Reality Capture vs Reality Construction


When it comes it comes to 3D media, the difference between reality capture and reality construction is akin to the difference between a photographer and an illustrator. But the stakes are higher for 3D because a reader is much more likely to view a 3D construction as factual reality than they would assume a sketch is a photo.

Right now, media outlets are experimenting with reality capture and reality construction in different ways. In Columbia, Missouri the Missourian the Structure Scanners to capture masked attendees to the True/False Film Festival.

This kind of “pull you into the experience” example is a perfect test case for the technology. There is little chance the 3D scans in the story will mislead the reader, hopefully no one assumes there were floating torsos hanging around central Missouri.

So while reality capture has the advantage of being easier to manage ethically as we’re following photo ethics we’re used to, reality construction has the huge advantage of being basically limitless to what you can show. Whether it’s the Lincoln assassination or a supernova, a skilled user could create experiences that weren’t captured on film or currently aren’t physically able to be shared on film.

But that’s were the tough ethical questions come. If you create something and present it as reality, you’re taking a lot of responsibility for that model.

Bimal (the architectural professor speaking in the above video) explained that at some architecture firms, they purposefully don’t render their designs in the highest detail they’re capable of. There is software being used right now that makes photo realistic 3D possible. But because it is near impossible to match reality exactly with a 3D model, the firms will scale down the detail or add fantasy elements to the model so the client isn’t disappointed when their real building doesn’t perfectly match the 3D.

Both reality capture and reality construction can be powerful story telling tools, and the technology required is only getting cheaper and more accessible. As we enter into a new era of story presentation, it’s important to begin making ethical considerations and having debates and discussions on use cases.

I think there is a bright future for this technology. In many ways it’s already here. I believe we can bring similar standard practices like we have for photos and videos in order to ensure exciting new tech designed to better share the world and ideas doesn’t obscure the truth in the process.