This is an email I received from super Ringer fan DA:
Thanks for a great site! I was taking a look at your frame-by-frame of the teaser trailer, and I figure you folks probably know what the “scan” scene on http://www.theonering.net/movie/preview/page04.html really was, but I wanted to make sure.
I believe it’s showing a technique called “laser stripe scanning”, which is a method of building a 3D computer model used in computer animation. The idea is to have an artist first construct a sculpture of some model such as a character’s head. The model is then placed in a laser scanner, a device that shoots a thin laser stripe at the sculpture, and records its reflection with a special camera. It can then compute, based on how the stripe’s image follows the bulges and dips on the sculpture, what the 3D shape is. After some further analysis is done on this 3D data, it can be used in animation.
The technology involved here is relatively new, and has been viable for use in the animation industry only for the past couple of years, but it’s a very effective method of creating realistic 3D computer models. At http://graphics.stanford.edu/projects/mich/ you can see some interesting photos and information on a project using laser stripe scanning to digitize the sculpture work of Michaelangelo in Italy. The people doing this for LOTR are probably using similar (albeit smaller) equipment.
I’m a graduate student in computer science at the University of Washington in Seattle. My adviser here, Dr. *******, did some of the pioneering work on this technology as his Ph.D. thesis back in the mid 90’s.