Over the last couple years, we have seen the 3D archaeology community grow at an incredible rate. As awareness for the potential of these tools has grown, I have been asked several times about the best way to get started. Depending on their need, I generally recommended Agisoft PhotoScan as the current standard in archaeology circles. With PhotoScan they can get lots of help, flexibility in subject scale, few limitations, high accuracy, it is relatively easy to use, and it has recently come down in price.
However, to anyone currently looking to get into photogrammetry for interpretive and educational purposes, I have a new recommendation. Autodesk ReMake is perfect for any program that just needs to make a model of an object without investing too much time and money.
The professional version of ReMake currently runs at $30 a month or $300 a year. You could compare this to PhotoScan’s regular professional license of $3499, but they are really not related. A more appropriate comparison is to PhotoScan’s standard license which is currently available for one-time fee of $179. As a result, ReMake really does not make financial sense at this level.
However, ReMake has a free or educational license which makes it worth considering. There are features that are available in the full version that are not in these licenses. For example, neither can freely use “Ultra quality” images (though I have not had any issues) and the free version is limited to 50 photos (though you can do an awful lot with 50 photos). For the rest of this post, I will be talking about these two licenses.
Making a Model
If you want to get an idea of what it takes to make a model in PhotoScan, I suggest checking out the guide I assembled here. ReMake simplifies this process immensely. You merely select your photos, name the model, decide if you want their auto crop or smart texture options, and then hit “Start.” As we are working with the free or educational licenses, the program will then upload your photos to a cloud, process them, and then notify you when your model is available to download.
It really is that simple. There are some limited editing options for a finished model, but I have not had much need for them. As you can see, the results are excellent and more than serviceable. Occasionally, I have gotten ReMake to assemble a model that PhotoScan could not figure out.
For ReMake features and limitations go hand-in-hand. If you are using one of the free licenses then you only have the option of using the cloud for processing your model, you cannot create it on your computer (locally). If you are like me, this is perfect because my computer struggles to do anything while a PhotoScan model is processing. Also, unlike programs such as 123D Catch you still retain full rights to your model.
If you want a fully 3D object in ReMake (one with a completed bottom) then you will have to use a second program to assemble it like Blender or MeshLab. Technically, you can do this in PhotoScan which automatically stitches two models together to create a complete model. In practice, this has been far more finicky so I do not expect to miss it.
Finally, there is no masking option in ReMake. This means that, if your background is not out of focus, you will run into problems. On the other hand, this will cause difficulties in PhotoScan too, though you can overcome them with effort. That being said, the model below turned out pretty well, and this is one that PhotoScan struggles to make sense of.
ReMake is a much simpler and more accessible program than PhotoScan. This naturally means that you have less control over your model and you have fewer options. If a model does not turn out well, for example, you do not have the option of spending hours trying to manipulate the program to get a result (which actually appeals to me somewhat). On the other hand, if you have a casual, non scientific project where you just need a model for a demonstration or for printing, it is excellent.
Tristan Harrenstein is trained as an archaeologist and has a passion for outreach and education. This is fortunate as he is also an employee of the Florida Public Archaeology Network, an organization dedicated to promoting the preservation and appreciation of our archaeological resources. He shares a blog space with his boss (Barbara Clark) and you can read more blog posts on other archaeology related subjects that tickle our fancy here.