Project: Fig Tree

How to build a complex tree model for use in a game engine with the help of photogrammetry

The Original Fig Tree

This is a Moreton Bay fig tree (Ficus macrophylla), which is native to (sub)tropical Australia and Southeast Asia. The tree is a strangler fig that grows around a host tree in the early stages of its life that then gets overwhelmed and replaced over time. The tree sends down aerial roots that form new tree trunks when they connect with the ground and slowly build up forest-like network that actually consists of only one massive tree.  I took around 400 images from different angles with a Gopro 9 in RAW image mode.This gallery shows samples of the original images.

The Filtered Images

I filtered the RAW photos with image processing software to get rid of most of the light and shadow  information – similar to HDR photography. The lighting is supposed to happen later in Unreal Engine and I didn’t want the tree textures to interfere with that. This gallery shows samples of the filtered images.

The Point Cloud

Using photogrammetry software I was able to combine the 400+ images into a dense point cloud comprising about 76 Million points. These points were then converted into a 3D model, which then needed to go through a serious cleanup and reduction process (retopologize)  to become a manageable asset for a 3D game engine.

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The Final Tree Model

Here is a fly around the finished tree model “in situ” in Unreal Engine. If possible please watch it in HD or the details will just turn into blur. The landscape, background and lighting are already part of the scenery that I am creating for my “Australia” version of my “The Green Planet” project. More about that soon…

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