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Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.

Point-Cloud Visualizations in Portland, Oregon, by i-TEN Associates

October 14th, 2012 by Sumit Singhal

Article source: Bentley Systems, Incorporated

i-TEN Associates is a provider of GIS, photogrammetry, CAD, and computer-aided facilities management services. Using unfiltered point-cloud data, i-TEN can create 3D models and extraordinary visualizations that can be shared and viewed by anyone.

Image Courtesy i-TEN Associates

  • Architects: i-TEN Associates
  • Project: Point-Cloud Visualizations
  • Location: Portland, Oregon

Image Courtesy i-TEN Associates

Producing these models in the traditional way ‒ through surveying and modeling ‒ was expensive and time consuming. Laser scanning and the resulting point cloud offered i-TEN a way to produce fast, low-cost models and compelling visualizations with maximum quality, and impeccable accuracy. To achieve this, i-TEN needed software that could efficiently manipulate and integrate point clouds and 3D geometry. The right software would also need to be stable, able to support massive datasets, and easy to learn.

Image Courtesy i-TEN Associates

  • Geospatial Service Provider: i-TEN Associates
  • Project: Point-Cloud Visualizations
  • Location: Portland, Oregon, United States
  • Marketing Editor: Carol Minton
  • Company: Bentley Systems, Incorporated

Image Courtesy i-TEN Associates

It researched a number of software tools available to produce laser scan data, but none could support the massive point cloud files (up to 600 megabytes each) required to produce highly accurate models and videos. Nor could these products render animations with the level of realism clients desired. It then discovered that MicroStation, which it had already been using for other project work, offered the powerful, dynamic platform it needed.

Image Courtesy i-TEN Associates

“We specialize in developing highly accurate, high-resolution photogrammetry, and derive products for clients ranging from public agencies and engineering firms to commercial enterprises throughout the United States,” said Brian Miyake, VP of operations at i-TEN. “When our clients began asking us to create visually immersive, 3D models of buildings, artifacts, and other objects, we needed a way to turn massive amounts of point-cloud data – permanent spatial digital files created using laser scanners – into these models.”

Laser scanners can capture detail like never before, resulting in massive, unfiltered point clouds. Using this data, i-TEN can create extraordinary visualizations and usable, measurable, 3D models that can be shared and viewed by anyone. The models are used by architects and engineers to verify as-built conditions and create visualizations, by animators to create special effects, by historians to preserve artifacts and structures, and by marketing firms to showcase places of interest.

“We’d been using MicroStation for years, but never for animations and still rendering,” said Miyake. Added Paul Tice, visualization specialist at i-TEN, “It’s incredibly stable, reliable and intuitive to use, and it has no data size limit.” In addition, MicroStation provides unparalleled speed and efficiency in handling point clouds, empowering users to view and interact with this data in real time directly within the design environment.

i-TEN now uses MicroStation to produce photorealistic animations and renderings from highly accurate 3D models and point clouds quickly and cost-effectively. For video production and renderings, i-TEN professionals first use scanners to capture unfiltered point-cloud data of a physical landscape, artifact, or structure. Scanner software is then used for post-processing of the data, such as registration and filtering. The final step is to analyze point-cloud data in MicroStation, which renders 100 percent of the point clouds.

These renderings are examined for reflectance anomalies, floaters, and other objects that are then cropped out using specialized editing software. Gaps in point-cloud data are filled in by modeling and applying materials using digital photographs taken in the field. Utilizing MicroStation’s distributed rendering tools and the processing power of up to 10 CPUs, i-TEN can quickly render animation sequences requiring multiple point clouds.

Because MicroStation can import and export multiple file formats not supported by other commonly used CAD platforms, clients can receive visualizations in AVI, MOV, MP4, and other video formats. The finished models can also be provided in a wide range of formats including DWG, DGN, 3D PDFs, or i-models with point clouds attached. This allows engineers and architects to enable stakeholders to review and accurately measure as-built conditions of a building at a particular date with millimeter accuracy.

With MicroStation, i-TEN can meet client requests with fast turnaround for highly accurate, high-quality, affordable 3D models and animations. Using MicroStation’s distributed rendering has provided a 5- to 10-fold reduction in the time required to complete projects. “We completed an animated marketing video for the five-story Evergreen Wings and Waves Waterpark in just two weeks and $5,000 under budget,” said Tice. “Before, it would have taken us months to finish. We were also able to use MicroStation to create camera angles in the animation that would have cost the client $30,000 to create with a whole camera crew.”

Over time, i-TEN finds that it can complete these projects even faster. The company has donated scanning and rendering time to produce animations for non-profits and other organizations – investments that have helped the company gain free publicity and attract new, paying clients for these services. For example, i-TEN produced a photorealistic video for a submarine museum that enables anyone – including those with physical limitations – to virtually tour its submarine’s interior without having to walk through it.

Immersive, 3D animations like this one also provide a way to preserve historical sites in highly accurate, digital models for historians and students to study for years to come, with zero environmental impact. “This is an exciting time to be part of the visualization industry,” said Miyake. “With MicroStation, we can deliver exactly what the customer wants – with minimal time and expense.”

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