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Most photogrammetric software uses JPEG or Tiff image formats, which captures just the pixel RGB color values and ties us to an image processed with the camera settings at the time the image was taken. This workflow may indeed be adequate for many tasks. But the 32-bit process gives us a whole new range of tools and possibilities as it uses the luminance value for each pixel too. This method’s major benefit is that we can process the images and recover data lost in shadows or bright highlights. We can enhance detail across the scene’s whole contrast range of the object or site we are trying to Reality Capture or turn into a Digital Twin. We can reconstruct any location, whether the images are captured in almost complete darkness or shooting directly into the sun or artificial lighting, just using off-the-shelf cameras.
This way of working helps in other ways too. Specifically, it gives increased clarity in image data for pattern recognition, stitching, and registration. In turn, this process allows us to remove holes in data, improve realistic texture rendering and baking, mesh modeling, and point cloud colorisation. Excitingly, for us anyway, it opens a variety of techniques in VR content capture, image-based lighting (IBL), and CGI workflows for film effects in any light condition.
HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, and for professional photographers, there isn’t a real difference. The problem is that the term ‘HDR’ has been hijacked along the way by some marketing people. One man’s HDR is another man’s LDR. L stands for Low, obviously. (All JPEG’S and TIFFS are LDR). Most of these used in 360 cameras or used for colourising inside a laser scanner can cope with a minimal contrast range, and in their process, they can be used if there is a limited contrast range. If, however, you have bright work-lights or low winter sun bouncing off a window, you really will be struggling. The issue is that they apply global corrections across the whole of the image, which might mean some parts of the image have more detail whilst it muddies the detail in other areas. We only change the areas that need changing.
32-bit processing allows us to use the full range of the camera sensor, specifically its dynamic range, along with techniques such as bracketed images, tone mapping, and AI to analyze images and apply luminosity masks – plus some other pixie dust. We could write a book about this. Still, if you want to look under the hood in more detail, we are happy to share.
You are right. Or, at least, you were right until recently. A drone moves continuously, sometimes imperceptively, so if we have to take several images, they may not be taken in exactly the same position. This is not good! Add to this both object and motion blur, and you can pile on even more fun to the process with ghosting, blur, or objects passing or people walking through. That’s the clever part. Our AI algorithms allow us to align and stack images to pixel-perfect resolution. All whilst minimising focus, blur, noise, and editing out the fat bloke on the bike…normally me.
Please think of the image as a user interface to which we can attach files, post any media, vid to the actual object it refers to. There are lots pano tour softwares used for selling property of tourism which have ‘hot spots’ but in SMART 360’s ours are searchable, across the whole database, which could include hundreds of images. We can apply metadata to each one making it possible to say, ‘show me all the widgets that need calibrating this month’ or ‘identify all the hazards of a specific type in this building’ or even ‘where is the asbestos?’ etc.
Our Smart 360’s also allows a direct link to any internal database or URL. So, if you wanted to, we can visually link the asset directly to any existing document management system (DMS) such as ProjectWise or Revit, indeed any single data environment (SDE) for BIM purposes – and in reverse too. Link an asset to a visual representation of where it is on plant, on-site, on vessels, on the planet.
Now you might be thinking here, ‘Isn’t this a single data environment itself?’ You would be right…interestingly one that is CAD software vendor-neutral. Like your own personal Wikipedia/ GIS/Street View that the asset owners actually can own. One that can mix CAD data with all the other documents and information necessary to manage the full lifecycle of an asset… BIM for the rest of us.
Yes, we can accept any pano images from any camera system. That includes the top-end cameras i.e. £30K plus systems to $100 dollar 360 videos where YOU own the image. With some 360 camera systems out there, you don’t, even though you think you do. The second you load your photos up into the cloud, essentially, you and your images just become an asset of their business model.
This might be fine if you are using their ‘lovely’ images to sell a property or even if you don’t think that you need professional quality real estate imagery. But not if they are an essential part of your client’s asset information.
With our system, you retain the copyright of all your images. Who ultimately has ownership is vital for your client. It is important because if that company goes bust, all of those images are suddenly unavailable! The disaster of a Carillion’s failure wasn’t just the horrendous economic impact, but all of that data and knowledge lost about the assets they were building and managing disappeared into landfills.
You may sacrifice a little or a lot on image quality, but often, to be honest, it’s plenty good enough for, say, site-documentation. You will lose data and detail in shadows or highlights etc., and the resolution, or zoomablity, won’t be as good.
We tend to use ‘high-end’ DSLRs with as expensive prime lens as we can afford, but then we are looking for fantastic seamless imagery and as ultra-real as possible. Camera technology changes almost weekly, but the basics of good photography don’t. Smartphone cameras, if you use them with the right app, can produce amazing results, but you may be using them for other things at the same time. We’d suggest a dedicated camera system with an SD card for the purpose. But which make or model?
Sony has come out of nowhere in the past few years, but any of the usual would produce great results. Nikon 850’s, Sony Alpha 7’s we select and on the dynamic range of the sensor. I come from an age when we used medium format Bronicas with 24 exposure film backs and took all our developing chemicals and tanks, along with black-out material and gaffer tape, to convert my hotel or cabin bathroom into a darkroom. Before leaving the site, we would have to check image quality. So I look at the gear now, and I can fit it all into carry-on baggage with room to spare and sigh.
My kit, which I can use for pretty well any photogrammetry assignment, is based aSony a7 IIIR. I use this on all my Heritage documentation commissions, Crime Scene work, and inspection projects, with just two lenses. But for 50% of my jobs, I could use a Sass G. The choice super-wide-angle is in abundance too, and which one depends on what camera family body happens to be your favourite. Mine changes almost weekly as I’m ultra picky, and I’d need at least a bottle of gin to share that nugget with you. It’s always about balancing the number of images you need to take to get a quality 360 image and quality. Image quality in photogrammetry isn’t about aesthetic quality but how much data I can extract from that image.
Our kit cost less than $5000 dollars. Some dedicated 360 cameras cost ten times that, but ironically, even though you are paying more money, you are limited to image sizes, and all actually have slower capture times. What you are paying for though, is that images are stitched in or they produce single pano as images are processed in the camera and they are designed to be ‘one-button‘ press cameras, which is perfect for the Scene of Crime Officer capturing a fatality scene at night and want to control room to view it in the ‘Golden hour’ trying to document a vehicle collision but needs to open the motorway as quickly as possible. (There are pros and cons for each workflow. Both field or post-processing require manual intervention, but if you want more information about these drop us a line).
The question of which camera to use, you might ask yourself, is how else do I want to use it? You may already have a Sony on your drone? Or, do I absolutely need a Hasselblad to photograph my pipework lagging? ( Of course, you do ;-)) Or, do I need 100MB sensor to take a photograph of micro-cracks and 0.01mmm GSD, in a nuclear plant? Any advice we can give drop us a line.
No, you DO NOT have to download anything, and no, you don’t have to clog up your hard drive and bandwidth. It is all on a UK-based cloud or local to you for our overseas customers. Provided you have a reasonably current version web browser and your IT department can white-label our domain, you are good to go. You can view on any device, although the bigger the screen, obviously the better. It’s all web-based. You get a username and password and, depending on your role, allows you to edit and add information or view it.
Post-Brexit where you actually host your clients data, your point cloud, your BIM 360 will be critical to your client. THEY will have to have governance over that data and unsurprisingly will choose and already are specifying where it is hosted, where the hardware actually is. To be compliant with GDPR legislation and for legal security and their or own security, that has to be in the UK.
Many of the viewing platforms for point cloud viewing, for example, are hosted in Germany, Switzerland, the US. It would be best if you asked your supplier where is the hardware it is installed.
All our hardware architecture is 100% in the UK, hosted in a Category 111 data centre, currently one of only three in the country with that level of security accreditation. They already host numerous .gov departments include security services, and other high security-sensitive agencies and organisations. We use the same protocols and procedures because we have to use that facility.