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3D Models: A Foray Into Photogrammetry

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To the German article

Did you know that Shopware provides a plugin with which you can upload 3D models to your online shop? The plugin in question is the "3D Product Viewer", first introduced at Shopware Community Day by Shopware CEO Stefan Hamann. The plugin is available for free on GitHub.

Today in our blog, we’ll explain why 3D models are no longer dreams of the future, who they can benefit, and how to create high quality 3D content even on a tight budget.

The most important question first: How can you benefit from 3D content?

Or more importantly, how can your customers benefit from 3D content? After all, the bait must attract the fish, not the fisherman. It goes without saying that your customers want to receive as much information as possible before ordering a product. If you have the choice between long product descriptions and high quality photos, you will probably always prefer the photos, because the content is easier to consume – whether you’re shopping quickly during your lunch break, at the train station, or on the sofa in the evening.

The product is even more tangible for your customers with informative 3D models that show the textures, surfaces, shapes and finishes. By providing 3D models, you therefore:

  • Strengthen the customer experience
  • Create USPs over your competitors
  • Strengthen your brand
  • Improve your conversion rate
  • Reduce the rate of returns

Which industries are 3D models suitable for?

Regardless of whether you operate in the B2C or B2B sector, you can use high quality 3D models to showcase your products. Appealing photos and close-ups play a particularly important role if you work in the fashion, lifestyle, or food industries.

Which products is it worth creating 3D models for?

To be clear, creating 3D models involves much more effort than creating attractive product photos. Nevertheless, it is worth investing this time for products that require special explanation. You can also choose products that are representative of a whole range of products in your shop to emphasise the high quality finish or the choice of materials, for example.

Which products are suitable for content creation?

Anything with texture or a variety of finishes is perfect. Smooth or reflective items, glass items, or items with repetitive patterns, by contrast, are not suitable for the software used later in the process, as the marker points cannot be clearly identified from different angles. Your products should also be static. The following image will give you inspiration as to which products are most suitable:

geeigneteProdukte

3D models based on “photogrammetry”

Photogrammetry is a technique that you can use to create 3D content. This process is also used in films, computer games and 3D printing. The advantage of this technique is that it is much cheaper than methods such as 3D hand scanners.

How to: Create your 3D model

Step 1

You will need the following equipment:

  • A swivel stool
  • A reflex camera
  • A set with diffuse light

Take plenty of photos of your product from different angles. From above, from the centre, from below, and diagonally from the side. You should take at least 50 photos.

Dos:

Use indirect light. Either create an appropriate set or take your item outside into natural light. But make sure it’s cloudy, because diffuse light will give you even illumination.

Don’ts:

Avoid direct sunlight or direct light sources to prevent shadows on your items.

SetUp_Shopware

An example setup.

Step 2

Edit the photos using Photoshop, for example, if you need to adjust the brightness or remove background objects. Then upload all photos into photogrammetry software. Tip: “Autodesk Recap360” software is free of charge. You can use it to gain experience and, if necessary, switch to another paid software (e.g. Agisoft) at a later date. The software will analyse your photos, save any distinctive features and make connections between the photos. This generates a point cloud that in turn forms the basis for the conversion into a 3D object. 

Punktewolke

Example of a point cloud for 3D model creation.

Step 3

In the last step, this point cloud is fine-tuned as the software looks for further similarities in the photos. The software then creates the 3D model, a so-called mash, using various algorithms. 

Almost done! Your 3D model is ready. But how do you get it into your Shopware shop?

Stephan Pohl, core developer at Shopware, has written a practical and detailed post on how to work with the new “3D Product Viewer” plugin and how to migrate your 3D models into your shop.

To the "How to"

Does the plugin affect the shop's performance?

No, the initial setup of the shop page, including the styling and images, is not affected by the plugin. Once the page is fully loaded, the 3D Product Viewer’s Asset Manager steps in and reloads the data so there is no loss of performance.

How much time should I allow to create a 3D image?

Depending on the size of the object, it takes around half an hour to take photos from all the different angles. You should allow about the same amount of time for editing and creating the finished mash, so you’ll end up taking about an hour for a quality 3D model.

What are the financial costs?

If you already have the photo equipment, you will only need to factor in the licensing costs for the photogrammetry software, should you decide to purchase the software.

Should I create nothing but 3D models of my products?

No, we recommend that you combine 3D models with other product photos. Your customers of course want to be able to view all the details and facets of your products but they also want to see and be inspired by them in practical applications. As already explained, the amount of effort required would also be far too high. The focus should therefore continue to be on the use of videos or emotional product photos.

Conclusion

You might be surprised by how few resources are required to generate good 3D content. As you are likely already creating professional product photos, you probably already have the equipment for the models and only have to pay for any licensing costs. Our tip: try it for yourself! Before going fully professional, start with simple products like a stone or statue to create the first 3D models for your online shop. As always, it pays to be alert to new trends and developments, because this is the only way to keep visitors coming back. We look forward to hearing about your experiences.

To the 3D Product Viewer on GitHub