft using the magic of photogrammetry. Unfortunately this was not good enough for my pointlessly high standards. The spiky teeth of the freaky head guy were missing from this reconstruction.

According to the Agisoft manual, by taking around one hundred pictures of this checkerboard would enable the software to compute a more precise model of my camera's lens distortions, and make a better model.

Unfortunately one kindly Imagineer took pity upon me and pointed out that the checkerboard cannot have the same pattern if it is rotated 180°, so I had to 'shop out the last row of squares from each and every photo. Urf. Something to do with OpenCV Brownian Distortion model algorithms are at play here.

Upon feeding the calibration into Agisoft...
He's still gamming at me! Next I tried bumping up the Clarity in Photoshop in an attempt to create more localized contrast for Agisoft to key on when the focus is not perfect. This also sometimes helps with photos that don't align properly. Then, I tried super-sampling the images before doing any tweaks.

I was quickly coming to the conclusion that my efforts to make my souvenir had failed. Perhaps the Sony did not have gift-shop quality resolution, or perhaps the photos were taken at too wide of an angle (35mm) to be useful.


With only one option left, I bit the bullet and purchased a Sony 90mm macro lens, a linear polarizer to block reflections, and airplane tickets back to Paris. This was now the most expensive souvenir of 2016, so far.

155 photos later, we have pointy teeth! Now it is just a simple hopelessly complicated matter to place the data in a 3D printer and push the "Should have just bought the Duffy" command. Would that it were so easy. The Agisoft export has holes and no thickness, so some further processing is needed. I turned to DesignX to do some more robust manipulations than Agisoft currently provides.

Note to self: don't be afraid to brush away spider-webs, they had a visible impact on the quality of the Crypt Keeper's right side.

The penultimate step is to bring the design into a program called Geomagic Sculpt, which is the cleanest method of voxelizing 3d printer data to ensure water-tight meshes and manifold geo. It is also a good place to smooth out any rough patches and refine the model in an intuitive sculptural manner. This is because one can feel the 3D model using Sculpt's haptic feedback stylus. Here's another heisted souvenir in Sculpt:

Ready to print using Photoshop CC, our go-to support generation software for extruded filament printers.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Finding an apartment that was sealed off 75 years ago

It’s 1938 on the rooftop of a downtown Los Angeles building, the owners of a penthouse apartment with a chewing gum view of the snowcapped San Gabriel mountains (very Wrigley,) closed the door and walked away. For seventy five years, the apartment sat empty. With downtime during a photo shoot setup, playfully examining the rooftop, I began turning door knobs. One opened….

The first indication that a bit of mystery was involved, the household appliances sat where they had been the last time they were used, the GE Refrigerating Machine keeping the leftovers cool, as our penthouse apartment dwellers looked down at the neon marquees announcing the premieres of Snow White, Gone With The Wind, The Wizard of Oz. The maid’s quarters offered easy access to the then exceedingly luxurious spoils of a machine that actually washed your clothes for you!
Looking at the bathroom, I realized that life back in time wouldn’t have seemed much different from today. Everybody poops.

Even the circuit breakers in a closet off of the maid’s room exuded retro-coolosity:

It seems there might have been a spitting problem, as this sign on the sun deck evinces:
From the 1938 patent date, the air conditioning unit on the roof must have been the latest and greatest. Why would they leave?
Imagine this view at night, with the neon lit.
The Eastern Columbia department store would have made for convenient shopping, though today it stands as the finest example of Art Deco era architecture surviving in Los Angeles.
If our mysterious tenants needed an excuse to stay, this million-dollar view would have been worth, in those days, over seven hundred dollars!.
Although world war would effect the City of Angeles a few years later, requiring roof light black-outs during air-raid (tests), I think the pano view of the penthouse best explains the possible reasons for deserting this magical loft: the pipes that travel through the apartment walls reflect laws that arose in the depression era that required high-rise residences and hotels to retrofit fire sprinkler systems, and unfortunately the only way to make that happen was to seal off the rooftop apartment, and leave it alone for us to discover.