Graphical wire models are not just for the pros anymore.  With 123D Catch, anyone with an iPad 2 and iOS 5 (or newer), can now create 3 dimensional models of anything they choose!  It’s as simple as taking a series of photos from various different angles and sending them off to Autodesk’s servers to process in the Cloud.  Join us for a more in depth guide of how to use the app, and review of how well it performs.

You may have heard of Autocad, a leading architecting and engineering 2D and 3D modeling software.  The same makers are the creators behind 123D Catch for iPad.  This intensely simple app will create draw dropping 3 Dimensional Sculptures.  These aren’t the 360 panoramics everyone has seen time and time again.  Instead of photographing around yourself to create a 360 degree view as you would see it, you will photograph an object in order to explore it from various angles.

First Launch
The first time you open up 123D Catch, you will be greeted by an introductory video.  This is followed by a sample of a dinosaur for you to play with.  You can then hit next in the top right of the screen and you will be taken to a page which has a set of examples preloaded.  On the bottom left is an “i”symbol.  This will show four options.  About will take you to a legal type agreement, Help will bring up a few page tutorial, Getting Started will show the video again, and Support will take you to the app creator’s website.

Let’s Play with Examples
Before performing your own capture, it’s a good idea to play with a few of the preloaded examples in order to get a feel for how to navigate a finished product.  Two fingers will drag the model around, while one finger will pan around it.  Two finger expands will enlarge the image and vise-versa.  After you have had your fill of playing around lets create a capture.

Creating a Capture
To start this process, click on the New Capture Button in the middle bottom of the screen.  This will take you through the tutorial automatically the first time.  It’s a good idea to read through as you can prevent making some mistakes that may cause your model to render with issues.  When finished the tutorial, you will have the entire screen open.  Even though there is a large camera button on the right of the screen, you can push anywhere to take a picture.  You picture tally will show on the bottom left.  When the capture is complete, push Finish Capture on the bottom right.  You can also cancel your capture at any point by pushing the back button on the bottom left.

Processing in the Cloud
This is the most brilliant part of the app if you ask me.   Anyone familiar with 3 dimensional wire diagrams or video rendering knows it’s highly processor intensive.  So much so, that I doubt the iPad’s hardware would be able to handle such a task.  That’s why Autodesks cloud method is so brilliant.  Basically, your set of pictures are sent to their servers which do have the technical capability to process your model.  This takes the grunt work off of your iPad and onto their servers.  Once the model is completed, it’s delivered back to your iPad at which time you are notified of completion.  I have found the whole process takes around 3-5 minutes depending on the amount of photos taken.

Sign In and Community
Having some kind of account is a requirement for Autodesk to process your model.  They offer a range of options to use such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Windows ID, and even their own.

There is a Community option on the top menu.  This is great because, what good is making a 3D model if you have no one to share it with. Here you can see other peoples captures by Popular, Features, Latest, and even a MyCorner option.  This option will allow you to see friend’s captures (should you be signed in using a social network) and also show yours.  It is fun to check out what other’s have made – even though you must download their models to your device before you can view them.

How Well Does it Work? – Overall
It works fantastically well.  Of course it is not going to be perfect every time, but the quality to which it is able to stitch the photos together is amazing.  Especially for being a free app!  I have made a few models of friends, chairs, tissue boxes and more.  It is one of those apps that will just wow someone.  It is almost like seeing your friends or yourself turned into a video game 3D model.  The idea of processing in the cloud is genius, the models are fun to use and create, and the app is free.  Put these together and you have a 10/10 app!