Turn photos into 3D models using your iPhone

Free app 123D Catch comes to the iPhone, making photogrammetry modelling quick and easy. Check out these cool videos showing what designers have created with it!

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Words: Paul Roberts

If a project calls for a 3D model but you haven’t got time to learn a complicated 3D app, your phone might just provide the solution. Formerly only available to PC or iPad owners, last week Autodesk made 123D Catch available for iPhone 4 and 4S, putting advanced photogrammetry modelling in the hands of millions of designers.

WATCH THIS! Autodesk 123D Catch - how it works:

The process is simple: take a series of photos of an object, automatically upload them to Autodesk’s servers, and they send back a textured 3D model.

This simplicity belies some incredibly clever algorithms. 123D Catch stitches your photos, works out the position of the cameras in 3D space, extracts a mesh and projects the textures back onto it. And it all takes place in the cloud.

The resulting mesh can be navigated directly from the app, exported to popular 3D formats, or shared as a still image.

123D Catch has already inspired a user generated gallimaufry of scanned pets, toys, and other household detritus, but designers and artists are finding innovative uses for it in their workflows.

Early-adopters IV Motion with Graetz Media used what was then called Project Photofly in a music video for Australian band Hunz. 110 different models of the singer were generated to create a strikingly uncanny and original video that would have been extremely costly using traditional techniques.

WATCH THIS! Hunz video created using 123D Catch:

More recently RewindFX used 123D catch to create digital doubles for WWI short film Canis Belli. Needing a number of dead bodies for no man’s land but short of extras, RewindFX used 123D Catch to capture the same actor in different positions to populate the scene. A fascinating solution to a common problem.

WATCH THIS! Short film Canis Belli created with 123D Catch:

It seems we are living in a golden age of easy 3D capture. LIDAR is plummeting in price, programs like ReconstructMe and KScan3D turn Microsoft’s Kinect into a 3D scanner, and now photogrammetry is freely available with 123D Catch.

  • Paul Roberts is one of a handful of editors at Max Underground, a site dedicated to CG news and reviews.
  • Don't forget to check out 20 best iPhone apps for designers

Key info

Price: Free
Universal: No
Version: 1.0.2
App size: 39.0MB
Developer: Autodesk
Age rating: 4+

The Verdict


out of 10

123D Catch

With the iOS release, 123D Catch really brings 3D scanning to the masses. It’s never been easier or cheaper to create 3D models from photographs, offering exciting new possibilities for designers and 3D artists.