Wednesday, February 25th, 2015 Posted by Jim Thacker

Autodesk launches Memento

Autodesk has launched Memento: a new professional-grade tool for converting photos or scan data of real-world objects into 3D meshes, then cleaning and optimising those meshes for export or 3D printing.

Filling the gap between 123D Catch and ReCap
Previously available as an Autodesk Labs tech preview, Memento fills a gap between Autodesk’s consumer photogrammetry and mesh-editing apps like 123D Catch and its high-end ReCap reality-capture system.

Although the company is targeting Memento at a wide range of users, including fine artists, the Etsy community, researchers and museum curators, it has obvious applications in the entertainment industry.

Autodesk tells us that the software is currently being trialled at “all the usual suspects” – that is, the major VFX studios – as a possible means of reconstructing props and sets.

Generate 3D meshes from scan data or photogrammetry
Memento accepts point cloud scan data from structured light or laser scanners; or users can upload sets of photos of an object or environment and reconstruct it by photogrammetry.

Although the software itself is installed on the desktop, processing is done in the cloud.

Autodesk tells us that this is partly to cut processing times – getting the final model typically takes “one to three hours” – and partly due to a design philosophy that aims to migrate as much functionality as possible online.

Currently, users can upload up to 250 source photos, although Autodesk aims to remove the limit entirely.

Performance looks good: Autodesk tells us that the software can handle meshes of 1-2 billion polys without requiring a “horribly high-spec” machine.

Edit, clean, retopologise and decimate the mesh
Once a 3D model has been generated, users can clean up the mesh using a fairly standard set of tools: operations include slicing the mesh or marquee selecting and deleting geometry, filling holes and smoothing.

Mesh decimation is a simple slider-based system – Autodesk’s intention has been to make the process as streamlined as possible for less 3D-savvy users – although there are some manual retopology tools.

Export in standard file formats or for 3D printing
Once cleaned up, a mesh can be exported in OBJ, FBX, STL or ReCap’s native file format. FBX export includes the source camera positions, enabling artists to reproject textures onto the mesh inside 3D software.

Memento can also generate turntable animations in AVI format; and can automatically analyse models to identify potential errors before export for 3D printing.

Future updates will add the option to publish models interactively online using WebGL technology developed for the Smithsonian’s X 3D Explorer, which enables web users to browse the museum’s collection online.

Pricing and availability
Memento is currently a free beta. Autodesk tells us that the tool will remain free for at least a year; but that in the long term, it is considering pricing options including pay-to-export or subscription plans.

The software is currently available for Windows only. A Mac version will follow later this quarter.

Read more about Memento on Autodesk’s product website
(Includes link to the beta: a free Autodesk account is required to download it)