The generation of photo-realistic 3D models is an important task for digital recording of cultural heritage objects. This study proposes an image-based 3D modeling pipeline which takes advantage of a multi-camera configuration and multi-image matching technique that does not require any markers on or around the object. Multiple digital single lens reflex (DSLR) cameras are adopted and fixed with invariant relative orientations. Instead of photo-triangulation after image acquisition, calibration is performed to estimate the exterior orientation parameters of the multi-camera configuration which can be processed fully automatically using coded targets. The calibrated orientation parameters of all cameras are applied to images taken using the same camera configuration. This means that when performing multi-image matching for surface point cloud generation, the orientation parameters will remain the same as the calibrated results, even when the target has changed. Base on this invariant character, the whole 3D modeling pipeline can be performed completely automatically, once the whole system has been calibrated and the software was seamlessly integrated. Several experiments were conducted to prove the feasibility of the proposed system. Images observed include that of a human being, eight Buddhist statues, and a stone sculpture. The results for the stone sculpture, obtained with several multi-camera configurations were compared with a reference model acquired by an ATOS-I 2M active scanner. The best result has an absolute accuracy of 0.26 mm and a relative accuracy of 1:17,333. It demonstrates the feasibility of the proposed low-cost image-based 3D modeling pipeline and its applicability to a large quantity of antiques stored in a museum.
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