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Photogrammetry is a science of making a measurement from photographs. This method is using the parallax obtained between several pictures, taken from different points of view. Photogrammetry can be used to record complex 2D and 3D motion fields. It is imitating the stereoscopy of the binocular human vision, and it is actually used to get all the information of existing physical objects. Indeed, this process collects the data regarding the shape, the volume, and the depth of the subject that you are trying to scan. This is the method used to turn several pictures into an accurate 3D design. If we take a look back at the history of photogrammetry, we can see that the first experiments of projective geometry are not that new! Indeed, back in 1480, Leonardo Da Vinci was trying to determine the painter’s eye point from perspective painting.
Photogrammetry works by extracting the geometric information of a two-dimensional image. By combining a lot of pictures, you will be able to create a three-dimensional image. Photogrammetry is the process used to create the 3D scan of an object, using multiple images. Indeed, it is possible to make the 3D model of an object with several pictures of this object, ingeniously taken from different points of view, in order to get a complete representation of the object. For this, you don’t necessarily need to use a 3D scanner, a simple smartphone, a tablet or a good camera can be used, with good image stabilization!
Thanks to photogrammetry, and a series of complex algorithms, you will get a digital 3D model using multiple photos of the original real-world object thanks to a powerful reconstruction process. The more pictures you have, the more precise your 3D design will be. It is also possible to turn one picture into a 3D model, but obviously, you will not get an optimized result with only one picture.
3D scanning could be useful for various applications. It can be used to get a viable 3D model and make the most of the 3D printing technology using an online 3D printing service such as Sculpteo. But having a great 3D design is also an amazing tool for visualization.
If you prefer to use a smartphone application, check out our blog post on how to 3D scan with a smartphone to see what are the different possibilities and the best programs to create a viable 3D scan.
While choosing a photogrammetry software, you will have a huge choice. You will have to choose your software according to your expectations: Do you need to upload several images? Do you want to focus on aerial images? Do you have experience? Do you want to try photogrammetry for the first time with free software? Let’s discover what is the best solution for you! We will start our photogrammetry software selection for 2020 by presenting you the best free photogrammetry tool, and then we will continue with more professional options.
Agisoft Metashape, previously named Agisoft Photoscan, is a stand-alone software. This software offers many interesting features like photogrammetric triangulation, point cloud data, measurements for distances, volumes and areas, 3D model generation and textures, for example. Agisoft Metashape appears to be a complete software, useful for various applications such as cultural heritage documentation or visual effects production. You will have the choice between the professional version and the standard version. The standard edition is still quite complete, you will get all the basic software tools that you need! It is one of the most used photogrammetry software tools.
If you already used this software before, you should certainly give it another try, because a few improvements have been made, such as processing times and the overall quality of captures.
MicMac is an open-source photogrammetry software developed by the IGN (French National Geographic Institute) and ENSG (French national school for geographic sciences). Even if it’s a free solution, MicMac is more adapted to experienced or academic users. This software is useful for projects involving environmental protection, cultural heritage imaging and preservation or forestry. From close-range to aerial footage, MicMac can process anything.
Meshroom is a free and open-source software offered by AliceVision, a photogrammetric computer vision framework.
This 3D reconstruction software is easy to use, it allows you to run the whole photogrammetric pipeline. You just have to put your images and the software generates 3D models and textured mesh automatically, using a node-based workflow. It cannot be more simple!
Here is the free version of the software 3DF Zephyr, a very complete and efficient software for photogrammetry. This software now has a free version specially made for beginners and personal use! It could be the best solution if you are just beginning with this 3D process and need to learn with great software. This free version of 3DF Zephyr is offering all the 3D reconstruction tools and basic editing tools that you will need as a beginner.
Visual SFM is a 3D reconstruction tool, using structure from motion (SFM). This GUI application is an easy photogrammetry software to use, you will just have to add your images, match them and make the automatic reconstruction. It is a quite simple software tool with an automatic process. This digital photogrammetry tool is free for personal use.
Get a little demo in the video below:
Colmap is a general-purpose Structure-from-Motion (SfM) and Multi-View Stereo (MVS) pipeline You can use it with its graphical user interface, or with its command-line interface. You can choose what is more convenient for you. You will access all the basic tools needed to create a 3D model using one or several photographs.
Regard3D is a free and open-source structure-from-motion program, allowing you to generate great 3D models from a series of photographs. This program is offering powerful tools and it might take you a while to really master it. All the tutorials available on their website are really useful to get started.
“Keep it simple, keep it maintainable” is the credo of OpenMVG (Multiple View Geometry). This library for photogrammetry, popular in the computer-vision scientists and Multi-View Geometry community. OpenMVG offers tools mainly focused on the SfM technique. Everything they offer is tested, making sure that all the features are 100% reliable in real situations.
ContextCapture (previously Acute 3D) is developed by Acute3D, a Bentley Systems company. The goal of this software is to create a finished 3D model with photographs, without any human intervention. This process is easier than 3D scanning and more precise than 3D modeling, you don’t need to be an expert to recreate a perfect 3D digital image. This photogrammetry solution allows working on large infrastructure projects such as cityscapes. It is possible to use both photogrammetry and laser scans for a higher level of accuracy and get reality meshes, perfect to provide precise real-world digital context construction or operations decisions. Moreover, this program includes the ContextCapture Editor, which enables users to edit 3D meshes, generate cross-sections, and extract ground and break-lines.
You can get a Context Capture 3D demo right here if you are not familiar with this software.
Reality Capture is a complete photogrammetry solution, it’s easy to use thanks to its great and friendly user interface and offering everything you need for photogrammetry. Reality Capture claims to be 10 times faster than any other photogrammetry solution with its brand new version. This program has great quality and speed, is able to calculate meshes and textures, and allows working with a lot of different file formats. It will allow you to work on geo-referencing, reality scenes, orthographic projections using images and laser scans! It is also possible to work on small sized objects while using this complete software.
This software allows reconstructing a 3D digital representation with images. Everything is automatic, you don’t have to interfere in the process thanks to its efficient reconstruction technology. As we saw in our previous section, this software has a basic and free version. But depending on your needs and on your project, you will have the choice between different versions of 3DF Zephyr: Lite, Pro, and Aerial. These advanced versions are allowing you to go further and get laser-scanned objects for example, or to work more precisely with aerial photographs.
A few years back, a free software called 123D Catch was developed by Autodesk, helping to turn a picture into a 3D model. This software is not available anymore, but Autodesk still has some interesting solutions for photogrammetry. Autodesk ReCap (previously Autodesk ReMake) is a reality capture software developed by Autodesk, allowing you to create really accurate 3D models using reality captures. You can access advanced photogrammetry possibilities such as aerial photogrammetry, and you can measure and edit point cloud data. With Autodesk ReCap you can also access a wide range of tools and, for instance, clean the unwanted objects to work more specifically on a precise object!
Trimble Inpho is a photogrammetry software really dedicated to a geospatial use. It will transform your aerial images into precise points cloud and surface models. It is a professional software, perfect if you have a geo-referencing or a geo-modeling project, using aerial photography. This software is really complete and offers a wide range of modules. If you choose to use Inpho, you will certainly find the tools that you need.
WebODM is a drone mapping software running on your computer, and even available offline. This software uses drones to create textured 3D models, geo-referenced maps and point clouds. Its features include the ability to get orthorectified maps, 3D models and point clouds in a variety of formats. but also the possibility to create and use GCPs for additional accuracy.
iWitnessPRO is a professional photogrammetry software, developed to be as accurate as possible. This software supports both close-range photogrammetry and aerial photogrammetry. You can choose the right process, according to the geometry of your object. This program is easy to use, supports GCPs (Ground Control Points) and allows us to generate orthoimages and digital surface models (DSMs).
Pix4Dmapper is a software dedicated to drone-based mapping. It is a professional software turning your images into really precise georeferenced 2D maps and 3D models thanks to an advanced digital reconstruction technology. It is quite a useful tool if you need to visualize your project. Indeed, you can render your project and work on textures. It is a good software for aerial images but also for close-range images.
Watch the video below for a presentation of this professional photogrammetry software:
Photomodeler Pro 5 is not a stand-alone solution, it is a plugin available with the 3D modeling software Rhino. If you are using this advanced 3D software, this plugin could be the perfect solution as you could access all your tools with only one program. Thanks to Photomodeler Pro 5, you will be able to create realistic and accurate models from pictures. The PhotoModeler photogrammetry software extracts measurements and models from images taken with ordinary cameras!
SOCET GXP is presented as an advanced geospatial intelligence software solution, developed by BAE Systems, a defense, security and aerospace company. This program is using imagery from satellites and aerial sources, which allows identifying, analyzing, and extracting ground features. This advanced software combines image analysis, geospatial production, photogrammetry tools, and remote sensing into one package, already used for homeland security, disaster relief, and humanitarian efforts.
DroneDeploy is a cloud-based drone software, helping businesses get accurate 2D and 3D maps ready for analysis. They are specialized in aerial photography. This solution is made of two different apps. One is used to control the drone, and the other one creates your 3D models with all the images from the drone.
Correlator3D is a mapping software developed by Simactive. All of its terrain modeling and aerial photography features will help you with your projects. This end-to-end user-friendly photogrammetry software can help you produce dense Digital Surface Models (DSM). Digital Terrain Models (DTM), dense point clouds, orthomosaics and great vectorized 3D features.
Photogrammetry is a technique used to create 3D models. It is an alternative to 3D scanning, allowing to use of photographs instead of using active light sources. With a camera, a computer, and adapted photogrammetry software, you could easily benefit from photogrammetry to create your 3D models.
Colmap, MicMac, Meshroom and Agisoft Metashape are interesting free photogrammetry software offering a professional approach to create your 3D models.
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