Reading point cloud (LiDAR) data in ParaView (VTK)

April 19, 2019

ParaView (VTK) provides two readers for point cloud data. LAS Reader (vtkLASReader) uses libLAS to create the point cloud data into a VTK format in memory (vtkPolyData). There are several drawbacks in using this reader: it does not yet read all point attributes (it reads only intensity, classification, and color) and it is based on a library that is not in active development anymore according to the project website. On the other hand, this reader was added to the ParaView superbuild (because it has fewer library dependencies) which means that it is available in the ParaView binary release. To activate this reader when compiling from the source a user has to set PARAVIEW_ENABLE_LAS (VTK_MODULE_ENABLE_VTK_IOLAS).

Point cloud data in LAS format read with vtkLASReader and displayed in VTK

In many cases, a better choice for reading point cloud data would be PDAL Reader (vtkPDALReader) which uses PDAL as the underlying library. This reader can read a multitude of formats including LAS (all formats supported by the PDAL library), it reads all point attributes available, and the PDAL library is in active development. The PDAL reader is not yet available in the ParaView superbuild or the binary release so users that need this reader will have to build ParaView (VTK) from the source. To activate this reader on compiling from the source a user has to set PARAVIEW_ENABLE_PDAL (VTK_MODULE_ENABLE_VTK_IOPDAL).

Point cloud data in BPF format read with PDAL Reader and displayed in ParaView

Once built and installed, you can use this read to visualize your point cloud data into ParaView. For the future work, we are hoping to expose PDAL ability to construct data processing pipelines in the ParaView.

Do not hesitate to contact us if you need help with point cloud data processing and visualization. We can adapt our tools and develop custom solutions for your organizartion.

2 comments to Reading point cloud (LiDAR) data in ParaView (VTK)

  1. Hey,
    that’s really great to heard that KITWARE tool is compatible with PDAL.
    PDAL is a great library, with oftenly enhancements.
    In my company we use it more and more as it enables geoprocessing on lidar data.
    By the way Could you tell us if ParaView (VTK) enables Computed Tomography lidar display (the X-RAY display) ?
    that would be great to rasterize pointcloud using that display mode !

    1. VTK and ParaView can be used to rasterize the point cloud into a DSM and VTK is used in medical imaging, however I am not familiar with the CT lidar display. Can you send us a link to what kind of visualization you are trying to produce? Thanks!

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