How Is Photogrammetry Used in Video Games?

One of the lesser-known applications of photogrammetry is in video game design. Many video game developers employ this measurements-from-photos technology to create all kinds of 3D models that are then used as in-game assets. These could range from small, handheld objects such as bottles or firearms to large-scale environments such as cityscapes or mountains. There is really no limit on the amount and kinds of objects that can be photographed, modeled, altered, and placed in video games through the use of photogrammetry.

In addition, with the advances of game realism, more film-like production techniques are being used in game design such as pre-visualisation (pre-viz). Photogrammetry (using a camera to measure and model) has a strong ability to help in pre-viz. 

For readers of this blog who may not be familiar with video games, the primary reason a video game development company would use photogrammetry in creating a game is for realism. Video games of the late 1970s and into the 1980s were graphically simplistic and could even be described as cartoony. As computer technology has advanced, however, video games have met player demand for realism. One major way that games have become more realistic is in their graphical depictions of objects and the world itself. And this can all be achieved through the type of photogrammetry software developed by PhotoModeler Technologies.

Therefore, in this post, we will discuss how photogrammetry and the 3D models that can be created from it are used to develop video games that attempt to mirror reality.

Why Employ Photorealism in Video Games?

The type of photorealism that photogrammetry is used to create in video games is part of the current trend of making games as reflective of reality as possible. Realism in games can refer to many things, from the setting to the script to the graphics. A game set in a historically significant period–Revolution-era Paris, for instance–can be said to be realistic in its depiction of real-world events.

Photogrammetry in video games

In the same manner, video games can also be graphically realistic in their exhibitions of characters, objects, places, and large-scale environments. In the last decade or so, this kind of realism has become a goal in and of itself for many video game developers. The point is to create truly immersive experiences for players to enjoy. The more realistic the graphics, the more the brain can delve into the fantasy. Of course, players are always aware that they are engaging with a fictional game, but the true-to-life graphics help to increase excitement at what occurs within the game.

This is where photogrammetry becomes important to the process. As video games continue to improve their reflections of reality into the 2020s, graphical accuracy will remain a core game element. Employing the latest technologies to generate realistic graphics in games has become less about creating just another set of entertainment products and more about devising comprehensive interactive experiences for players.

Using Photogrammetry in Video Games

At this point in the life of our blog, we do not need to explain the basics of photogrammetry. However, a primer on photogrammetry in video games will, of course, be necessary here. Game developers who are going for realism in their games’ graphics tend to opt for photogrammetry over total computer generation because the former offers truer-to-life visuals than anything that could be created manually on a computer.

As an example of what exactly the process involves, take the triple-A title Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, developed by Infinity Ward and released in October 2019 to positive reviews.

In the video game industry, Infinity Ward is known for pushing the boundaries of game capability in its popular Call of Duty series of first-person shooter games. Developers for the company have claimed that photogrammetry has allowed them to photograph all kinds of objects into Modern Warfare in a fraction of the time it used to take them to create digital objects manually.

During that game’s development, Infinity Ward’s studio in Burbank, California, featured a photogrammetry room where much of this photography took place. In the center of the white room was a circular platform surrounded by an intricate metal latticework on which 200 high-resolution cameras were placed.

Developers used the platform and camera setup–as well as larger such rigs for larger objects–to photograph all kinds of assets into the game, including tires, destroyed cars, cigars, tanks, and people. In single flashes of light, these objects were captured and loaded into the developers’ computers as separate images. Photogrammetry software then allowed the developers to piece all the photos together to create 3D models that could be modified in any number of ways to suit the needs of the game.

For instance, developers used photogrammetry software to capture images of a car for Modern Warfare. It took developers three days to take 10,000 images of the car. Then, the software produced a single car model made up of 50 million polygons. All that was needed at that point was for shadows to be removed from the model and some other minor improvements, and the model was ready to be placed inside the game’s levels.

Of course, a give-and-take scenario exists in the world of photogrammetry technology for video games, that is–while photogrammetric software can significantly cut down on games’ development times, the hardware can be expensive upfront for a development studio. This all depends on what kind of setup a studio uses, the studio’s budget and the use the studio intends to get out of the technology. However, it must be noted that the upfront costs of photogrammetry setups can be offset in the long run by reductions in development time. For game studios with the means to do so, photogrammetry is the perfect tool for crafting realistic graphics and overall immersive video game experiences in a fraction of the time it would otherwise take.

Photogrammetry Software for Video Games

Several video game development studios have employed our PhotoModeler product to create video game graphics. To achieve high-quality realism in such games, photogrammetry truly is the way of the future, saving developers time and money while lending the games themselves the believability players demand.

Please share!