3D scanning with the iPhone lidar
As you may know, the latest generation of iPhones (12 Pro and 12 Pro Max) comes equipped with a back facing lidar camera. 3D capture is for me the natural evolution of capture, and I have been waiting for this day to happen for almost 10 years.
A number of 3D captures apps got recently released to take advantage of this new capability. I’ve tested pretty much all of them, and have been scanning extensively for the past 3 months. I often get asked which apps do I recommend, and how do I get nice captures. Here is a post about my go-to apps, what I like about each of them, and some general tips for iPhone lidar scanning.
So here are my 6 go-to scanning apps, they all come with direct export to Sketchfab:
Scaniverse generally works well out of the box, is fast and easy to use, generates great textures, and does a good job at closing holes. Make sure to process your captures in ultra mode. I like to use it for scanning things like cars. This frozen mini is one of my best lidar scans. You can find all my Scaniverse captures here, and get the app here.
Polycam is very fast and does a great job at textures. You can process in HD mode, and get instant measurements. I like to use it for scanning things like rooms or murals and street art. You can find all my Polycam captures here, and get the app here.
3D scanner app
3D scanner app has a ton of options, giving you a lot of control. For example you can easily decimate or trim in app, and you can even trim with a sphere. I find the app particularly great for smaller things, like this dollar bill. Make sure to use the HD mode. You can find all my 3D scanner app captures here, and get the app here.
Record3D lets you capture volumetric videos, also known as 4D content, ie a 3D scan per frame of the video. Here are the first steps of my daughter below. Keep in mind that this approach outputs very heavy files, so you want to keep your capture to just a few seconds to be able to upload it to Sketchfab. You can find all my Record3D captures here and get the app here.
SiteScape is great for fast and accurate point clouds. You can adjust point density and size. I like to use it for complexe and intricate scenes or structures. Can also be great for cars. You can find all my SiteScape captures here and get the app here.
Everypoint is great for large point clouds, like this Subway mosaic. They have been teasing us with an upcoming app update combining lidar and photogrammetry, can’t wait to try it. You can find all my Everypoint captures here, and get the app here.
Here are some general tips when it comes to iPhone lidar scanning:
- Know what to scan. People constantly disappointed with their iPhone lidar scans are often scanning things that have no chance of giving a good result. One of the most important things to know is that it doesn’t work well with smaller things and objects. Typically a shoe is too small. Also doesn’t work great with shiny/reflective things.
- Avoid rescanning an area you have already covered, it will likely create alignment issues.
- Scanning around something small/thin - like a statue or a chair or a wall -often doesn’t work well.
- Make sure to properly cover every part of what you are scanning to avoid holes. I use a sort of spraying gesture, a bit like if I was painting with spray paint.
- Go slowly and steadily.
- A nice and clean crop makes a big difference in perceived quality. 3Dscannerapp, Polycam and Scaniverse offer in-app cropping.
- Sketchfab offers lots of features helping turn a poor scan into an ok scan. I like to add an automated baked AO ground shadow (2nd editor tab), and then post process effects like sharpness, depth of field, saturation…
- Set faces to single sided for rooms, so you can see the inside from the outside (last option in 3rd editor tab).
- Adding 3D annotations in Sketchfab is a great way to turn a scan into a mini story.
Selling your iPhone lidar scans
The Sketchfab store lets you monetize your 3D creations. I find that most of my iPhone lidar scans are still a tad below my quality threshold to put them up on my store. That being said, I’ve listed 2 of them (the mini and the doctor’s office) because customers actually asked me if they could buy them. The bottom line is that you never know how someone could make use of them, and it’s often more a matter of setting an appropriate price depending on quality and scarcity of the content. Plus the quality (and my skills) keep improving, so I expect to be able to list more in the future. Keep in mind that if you scan something with IP (like the mini), you can only list it under an editorial license.
I’m trying to post 1 scan a day in 2021. You can follow the tag #1scanaday on Sketchfab or twitter, and here is my 2021 collection. You can also join at anytime, as long as you try keeping up from there.
It’s really exciting to see that Sketchfab is already the go-to place to publish iPhone lidar captures. Happy scanning!