Viewing and Inspecting Point Clouds

Liz Sanderson
Liz Sanderson
  • Updated

FME Version

  • FME 2019.x


In this article, we'll learn how to view and inspect point cloud data using the FME Data Inspector and FME Workbench Visual Preview (2019.0+). This article uses both LAS and XYZ point cloud data. Once we inspect the data, we will create a workspace using this data in the next article.



This video demonstrates how to view, inspect, and query point cloud data. You will examine the attributes, components, coordinate system, and more. This video was recorded using an older version of FME and instructions may differ from the article.


Step-by-step Instructions

We will cover two methods of viewing point cloud data in FME. The first method is to view a LAS file in FME Workbench using Visual Preview. The second method is to view a Point Cloud XYZ file in FME Data Inspector. Both methods work for either format, it is just personal preference which one you use.


Viewing Data in FME Workbench Visual Preview 2019.0+

In FME Workbench 2019.0+, data can be viewed directly in the FME Workbench window using Visual Preview. If you have an older version of FME or prefer FME Data Inspector, continue to the next section.


1. Open FME Workbench

In a blank FME Workbench canvas, add an ASPRS Lidar Data Exchange Format (LAS) reader and browse to the GranvilleIsland.laz dataset. Then set the Coord. System to LL84. There are no other parameters to set for this reader. Click OK to add the reader.



2. Open Visual Preview

Once the reader feature type has been added to the canvas, click on it to open the popup menu. On the popup menu, click on the View Source Data button to open Visual Preview.



In Visual Preview, you can drag a box over the entire point cloud to view the parameters in the Feature Information window.



To move the point cloud around and see the individual points. Use the Orbit tool to rotate the point cloud from a top-down view to a more oblique view. You can also use the Pan and Zoom tools to view the points better.



Finally, you can click on a single point to get the properties for that specific point. (Click on the Select tool to do this)



Viewing Data in FME Data Inspector

This section will demonstrate how to view a Point Cloud XYZ file in the FME Data Inspector.


1. Open FME Data Inspector

Open FME Data Inspector, and in the top left corner, click on Open. In the Select Dataset to View dialog, select Point Cloud XYZ as the Format, and then for Dataset, browse to the and add the entire zip file. Set the Coord. System to UTM83-10, then click on the Parameters button.



In the Parameters window, double-check that the data is being read correctly. If not, adjust the Separator Connector to what your .xyz file contains. Additionally, you can modify the data type. Everything looks correct for this dataset, so click OK twice to add the data.



2. View Data

Then view your data, you can find out more information or orbit the point cloud to get a different view as described in the Viewing Data in FME Workbench Visual Preview 2019.0+ section.



If you would like to view your point cloud with a background map, switch to 2D mode, and then select a background map. If there is no coordinate system or the view is in 3D, the background map will not show up.



Data Attribution

The data shown in the Visual Preview section originates from open data made available by the City of Vancouver, British Columbia. It contains information licensed under the Open Government License - Vancouver.

The data shown in the FME Data Inspector section originates from open data made available by the USGS.

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