Zurich, Switzerland - For fans throughout Europe, the image of star
soccer players is larger than life. With the help of Geomagic digital
reconstruction software, Adidas transformed image into reality.
Visitors to Zurich’s central rail station during the final stages of
the Euro 2008 soccer championship last June were greeted by
56-foot-tall models of 11 players from nine national teams that wear
Adidas gear. The campaign was designed to give Adidas greater
visibility in one of the world’s largest sporting events. Euro 2008
attracted more than 62 million visitors and 1.3 billion page views on
the official web site. At least 155 million television viewers followed
the 31 matches that were broadcast live, while hundreds of thousands
attended the matches in person. The idea of a Europe-wide competition
for soccer began in the 1950s and the final of the inaugural tournament
was played in 1960. Since then the competition, held every four years,
has grown in stature to become second only to soccer’s World Cup.
Teams from 16 European countries – ranging from Sweden in the North to Italy and Greece in the South, Portugal and Spain in the West, and Russia and Turkey in the East – made it through the qualifying rounds of Euro 2008 to the final stages in Austria and Switzerland.
Long before the 2008 finals, 3D Culture, a small company in the German town of Oestrich-Winkel, was approached by a marketing agency on behalf of Adidas. 3D Culture specializes in 3D digital modeling and production using a variety of materials. The agency had come up with the idea of producing giant, life-like models of star soccer players and was looking for a partner to fulfill its grand vision. 3D Culture was the perfect choice.
Experience and the right technology – in the form of Geomagic Studio 3D modeling software and a Konica Minolta VIVID 910 non-contact 3D scanner – were known assets for 3D Culture. The wild card was getting 11 of the world’s best-known European footballers in front of the scanner when they play for clubs from all corners of Europe.
Nonetheless, within a month, Adidas had rounded up the players. It was then time to transform them from their physical states to exact digital replicas and then to towering physical models.
Although the Konica Minolta VIVID 910 is known more for product design and inspection applications in the industrial sector, it was the ideal tool for scanning the players. The VIVID 910 is capable of capturing an object’s shape and color in as little as 2.5 seconds. In its “fine mode,” it can capture more than 300,000 points in 2.5 seconds. Speed of data capture is always important, but especially so when dealing with world-class athletes with stringent time demands.
It also helped that the VIVID 910 is lightweight and compact, since some players could not travel to 3D Culture for scanning. On one occasion, Brunsbach and his digital sculptor, Jörg Weimer, met the scanning schedule by flying to London in the morning, to Milan in the afternoon, then back to London the following morning before returning to Germany in the afternoon.
Capturing the players’ heads and faces required each of them to sit on a chair placed on a large turntable. Those with black hair were sprayed with gray powder to overcome the problem that non-contact optical scanners have in picking up details on black objects.
In the first of the scanning sessions, which involved Michael Ballack and Phillip Lahm of Germany, Brunsbach and Weimer had to deal with the added challenge of curious photographers, TV cameramen, PR people and other onlookers. The commotion made it difficult for the players to keep still during the 10 minutes needed for each scan. As a result, according to Brunsbach, “the series of scans looked more like a motion picture than an accurate, still representation of each player.”
Despite the distractions, full scans of the heads and faces of all 11 players were successfully completed and Geomagic software was able to compensate for what couldn’t be fully captured by the scanner.
In between the sessions involving players, Brunsbach and Weimer worked on generating the data for their bodies, arms and legs. Happily, this was less of a problem: From the neck down, the models would be covered by their national team uniforms and Adidas shoes, so it wasn’t necessary to capture an accurate representation of each players’ body. A professional model was hired and his torso and arms were scanned to produce the digital model for the bodies.
Meanwhile, Adidas presented Brunsbach with three new types of soccer shoes that it wanted to feature. Three more professional models were hired to wear the shoes and their legs were scanned while posed in the positions that would be used for the final models.
The process of generating the final 3D digital surface models of each of the players’ heads and of the separate torso, arms and legs relied on the digital shape processing and surface modeling tools provided by Geomagic Studio.
Digitally reconstructing human body parts was nothing new for Geomagic Studio: The software has been used for everything from designing Olympic bobsleds molded to drivers’ unique body shapes to creating individually fitted dental, hearing and prosthetic devices.
The first step in the process, after the point cloud data from the scanner had been imported into Geomagic Studio, was to align the series of separate scans taken from different viewpoints of a player’s head and create a single scan data model. This was achieved using a combination of the software’s manual alignment and automatic global best-fit capabilities. The data was then decimated to reduce file sizes without losing accuracy, and smoothed to remove anomalies.
Next, Geomagic Studio automatically wrapped a polygonal mesh around the scan data model. The resulting polygon model was further refined by filling any holes that might have been left by the scanning process and by smoothing, fitting, trimming, projecting and extending boundary edges.
In the final step, Geomagic Studio converted the polygon model into a highly accurate NURBS (non-uniform rational b-spline) surface model required for the computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) process.
“Geomagic Studio is a very flexible tool and is ideal for use on organic shapes, like peoples’ heads and faces,” states Brunsbach. “Using its automatic feature detection facilities, together with the ability to manually define surface patch boundaries, we were able to refine visually sensitive areas of the models like the eyes, nose and mouth.”
Fine details such as eyelids and nostrils were completed by another company using a 3D touch-enabled modeling system from SensAble Technologies.
In the case of the body, arms and legs, where the need to accurately replicate the nuances of each of the players’ faces didn’t apply, Geomagic Studio’s template-based workflow enabled the re-use of surface patch layouts by dragging and dropping templates from one digital model to the next and then refining as necessary.
Since the final physical models were to be some nine or ten times larger than the players they represented, the question of scaling-up the finished digital models without losing accuracy needed to be addressed. But as Brunsbach explains, “the accuracy of the digital surface models created in Geomagic Studio was such that scaling them up for the machining process was no problem at all. It was done in a click of a button.”
With the digital modeling phase completed, an IGES file was created from each of the 18 different digital surface models – 11 players’ heads, the single torso and the three pairs of legs. The file was imported into a CAM software package, where tool paths were generated for use on the NC machine tool that would mill the final physical models from hard foam.
Because they contained the most complex surfaces, milling the players’ heads took the greatest amount of time, with each one requiring around 10 hours to complete. The arms, bodies and legs didn’t demand such a high-quality finish, so they could be milled more coarsely and therefore faster.
The final operation in the production process was to carefully airbrush the heads to make them look life-like and to spray-paint the individual models of the arms, legs and shoes. The models were then ready to be transported to Zurich’s train station for on-site construction and dressing in the appropriate national team colors.
Construction work was completed as the final stages of Euro 2008 kicked off. For the next four weeks the main concourse of Zurich’s central rail station resembled a movie set, as travelers gazed up at 11 huddled giants, all decked out in their teams’ Adidas gear.