Reading Point Clouds

Liz Sanderson
Liz Sanderson
  • Updated

FME Version

  • FME 2019.x

Introduction

There are various types of point clouds and ways to read them into FME. This article will cover three methods of reading in point clouds. A complete list of supported point cloud formats is available on the Integrations page. Click on the LiDAR & Point Clouds category to filter.

 

FME can read point cloud data from three basic types of formats:

  • True point cloud file formats, where the components (x, y, z etc.) are defined in the file. For example LAS or Mojang Minecraft

  • True point cloud database formats, where the point cloud is stored in a database format. For example Oracle Spatial Point Cloud

  • Delimited text files of XYZ data where the fields containing components need to be defined when adding a reader to FME

 

Video

This video demonstrates how to read point cloud data formatted as delimited text files. Other types of point clouds are covered in the article. You'll see how to define the delimiter and component fields. This video was recorded with an older version of FME and the instructions may differ from the article.

 

Step-by-step Instructions

Reading a File-Based Point Cloud Format (LAS) with FME

The LAS reader can be used to read LAS files (.las), compressed LAS zip files (.laz), Esri LAS Datasets (.lasd), and compressed Esri.zlas files. When reading data in LAS format (ASPRS Lidar Data Exchange), the components such as x, y, z, intensity, etc. are defined in the format, so it is not necessary to specify these when adding the reader.

 

Note: If you are reading in one of the Esri LAS datasets (.lasd or .zlas), a licensed version of Esri ArcGIS or ArcPro, as well as Esri ArcGIS 3D Analyst Extension, needs to be on the same machine as FME. For more information, see the documentation.

 

1. Open FME Workbench and Add a Reader

In FME Workbench, start with a blank workspace and add a reader using the menu Reader > Add Reader or by using the Reader button on the toolbar.

readermenu.png

 

2. Select LAS Format

In the Add Reader dialog type "LAS" into the format field and select "ASPRS Lidar Data Exchange Format (LAS)" when it appears.

readerformat.png

 

3. Select Dataset

Next to the Dataset field click on the ellipsis and browse to a LAS file, or use the drop-down arrow found to the right to select multiple files or a directory of LAS files. Note that compressed .laz files or files with a zipped extension can also be selected for this reader.

In this example, we will read in all of the .laz files contained within a folder. Click on the drop-down next to Dataset, and click Select Multiple Folders/Files.

selectmultiple.png

 

In the Select File dialog, click on Add Folders… Then browse to and select the Data folder that contains four .laz files. Once added, FME will list four possibilities of file extensions that could have been in the folder. Our folder only contains .laz files, so click on the other three (.las, .zlas, and .lasd) and click Remove.

addfolder.png

 

Now there should only be a .laz file shown. Click OK to add the datasets.

finalfile.png

 

4. Set Coordinate System

One last step before we can finish adding the reader, we need to enter a coordinate system. In the Coord. System box, type in UTM83-10. Since there are no other parameters to set for a LAS reader, you can go ahead and click OK to finish adding the reader.

coordsystem.png

 

5. View or Continue Workspace

Now that the reader has been added, you can view the point cloud as outlined in the Viewing and Inspecting Point Clouds article. Additionally, you can continue working on your workspace. For more information on various point cloud transformers, see the other articles in the Getting Started with Point Clouds tutorial or Tutorial: Point Cloud Transformations.

 

Reading a Database Point Cloud Format (Oracle Spatial Point Cloud) with FME

Point clouds can be read from an Oracle Database using the Oracle Spatial Point Cloud reader. Reading from this format allows you to specify a Search Envelope in the reader parameters to optimize reading a specific area. To use the Oracle Spatial Point Cloud format, you must have an Oracle client library installed. For more information on working with Oracle in FME, please see the Tutorial: Getting Started with Oracle article series.

 

1. Open FME Workbench and Add a Reader

In FME Workbench, start with a blank workspace and add a reader using the menu Reader > Add Reader or by using the Reader button on the toolbar.

 

2. Select Oracle Spatial Point Cloud Format

In the Add Reader dialog type “Oracle Spatial" into the format field, and select "Oracle Spatial Point Cloud" when it appears.

 

3. Connect to an Oracle Database

Next to the Dataset field click on the drop-down and select an already made Oracle connection or add a new database connection. For information on how to connect to an Oracle database, please see Viewing and Inspecting Oracle Data.

oraclereader.png

 

4. Set Parameters

Now click on the Parameters button. In the Oracle Spatial Point Cloud Parameters dialog, click on the ellipsis next to Table List. Then in the Select Table dialog, select the point cloud table you want to read in. If you do not have a point cloud table in your Oracle database, please see Writing Point Clouds. Once the table is selected, click OK.

selecttable.png

 

Now in the Dimension/Component section, x, y, and z values should already be filled in; these are the minimum requirements for reading a point cloud. Optionally, you can add in other components such as intensity, return or angle, etc. For a full list of point cloud components, please see the point cloud documentation. In this example, we’ve added intensity and return.

components.png

Click OK twice to add the reader.

 

5. View or Continue Workspace

Now that the reader has been added, you can view the point cloud as outlined in the Viewing and Inspecting Point Clouds article. Additionally, you can continue working on your workspace. For more information on various point cloud transformers, see the other articles in the Getting Started with Point Clouds tutorial or Tutorial: Point Cloud Transformations.

 

 

Reading an XYZ File as a Point Cloud with FME

FME includes a flexible Point Cloud XYZ reader for reading text data, which includes at a minimum x, y, z columns, and possibly other components such as intensity, classification, etc. This reader makes it possible to read many types of data into a point cloud, even if this was not the initial purpose of the data. When adding a reader for XYZ files, it is necessary to define the delimiter and component fields as shown in the steps below. The FME Workspace Template linked to this article includes a reader and sample data in this Point Cloud XYZ format.

 

1. Open FME Workbench and Add a Reader

In FME Workbench, start with a blank workspace and add a reader using the menu Reader > Add Reader or by using the Reader button on the toolbar.

 

2. Select LAS Format

In the Add Reader dialog type "XYZ" into the format field, and select "Point Cloud XYZ" when it appears.

xyzreader.png

 

3. Select Dataset

Next to the Dataset field click on the ellipsis and browse to the zip file containing .xyz files. Then set the Coord. System to UTM83-10.

xyzcompletedreader.png

 

4. Set Parameters

One last step before we can finish adding the reader, we need to double-check and possibly modify the parameters. Click on the parameters button. In the Point Cloud XYZ Parameters dialog, you can set the Separator Character (A), modify which lines should be skipped when reading the file (B), or change the data type (C). Our dataset is clean, and the Auto method works for the Separator Character, so click OK twice to add the reader.

xyzparams.png

 

5. View or Continue Workspace

Now that the reader has been added, you can view the point cloud as outlined in the Viewing and Inspecting Point Clouds article. Additionally, you can continue working on your workspace. For more information on various point cloud transformers, see the other articles in the Getting Started with Point Clouds tutorial or Tutorial: Point Cloud Transformations.

 
 

Data Attribution

The .laz datasets used here originates from open data made available by the City of Vancouver, British Columbia. It contains information licensed under the Open Government License - Vancouver. The .xyz datasets originate from open data made available by Map West Virginia.

 

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