Reconstruction and Animation
In the summer of 1991, while ostensibly working on a railroad track condition database at the University of Illinois, I decided that I wanted a three-dimensional computer model of my 1980 Chevette. After some thought and experimentation, I devised the following method of transforming digitized pictures of the car into a reasonably accurate, texture-mapped model. I parked the car next to a tall building and, assisted by friend Ken Brownfield, took telephoto pictures of it from the front, top, sides, and back. I manually located the silhouette of the car in each image, and used the silhouettes to carve out a voxel sculpture of the car. The surfaces of the exposed voxels were then colored according to the images. I then created a short animation of the Chevette flying across the screen. Although (and perhaps because) the final model has flaws resulting from specularities, missing concavities, and imperfect image registration, it unequivocally evokes an uncanny sense of the actual vehicle.
The Chevette movie is also available in MPEG (105K) and Quicktime (203K) forms. You can also view a mosaic of all of its frames. A color rendering of the volumetric intersection rendering has recently surfaced. For the Chevette Project 25th anniversary, Yoshita Sharma and I were able to convert the original Chevette model file to an .obj file with per-vertex color (1.5M vertices) viewable with MeshLab so we could walk around the car on a VIVE VR headset.
The project was originally done using a 386 IBM PC for the modeling and a Sun 3/80 for the rendering. The project laid the groundwork for my Ph.D. work at UC Berkeley, Facade: Modeling and Rendering Architecture from Photographs.
The Chevette Project was covered in two different Japanese TV shows (NHK in 2003 and WOWWOW in 2008) about the history of computer graphics, both noting the influence from the flying Delorean effect at the end of the movie Back to the Future.
Additional Chevette Information: