Turn the damaged Russian equipment into digital trophies. Report from a Ukrainian 3D studio

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photo by Tvoe Misto/ Ivan Stanislavskyi

photo by Tvoe Misto/ Ivan Stanislavskyi

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For three years, deep3dstudio has been creating digital copies of people for movies, music videos and other types of visual content. After the full-scale war started, the company launched a separate project that aimed to turn the damaged tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and trucks of the occupiers into a collection of virtual trophies, which would later be sold to raise funds for the Ukrainian army. We have visited the studio in its temporary location in Lviv, where entrepreneurs moved their equipment from the Ukrainian capital at the beginning of the war.

Concealed in one of the buildings on the Horodotska street, not far from the Circus, the studio is finishing filming a client who offered his appearance to be moved into the digital world. For this purpose serves a scanner of 86 Canon cameras, which take simultaneous shots from all angles, and then each of them is focused manually to highlight the smallest details.

At the entrance, the production manager Anastasia meets the cameraman and me, asking us to wait a few minutes in the lobby, where the colour of the walls seems to express openness to the outside world and the mystery of what is happening inside. While we were looking at the minimalist details of the interior, Andriy Kompaniets, the creative director of deep3dstudio, came out of the technological room. The second interlocutor, brand manager Stanislav Onopriienko, joined us online from Kyiv.

deep3dstudio appeared in 2019 as a joint business of three brothers who decided to enter the world of 3D scanners, now present in all big cities globally. The Kyiv startup started its activity in the western market through online 3D stocks, and over time managed to form close contacts with London and Los Angeles.

«We started with digital stocks, about five platforms where you can post and sell 3D models. We made a base of 500 such pieces: doctors, pharmacists, builders – everything the market needed for architectural visualizations and various events,» – says Andriy Kompaniets.

Subsequently, deep3dstudio shifted its focus to post-production, namely the preparation of scanned models for their use in the visual content. In particular, the studio joined the creation of the first official PUMA advertisement in Ukraine, music videos and interactive online theatre.

Read also: Ukrainian startups versus war: From eco-outfit to sleeping bags for the military

The first stage of creating content, the process of digitizing people, takes place in a darkened room with a scanner. There we are met by the second brother-co-founder Ievgen Shestakov, who is directly involved in the technical part.

He says that recently, the studio has shifted its focus to digitizing faces, which requires the most detailed scanning.

«Scanners can reach 200 cameras in size, but 80 to 120 are used for the face. The more, the better, of course, but the budget is not the main thing. Even if you use the best cameras, it’s hardly possible to process this data. You will never put it into a computer game, except in a movie, though not everyone knows how to work with such material so as not to lose all these details,» – Ievgen explains.

Article’s author and the cameraman of Tvoe Misto trying themselves as the models for 3D scanning

Anticipating the war

The interlocutors recall that in the first days of the current war, they tried to dive into work, so as to worry less about the obscurity. Stanislav Onopriienko, in addition to working in the deep, teaches at the Military Institute of Taras Shevchenko National University in Kyiv, so he was ready for such a development. In addition, circumstances forced the studio to cancel its participation in the SXSW conference in Austin, Texas, where it was selected as one of the six finalists from Ukraine.

To protect the equipment, deep3dstudio decided to move it to Lviv, which took about a month, with a way lying through several cities in western Ukraine. Despite some financial losses and uncertainty, they managed to keep the team, salaries, and customer base. For now, the guys plan to stay here for six months. And although it has become relatively safer in the capital, they decided to hold castings for models in Lviv since here there are more potential candidates as for now.

Touch The War in Ukraine

The occupiers left on our territory the units of their equipment of various types, which are now counted in thousands, including destroyed, damaged, and «trophied» vehicles. Over the past two months, they’ve become more accessible due to the mass withdrawal of Russian troops from Mykolayiv, Kharkiv and northern Ukraine. From the very beginning, the guys from deep began to think about how to convert this resource to help our Armed Forces. That’s how the idea of #​​touchthewarinua came about – a project to digitize the damaged and destroyed enemy equipment.

«Each battalion has its trophies. The fighters are even competing in how many units of equipment they have destroyed, especially some rare ones. We’ve turned some of them into digital trophies that photographers had shot. We pack them in a very informative «wrapper», indicating the name of the equipment, the place where it was found, and sell the NFT-collection. Then, all the money are transferred to trust funds that provide humanitarian and military assistance,» – says Stanislav.

The aim is to create a collection of detailed digital copies of this technique in NFT (Non-Fungible Token – a unique digital element which is transmitted through a blockchain system and can not be replaced by any similar one, unlike cryptocurrencies, where each virtual coin is interchangeable – Ed.) Later, these pieces are planned to be sold at auction, the proceeds of which will go to the needs of the military. According to the concept, the line will include 10 «digital trophies», Andriy says.

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«We have two destroyed KAMAZ trucks, one tank (another one is expected), two infantry fighting vehicles, two armoured personnel carriers, and an armoured transporter-tractor. We also wanted MLRS «Grad» or «Solntsepek», but are still waiting. Our intention is to launch these ten, and later will be seen,» – the guys say.

The interlocutors add that among their models are equipment from Irpin, Okhtyrka, the Sumy and Mykolaiv regions. In addition, the team is waiting for the opportunity to scan the sunken warship «Moscow», using the method of filming «Avatar 2», which took place mostly underwater.

Since it’s not possible to use the scanner to digitize the equipment, the process takes place with the help of the camera directly at the place where it was beaten up. To do this, the guys work with military photographers, because for civilians such a task can be too dangerous.

«There may be mines or grenades, so exposing a civilian photographer to such a risk and later being responsible for it is not what we want. That’s why Stas was looking for military photographers to take a picture of a beaten-up unit, which has already been examined by the military, around which you can walk and less often look at where you step,» – Andriy explains.

The creative director also says that a quality model requires 200 photos from all angles and close-ups to accurately reproduce the details. After that, a team of artists works for two or three days to process these images and design digital trophies.

«We initially created a video tutorial, 200 photos will be enough. However, to create a high-quality model, you will need a thousand photos around the object and its details up close. It’s better to film in cloudy weather because if the sun shines, it is reflected in the texture, while it should shine from the place where the virtual lighting is put. In cloudy weather, the light is diffused, so the texture is best transmitted. The perspective or artistic content of each photo doesn’t matter, the main thing is that the unit of technology was completely in the frame, made at different angles and with maximum surface coverage. The difficulty is that some units are tall, and it’s difficult to raise your hands with the camera.»

Read also: Occupiers who became exhibits. Photo of the destroyed Russian vehicles in the centre of Kyiv

By the way, deep3dstudio has already received a proposal from another similar project to create a global interactive museum of the Russian war in Ukraine. However, for now, the team has decided not to disperse their efforts and focus on the NFT collection to preserve its uniqueness.

«If we exhibit this equipment in NFT, but also give it for game development or some other initiative, the uniqueness of this product, this unit, will be lost. It would be unfair to the photographer who took it and helped us, to the person who decides to help the army and buy this unit. Someone will film it differently, the system will collect it differently, and it will be a completely different product. So we digitized it, and this whole chain has such a value in the collection,» – says Andriy Kompaniets.

It would be worth digitizing the monuments of architecture

On April 8, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine together with Google launched a project to digitize the Ukrainian cities destroyed by the occupiers. Asked whether deep plans to join such projects, the interlocutors explained that they haven’t yet started cooperation with government agencies.

«In the ‘Touch The War in Ukraine’ project, we prefer to reserve our right to decide, to whom we transfer these funds. There is Serhii Prytula with the «Return Alive» Fund or the 93rd Brigade, and we’d better buy them a drone and show them a receipt. We don’t really want to directly contact «Ukroboronprom» [Ukrainian state-owned defence enterprise] or people we don’t know well yet. Maybe they are cool, but we wouldn’t like us to be considered sponsors of someone wrong after the war,» – Andriy said.

Stas agrees with him and adds that the initiative with Google-maps is especially relevant because it allows foreigners to «travel» through destroyed cities and see the consequences of the invasion. However, in this case, 3D models are not used.

Read also: Destruction of the unoccupied cities can now be experienced in virtual reality. Visit the 3D interactive map

Another important idea, according to the interlocutors, is high-quality 3D digitization of all architectural monuments, especially those that have not yet been damaged, as this will allow to accurately reproduce them in case of damage. A good analogy for this is the case of Notre Dame Cathedral, the roof of which was severely damaged by fire in April 2019. To help restore it, in particular, a detailed 3D model once created for the «Assassin Creed» is being currently used. Therefore, the guys from deep believe that the state should initiate such scanning of Ukrainian monuments.

At the same time, exact copies of damaged equipment could clearly show the effectiveness of weapons provided to us by the West, in particular Javelin, which could help in its research and improvement. In this aspect, deep3dstudio is ready for potential cooperation with those who apply to it with a separate project. «It’s an interesting idea. But these would be new scans, new equipment, not the units we use in the NFT collection,» – Andriy notes.

Read also: «Who if not me, mom?» Interview with the mother of Azov fighter «Kalyna»

Stanislav Onopriienko adds that they have a strong legal team that controls the whole process. The studio buys the IP rights of the models, their appearance, after which the product is transferred to customers.

«Of course, we understand that there is a market for deep fakes and similar artificial content that can be used for different purposes. Now, there are many videos with President Zelenskyi, where he talks about capitulation, and the same videos with Putin, saying that he is stopping the war. In other words, we understand that all parties are using new technical opportunities to influence the situation,» – Stanislav Onoprienko concludes the conversation.

By Vitalii Holich

Photo: Tvoe Misto/Ivan Stanislavskyi

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