Case Studies

Using the FARO Laser Scanner to Create Forensic Animations

Using the FARO Laser Scanner to Create Forensic Animations

Dustin Productions is the product of its founder’s lifelong interest in computer animation and his experience in American industry. Early in his engineering career, David Dustin found it difficult to communicate technical concepts to executive management. His solution was to animate proposed equipment purchases, providing a 3D view of the potential installation. This approach let non-technical managers visualize complex equipment without needing to understand piles and piles of two-dimensional drawings.

For Mr. Dustin, forensic animation was the next step. Photo realistic animations offer a means to convey incidents where no substantive information exists. Auto accidents and crime scene recreations are further applications of the same concept.

And so Dustin Productions (www.dustinproductions.com) was born. Located sixty miles north of Atlanta in Adairsville, Georgia, the company provides service to all of North America. With unequalled quality standards, their services include 3D scanning, accident recreation, forensic animation, industrial visualization, and many other similar applications.

Application Summary

One recent application that Dustin Productions worked on was a project to scan an apartment complex and its vehicles to recreate a 3D environment for use in litigation. Hired by attorney Cannon Allen of Adams and Reese LLP, the company was given a timeline of about a month and half with an objective of providing a graphical representation of a ballistic expert’s (Kelly Fite of Lilburn, Georgia) opinion as to how a sequence of events transpired – with a corresponding goal of discrediting the opposition’s position.

The deliverables asked of the company were to provide a real-time environment showing character positions, motions, and the ballistic path of the shot fired during the incident.

One of the biggest challenges of this particular project, though not uncommon to many others, was the simple fact that time was short. Also, the victim in this case was shot on their right side, but the client maintained the victim was exciting the vehicle and had turned their body. It was Dustin Production’s initial perception that it would be somewhat difficult to align the shot, but, in reality, it was not.


In addition to scanning vehicles, the company would need to scan the entire apartment complex where the incident occurred. This involved an area approximately 61 x 61 meters, or 200 x 200 feet, and included exemplar vehicles.

Dustin Productions looked at various scanning technologies that might be able to perform the needed scans. While a total station could have scanned the apartment complex, they rarely are able to capture all of the data points required to accurately reproduce the targeted environment. More conventional measurements would have worked, but might have been suspect as capturing curves and radii are more difficult.

Additionally, it had not been determined exactly what objects would/could be deemed important at a later date – i.e. doorway, stairs, or window locations. Given the entire environment could be captured in a few scans and effectively provide a highly detailed “3D snapshot” a laser scanner was chosen due to its versatility. The biggest single advantage however, was being able to scan the interior of the needed vehicle(s). Attempting to capture vehicle interior features with a total station would be very cumbersome and would not yield the required level of resolution. A laser scanner is capable of capturing much more detail.


Previous exposure of associates and software engineers familiar with FARO systems led David Dustin to the FARO Laser Scanner. The Laser Scanner’s speed and quality of data captured were particularly appealing as a dramatic improvement over past projects. So much so that it has quickly become an indispensible solution to the company.

They were able to capture all the information they needed in one day (at two locations) to provide them the data they needed for their project. Though FARO Scene software has a 64-bit version that can handle large quantities of data, the company finds converting scans for use in Autodesk® 3ds Max (a 3D modeling, animation, and rendering software) to be very easy and preferable.

That said, modeling the vehicle interiors and trying to convert the scans to a mesh format was problematic due to noise generated by reflective surfaces. It took a fair amount of editing to eliminate this noise. There were, however, valuable lessons learned on how to scan these interiors and what to watch out for that should streamline future scans.

Return on Investment

Dustin Productions can now construct their desired environments must faster and more accurately than they did before. The added speed and efficiency allows them to spend more time on animation.

“For us, it’s not as much about time or money saved, but rather that we would have struggled to complete this project on time if we would not have used the FARO Laser Scanner and the scan data it provided us to work with,” said David Dustin. “Overall, the Scanner should reduce the amount of time it takes us to construct a 3D environment by at least two weeks per project.”

“Using the FARO Laser Scanner is quite easy and the amount of data collected is amazing,” said Mr. Dustin. “In fact, using it makes me feel like a genius. I’d also like to say it even makes me look thinner, but unfortunately that is not true.”

For Dustin Productions, the greatest value in using the technology provided by the FARO Laser Scanner is decreased environment creation time and improved accuracy of “incidental” objects. Using conventional methods for a site survey could provide the coarse locations of buildings, but not the intricate details that truly set the company’s work apart from everyone else.

“Improved utilization of scan data will allow us to construct our scenes with an even greater degree of accuracy,” said Mr. Dustin. “Our crime scene recreations will be greatly enhanced with FARO scan data. And we will save a substantial amount of time with the ability to revisit a scene in 3D any time we, or our clients, need to.”


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