Something I've been looking forward to for a long time is the ability to take something in the real world and virtualize it. I didn't have the skill to 3D model someone's face or some "Weird Science" technology to scan them into the computer... except now we do. 3D scanners are a lot more affordable than you might think. They aren't for everybody, but once you've tried one, used it to scan your friends and splice them onto other 3D models, it's a lot more tempting to add a new tool to your arsenal. The scanner I'm going to talk about fairly in-depth and how I use it is the 3D Systems Sense Handheld High-Resolution 3D Scanner.

Why might I want to use a 3D scanner?

Ever since I started cosplaying, the biggest problem for me has been scaling models, and I have many friends with the same issue too. Characters from video games aren't designed based on the "average" person, they're designed to look epic and heroic, with longer limbs or buffer bodies, that in most cases are really far from what a person could actually look like. Take Soldier 76 from Overwatch or Marcus Fenix from Gears of War. While Soldier 76 isn't muscled beyond reason, his legs are long, he has a tiny head and ankles, and his fist is bigger than his head. Marcus has tree trunks for legs. To print any model either pulled straight from the game files or designed to look the same, proportions and all, it wouldn't fit on a normal person.

3D Scanners are the perfect platform to properly scale parts and to virtually dress myself to see how things would fit.

Soldier 76 and Marcus Fenix, two very different art styles but just as difficult proportions to match.

To start, you need to download the Sense software from 3D Systems website. Once you have your the software downloaded and installed, you need to take the serial number from your Sense scanner and activate it in the software. You will be sent an activation PIN to your email, at which point you can install and register your Sense scanner to as many computers as you want, it just needs that PIN on install. 

Scan Me Up, Scotty!

First, select what you want to scan. In my case, I want to scan my head, so I'll select "Person" then "Full Body." Now, I can't hold the scanner and scan myself, so I'll need to find an assistant. I'll also need a USB extension cord in order to fully rotate the scanner around me. 

If I was just trying to scale 3D models for helmets I'd select "Head" but "Full Body" will help more overall.

I'm then presented with this screen. This is what the cameras are currently seeing and trying to represent as a 3D model. To start your scan, just click the button at the bottom and get scanning.

Right now it's a pixelated mess, but once I start scanning it'll start piecing it together.

And Around It Goes

In my experience, a turntable or sitting on a stool and spinning doesn't work well, for objects or for people. What tends to happen is it revolves the thing you are scanning in place, so inside of getting a cube when you scan a box, it rotates it and you end up with a model of a cylinder. I'm not sure exactly why it does this, but my thinking is it has an accelerometer and when it detects that it isn't moving, it's merging the data of what it's seeing (the rotating object) into one blob. In any case, you need to move the Sense and not the object. 

Make sure you have the space to do a full scan.

From My Head To My Toes

With a quick tutorial of the software, I had help scanning myself from head to toe. The key here is to wear tight fitting clothing to get a more accurate representation of yourself, and make it much more noticeable where your joints are to scale different props properly. As you can tell, I wore some shorts that day, but there's at least enough definition to see where my knees and waist are.

Definition isn't great, but there's enough there for me to be able to work with it.

Not Just a Pretty Face

I have a prop helmet from Fallout 4 that I've printed three times because of improper scaling. Default scales by designers, reference images of it in game, and scaling formula to try and match it don't even compare to having a physical copy of it on my head that clearly doesn't fit. If I had this model of myself, I would have clearly seen that 100% makes me look like a bobblehead, 85% has no room for padding, and a scaling factor of 93.5% would have been a perfect scale.

The middle scale is perfect, and readily apparent.

With these models of myself, I will never again print something, test fit it on my body, and find I've wasted a whole spool and 100 hours of printing time. Using this 3D scanner for cosplay is adaptable to many different applications. You could use it to get the general size and shape of a tool, as a base shape for 3D modeling for animation, or to model on top of an object or person to have a final model much closer to dimensions that would fit a person.

Learn more about 3D scanners here