Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Reality Power Captured with ReCap Photo

ReCap Photo is the new and improved online image based modeling tool from Autodesk. It used to be called Photofly and later transitioned it to 123D Catch (still in service) as part of 123D family. I have played with it on and off for the last two years.
The concept is simple, you use your digital camera and take a series of pictures around an object or a building, upload it to the ReCap Photo site, then the images will be stitched together via the cloud computing service; as a result, the images are converted it to a 3D object for you.

ReCap Photo home page

I was yet again playing with this technology last week. Since my office is in downtown, I am surrounded by many historical buildings in the area. So I thought to try it with some classical ornament to see what result I get this time.

I found a flagpole with an interesting wrought iron ornament base near my office.

Using nothing but my Samsung S3 phone camera and took a series of pictures; uploaded it to the ReCap Photo site, and waited (depending on the scale and complexity of the object) for about 20-30 minutes. It turned the images into a 3D model and it was ready to view it online.

Series of snapshots with my phone camera

Prior to this experiment, I did go through some trial and errors in the past and learned a better way to take the pictures that the program recommended. The result? Very impressive!

3D view of the flag pole base with high level of detail on the surface
3D mesh of flag pole base
View from the bottom of the 3D model

In order to use this "model" (the online viewer mode is nothing but a composite images stitched together) for further study, ReCap Photo made the conversion from the online format to multiple different (obj., ecm., fbx., ipm and rcs.) formats that can be downloaded via Autodesk 360. There is one file format that I am particularly interested, which is (rcs.) format. (rcs) is a type of indexed point cloud file format that is compatible with ReCap Pro. If you are familiar with ReCap Pro, which came out as a trial version few weeks ago. You can now import your rcs. file in there, clean it up and import it to Revit for reference.

rcs. file (very large file) can be downloaded via Autodesk 360

rcs. file after clean up in ReCap Pro

Inset point cloud file as rcs. format

Point cloud file of the flag pole base in Revit

Once I imported the point cloud to Revit, it seemed like there was a scaling issue with the file. I remembered there was a way to scale properly when it was in 123D catch. I hadn't found it in ReCap Pro yet, perhaps I was missing something. However, I did find a way to scale this point cloud file directly in Revit. Under the type properties of the imported point cloud object, there is a scale parameter you can change it to the appropriate scale.

Scale Factor under type properties (Another way to scale something natively in Revit!?)

I think this could be an awesome addition tool for the Revit users. I could see using this tool as an alternative and yet affordable way to capture the existing building/structure; and one could incorporate this data back to Revit for design as well as documentation. However, I don't think they can be imported into Revit family environment yet. (I wish it can). I have come across and read some online resource about a workaround using AutoCad as a media to bring the point cloud file into Revit family though.

My next step is to try to use this tool for more studies on other Architectural elements. So stay tuned for the future post!


  1. Philip. Have you tried photographing -> modeling any interior spaces? I tried this with my studio a few years ago when 123D Catch came out, and couldn't get it to work. It seems the software might only be good at modeling objects (rather than voids defined by a perimeter of objects). Thoughts?

  2. Hi Ben,

    I have tried to capture building exterior when it was still called photofly. However, the result was not as good as expected. Especially at the time, you can't export the model as rcs format. The available format was very limited. Revit didn't support Point Cloud either which made the workflow even harder. I am thinking of trying for some building facade in the near future. So we shall see.


  3. I'm interested in knowing what you find out! I'm without an install of 2014 at the moment, so a test run will have to wait.

  4. If you know the measurement of some feature in your scene, you can input that distance in ReCap Photo by adding two survey points.

    In the last screen, right before you submit your project you need to toggle On the advanced options. Then in the registration tab in the bottom right corner is this feature , called reference distance.


  5. Hi Mitko,

    Thanks for your comment. I figured out the reference distance feature as I was going through the interface again on the other study. I am trying to get the scale right on the next study on a building.


  6. Philip,

    How did you get it from recap photo into revit? I am missing this critical step.


  7. Hi John,

    You will need to have .rcs format from ReCap Photo in order to bring it to Revit. Your viewer mode file (in .rcp format) won't work with Revit. Let me know if you can get this to work.


  8. Hi John,

    .rcs file formats are supported only by 2014 Autodesk products. With earlier versions it won't work.