One of the presentations Blink Image were very keen to see at yesterday's Develop 3D Live conference was the Chaosgroup unveiling of their latest innovation, VRscans.
Tucked away in a dark corner of the Warwick Arts Centre, a small team from Chaosgroup opened their talk by showing two slides, side-by-side on their projection screen. The two images were of a small cylinder shaped piece of leather (a bit like a section from the steering wheel of a car). They simply asked: "Which one of these is a photograph and which is CG?".
Confident of my own abilities to detect the fake, I shouted out: "Well...it's the one on the right...surely!".
Needless to say, I was wrong.
Chaosgroup showed sample after sample of comparisons between real world materials (largely leathers, chromes and other metals) and their VRscan alternatives. Each time it was almost impossible to see the difference. The VRscan system involves taking around 2000 individual 'photographs' of a sample from different angles and under different lighting conditions which takes just a few minutes. Once complete, clever software combines and blends the images to create a unique BRDF (bidirectional reflectance distribution function) for that sample to create a 'physically correct' material file that can be used in VRay with the appropriate VRscans plugin. Simply selecting this file and applying it to an object (once modelling, lighting,UV-mapping and scaling etc are sorted out of course!) will achieve beautiful, photorealistic results at render time.
Blink Image spend a huge amount of time painstakingly creating detailed materials for their images, particularly for interiors where designers have devoted their efforts on specifying just the right kind of material to achieve the desired look and feel. It is a complex process that involves lots (and lots!) of test rendering and tweeking to get things just right. Potentially, VRscans could save a whole heap of time in getting to the same - or arguably better - result.
We will certainly be keeping our eyes on how VRscans develops.