Getting Photofly Off the Ground

Getting Photofly Off the Ground

I was very excited to see Photofly from Autodesk – this looked like a fantastic way to quickly model objects and buildings using nothing but photographs and the click of a mouse (and time waiting for some computing to be done on some server someplace to figure it all out and stitch it all together).

So I gave it a whirl – I had a ton of photos from India when I was there, where I had shot panoramas of various historic, legendary buildings and places, and I tried uploading them to the system to see what I’d get back. I was genuinely hoping to get something back.

So I clicked the submit button and waited. And waited. I left the computer on overnight. In the morning, I got up and looked at the screen – still nothing. After after a few more tries, I gave up on the thing and uninstalled it. I figured the technology was possibly a little too new to work very well. Months later after I had gone to SIGGRAPH and been invited to join the Autodesk forums on, I found that a lot of other people had had the same problem, made the same assumptions, and had come away empty handed.

Yoda, sitting in the passenger seat of my Fiat 850 Spyder.

Then I found the tips pages, which I could swear weren’t there when Firefly was first announced. Now that I have some guidelines on how to shoot, and what it can really do, I’m going to give it another go. I’m really interested to see if it can generated meshes from sculptures, because I started out in the motion picture business doing molds and makeup effects, and no amount of computer simulation can properly replace real world materials. If I can work in real clay and build my digital models based directly on my own sculptures, I’ll have an outrageous advantage.

I still have the molds from the Yoda replica I and my friends Michael Moore (not the director, a different Michael Moore) and Jeff Farley made in 1985, and I’m wondering if somehow I can get Photofly to recreate something approaching the original, either from the molds, or from the latex puppet we built (which after all these years, I still have).  Making the Yoda replica was a labor of love, and it would be great to bring him back to life.

Now that I have what may pass for working instructions, I may be able to make some progress.

— Gene Turnbow

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