Updated- Photogrammetry- ONE3D for the win ?

Updated- Photogrammetry- ONE3D for the win ?

Since I decided to try my hand at photogrammetry (see my original post here and subsequent posts here and here for details on what it is and my progress) I have had some great encouragement and advice from folks in the subReddit.

Lots of people have offered advice about what software to use, so I thought I would post a fairly unscientific review of my experience with the three I have tried so far: Meshroom, ONE3D, and Reality Capture.

Since I posted this on Reddit I was encouraged to try out Metashape, so I did and will add the results below…

Meshroom is fully free and open source (usually my favorite type of software), and ONE3D and Reality Capture are both pay-per-image (you pay based on the number of images you feed into the software to create the model- ONE3D gives you your first one free, Reality Capture lets you download and run the software and you only pay when you’re ready to export the model), ONE3D is slightly more expensive, but hosts and lets you share the model from their site- more on that later. Metashape is free for 30 days and then has a “Pro” edition and a “Standard” edition, the “Standard” edition is $179.

Meshroom was my first try, and while the learning curve is pretty steep, with a little Googling I got my mind around it and came up with a very nice model:

This is shared via Sketchfab and was “decimated” (reducing the number of triangles in the model) to make it below 100MB so it could be shared on a free account (though they have since kindly upgraded me to a Pro account which allows files twice that size), but in general I am very happy with the way it came out.

Next I was invited to try the same model on ONE3D, a website where you simply upload all the pictures and then wait and a few hours later they will email you a link to your model:

The navigation is a little different (you click and hold the mouse wheel to spin the model), and the model’s footprint is much larger as you don’t have the option of setting the boundaries, so it shows a lot more of the surrounding area than I would really like, but for ease of use this is amazing- no need to learn and Google stuff, and their computers do all the work so yours is not tied up for a day or so calculating and generating the model.

Then someone suggested I try Capture Reality by Epic Games. This comes with a very good tutorial built in that kind of walks you through the basics, though a bit of Googling is required to delve a bit deeper if you want to tweak the settings to get the model down to a manageable size for example. It does calculate the model much quicker than Meshroom, and after a few false starts I got this out of it:

This is again hosted on Sketchfab, though, as I had mentioned, they had upgraded me to a pro account so this model’s file size is about twice the size of the one I got out of Meshroom (5m triangles and 2.5M vertices vs 500K and 400K). It was run as a “high quality” model and then brought down from about 135M triangles.

Metashape is pretty easy to use, and their website has some really good tutorials, but perhaps I’m just getting better at understanding how these things work? I used the same group of pictures and mostly their default settings from the tutorial (the only real change I made was to up the texture files to 8k and do 10 of them rather than the 1 recommended). The original was about 8M triangles and I decimated that down to 3M to make it below 200MB so I could upload it to Sketchfab.

I have to say- I’m super impressed at the quality of the model- and the textures are great (though perhaps that’s just because I knew to up the file size and the number of files for this one?). What I particularly like is the ability to edit the mesh once it’s created to remove things you don’t want- I had defined a nice, rectangular area to work with, but was able to easily lop off the corners and remove some sections of overhanging trees that spoiled the view from some angles. And while I was waiting for the model to compute (it’s taken most of the day- I think mostly cos of the detailed textures) I did a bit of reading up on Sketchfab and worked out how to add depth-of-field etc. to the model 😉

It is interesting to compare some pictures of the same areas in the different model- take the glass entry off the circle in front of the church…

Meshroom has all sorts of trouble with the uprights, Reality Capture does the best job seeing through the glass and showing the interior, but ONE3D does the best job rendering the actual building. Though honestly I now think Metashape does even better.

And looking on the other side of the building at the fence around where the AC unit is:

Neither Meshroom nor reality Capture does a very good job on the fence itself, while ONE3D is the only one that has the fence complete, in fact you can actually read the Nursery School sign! And that’s really why I have titled this post “ONE3D for the win”- the textures are just so much better than those on the other two. Though Metashape has made me add the question mark- the fence is not quite a well defined but the text is almost as readable.

It may be the settings I’m using, or the fact that the model seems to be much bigger (when I’ve downloaded it it’s around 340MB), but although it takes a moment for the detail to resolve as you move it around, the detail on the texture on the ONE3D model is just so much better. And I’m quite prepared to admit that with further research and experimentation I may be able to get similar results out of the other two, but with no real effort other than taking the pictures carefully ONE3D has created a model that is mostly better than the other two in lots of ways. Metashape has surprised me by creating a model that is almost as good (though in some ways actually better), but it has taken me most of the day on and off checking on where the computer is in the process.

As I have noted- it seems to be a larger model file than I can upload to Sketchfab (even with the Pro account’s larger size allowance), but I also did not have to upload it to a third party to share it. The sharing options are pretty basic (I had to stick it in and iframe to embed it- but it seems to work fine), and I do wish I could crop the model down a little so only the church building is included, but for the small cost involved (this one was actually free as the first one, but it would be pretty reasonable even if I had paid for it) I’m very happy with it. I suppose I could trim it in Blender, though I have yet to manage to open the downloaded file in Blender (I’m sure because I have no experience of Blender and I have not found the right YouTube tutorial yet), but if I did I would then have to upload it to Sketchfab to share it.

Some will say that the fact that you have no control over what you get is a huge issue- and I will keep playing with both Meshroom and Reality Capture to see if I can improve on the results I have gotten from them- but whatever algorithm ONE3D are using just seems to produce great results. So for instant gratification (well, after a couple of hours) and an excellent model with no angst ONE3D is the clear winner so far!

Or is it? Metashape has created a model that stands fine against it at about half the file size (the .glb file I uploaded was 174MB). And I have to say, that having a little more control over the result and especially having the option to edit the area of the model and remove those odd trees was huge- and there is something to be said for the feeling of satisfaction when you make a tweak and the results take a while but are worth the wait. But against that is the cost… ONE3D would produce this model for about $7.50, if I decide to buy the Standard edition of Metashape that’s $179, and a Pro Sketchfab account (to allow uploading and sharing larger models) is about $180/year (though as I had mentioned they have kindly gifted me a year of Pro), so that’s $360. I would have make 48 similar models on ONE3D to pay the same.

There is a lot to learn and try out- I need to go back and try tweaking Meshroom and Reality Capture with the knowledge I now have through the experience of trying all these different platforms- just by playing with them all I am starting to gain a “feel” for how it all works (and a big thanks also to all the folks chiming in with advice on Reddit!). But I think, to be honest I have found the platform I will probably stick with- ONE3D is awesome, but I think Metashape will just give me the extra control and chance to tinker that I want, even if I have to buy it.

If you’re interested in a better look, the full ONE3D model can be seen here.

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