Drones and Architectural Visualization: Using Video as a Basis for 3D Modeling
Drones and Architectural Visualization: Using Video as a Basis for 3D Modeling

Using photorealistic architectural visualization to create outstanding 3D models of various structures is one of the best steps you can take in your career. Creating 3D models to showcase your designs will bring you more clients, as you can show them exactly what a particular structure will look like once its entire construction is completed.

As a 3D visualizer, you certainly understand how beneficial this can be. But, are you making the most of 3D modeling? Are you utilizing all the available tools to create exceptional architectural visualizations that will make you truly stand out and double your business?

This is where drones come into play. These unmanned aerial vehicles have been in heavy use in the commercial and film industry for years now, but they’re finally taking flight in the architectural industry as well. More and more 3D visualizers are utilizing them to create high-quality images and videos, and enhance their 3D modeling efforts.

Why Use Drones for Architectural 3D Modeling?

A drone will enable you to capture the tiniest of details and showcase a particular structure from every possible angle. You can capture its beauty and every little intricacy from a point where it’s seen in its entirety – from the sky.

You simply cannot see an entire structure at once from the ground level, but a drone enables you to do so. It enables you to create both still images and videos, and use them to produce a marvelous 3D model that’s a realistic representation of the structure in question.

This is especially beneficial when you’re working on large-scale projects. You have an opportunity to work with unique viewpoints and create 3D models that will sweep your clients off their feet.

Using drones to create high-quality 360° videos for your 3D modeling will also give you a competitive edge. You will truly impress your clients and turn them into repeat customers, who will gladly get you more referrals. Utilizing drones will help you stay ahead in the industry and consistently pull in more clients.

Using drones in architecture to create 3D models is also very cost-effective, which is yet another reason why you should consider it. Your aerial footage can help you identify any potential issues regarding a particular structure before the plans for its construction even begin. It would save time and costs for both you and your clients.

4 Crucial Steps for Creating 3D Models Using Drone Videos

Using a drone to capture aerial images and then stitch them together is the easiest way to create a 3D model. That’s how almost everyone does it, and it’s more than beneficial. However, using video as a basis for your 3D modeling can yield much better results.

This is because a single video capturing an entire structure from every single angle comes with thousands of keyframes that successfully highlight every possible nook and cranny of the structure.

Imagine capturing thousands of images to achieve the same result. You would need an incredibly large amount of time to stitch all the images together to create a 3D model of the same quality.

This is why you should give videos a try. However, have in mind that this process of creating 3D models for your architectural renderings is a bit more difficult and time-consuming, but much more rewarding and really nothing you couldn’t master with practice.

Here’s what steps you would need to take.

1. Picking the Right Time of Day

This is an extremely important step because you want your 3D model to showcase a particular structure in the best possible light, quite literally. Therefore, you need to shoot your drone video at the right time of day.

The best times of day to capture excellent drone videos are mornings. That’s when you can catch the best lighting that will showcase the structure in the most compelling way. Shooting around noon is perhaps the best time, as you can avoid long shadows.

2. Feature Detection and Matching

Once you record your drone video and upload it into your 3D rendering software, you need to analyze different frames in the video to detect and match the same features. This is called a linear method for reconstruction from lines and points.

To take this step effectively, you need to be familiar with the concepts of detectors and descriptors. The former will help you detect the features, while the latter will help you match the features. Whenever you extract the features of two images, a descriptor in the form of a vector will help you find corresponding feature pairs, and match them from one to another image.

3. Motion and Structure Recovery

This step involves recovering information regarding the motion of your drone camera, as well as information regarding the structure of the scene you’ve filmed.

This means you need to recover the orientation and position parameters of your camera  so that you can accurately calculate all the 3D coordinates of every feature in the video frames. You can conduct this entire data-matching process effectively with the help of RANSAC, MSAC, or MLESAC algorithms.

4. Stereo Mapping

Stereo mapping in 3D modeling involves using the structure you’ve recovered during the previous step to create the dense map of the scene in question. You create a stereo model composed of all the images (frames in the video) taken from different angles  so that you can get a realistic projection that provides stereo vision.

5. 3D Modeling

The final step when creating your 3D model from video involves adding textures and adjusting lighting to create your final product. It’s when you polish your entire video to make sure your 3D model perfectly represents the structure and showcases your design in the best possible light.

This is also where you can add various other surrounding elements that will enhance your 3D model and give it a truly realistic view, such as trees, flowers, cars, and people walking by.

Shooting images and videos with a drone may seem daunting at first, but you can master it and produce remarkable architectural visualizations with practice. Practice truly makes perfect, so get to the big, wide, open spaces where operating drones is allowed, and practice as much as you can.

When practicing your drone flying, make sure you avoid some of the most common mistakes rookies make, such as being completely inconsistent with what they are filming. When shooting images, make sure you cover enough area when shooting, so that you can get enough overlap between the images, as that’s crucial for stitching them together perfectly.

The most important thing about flying a drone is to obtain a license or permit. You don’t want to receive a hefty fine if you don’t have a license, or if you fly your drone in a restricted area. Therefore, obtain a permit and get familiar with all the UAV regulations before hitting the clouds and creating impressive videos for your 3D modeling.