Viewing Point Clouds in SiteView

In addition to displaying as-built digital twins created from panoramic images as well as BIM, SiteView also allows users to display and share point clouds taken at a jobsite using laser scanners. To help you understand the scope of point cloud support in SiteView, this article will cover the following topics:

  • Viewing and navigating point clouds in walkthrough and 3D mode
  • Adjusting point cloud display settings
  • Viewing point cloud cross sections with clipping panels
  • Defining a volume in 3D space and downloading the point cloud within this clipping volume
  • Displaying point clouds and as-built digital twins side by side
Video: To see this process in action, check out our video on Viewing Point Cloud Data in SiteView.


Load Point Cloud Data

When a user opens a SiteView that contains a published point cloud, a message notifying the viewer that point cloud data is available will appear in the bottom right of the capture window. To load the point cloud data for viewing, click the Load Point Cloud button on the top toolbar.  The point cloud will appear over the pano in the capture window if the selected capture has an associated point cloud.

View Point Cloud in Walkthrough Mode

The default capture display mode in SiteView is walkthrough mode, even when a point cloud is loaded. Normally, only panos are displayed within the capture window. When a point cloud is loaded, the point cloud is overlaid on top of the panos.

In addition to this default viewing mode, users can choose how they want to display panos and point clouds in the capture window. Users have three options:

  • Show All - Displays the point cloud (and other 3D objects) overlaid on the pano shown in that capture window. This is the default display mode. Use this option with clipping panels (described below) if you want to view cross sections of the point cloud over 360° photos of the space.
  • Show Panos - When selected, displays only panos in that capture window. Point clouds will not be shown. Reference dimensions, transported BIM objects, annotations, and markups will still be displayed.
  • Show 3D Objects - Displays only 3D objects within that capture window. Point clouds will be shown, however no panos will be loaded. If clipping panels are used to cut away cross sections of the point cloud, the blue 3D modeling space will be shown in the background. However, navigation when only a point cloud is displayed still uses pano locations from the associated digital twin.

On the capture window, the button for Show All, Show Panos, and Show 3D Objects toggles to show the currently selected display mode. To switch to a different display mode:

  1. On the capture window toolbar, click Show All/Show Panos/Show 3D Objects.
  2. From the drop down menu, click the display mode you want to use for that capture window.

Navigating Point Cloud in Walkthrough Mode

Navigating the point cloud in walkthrough mode remains similar to general SiteView navigation in walkthrough mode:

  • Click in the capture window - Move in the direction you have clicked. Your next location will be determined by the positions of the panos in the associated digital twin.
  • Mouse scroll wheel - Zoom in and out of the point cloud.
  • Click and drag the mouse - Pan the view in the direction you are dragging your mouse.

View Point Cloud Data in 3D Mode

To view the point cloud in 3D mode, click 3D Mode on the capture window toolbar. In 3D mode, the entire point cloud is displayed in 3D space overlaid on top of the reference plan for that level.

Note: To revert back to walkthrough mode, click Walk-through Mode on the capture window toolbar.

Navigating Point Cloud in 3D Mode

Navigating the point cloud in 3D mode is similar to general SiteView navigation in 3D mode:

  • Click and drag the mouse left and right - Rotate the reference plan and 3D model of the point cloud clockwise and counterclockwise, respectively. The model will rotate around the currently selected pano on the reference plan as long as the reference plan has not been moved with CTRL + click and drag.
  • Click and drag the mouse up and down - Rotate the reference plan and 3D model of the point cloud away and toward the screen, respectively. The model will rotate around the currently selected pano on the reference plan.
  • CTRL + click and drag - Drag the reference plan and 3D model in any direction your mouse moves.
  • Mouse scroll wheel - Zoom in and out of the reference plan and model. Zoom is centered on the middle of the screen regardless of where your mouse pointer is placed.

Point Cloud Settings

SiteView offers three user-defined point cloud rendering options from SiteView Settings. Users can adjust point cloud loading time with Point Limit per Frame, select how points are colorized in Point Color Mode, and display shapes calculated from the point cloud with Point Color Silhouette.

Point Limit per Frame

To load SiteView point clouds faster, users can adjust the maximum number of points that can be loaded each time the capture window frame needs to be rendered.  Rendering occurs whenever the user moves to a different location in the digital twin, or when the user rotates at a location.  By selecting a smaller point limit per frame, point cloud imagery is rendered faster with larger point sizes.  A larger point limit per frame will result in smaller point sizes and a more detailed point cloud render, however loading times will be noticeably longer.

The point limit per frame currently ranges from 0.1 million to 3 million points.

To change the point limit per frame, go to SiteView Settings from the top toolbar, then click and drag the slider below Point Limit per Frame to adjust the point limit value.

Point Color Mode

Point clouds can be displayed in four color modes.  To change the colorization, go to SiteView Settings from the top toolbar, then select the desired display option from the drop down menu next to Point Color Mode.

The following point color modes are supported:

  • RGB - Points are colored with the real world RGB value of scanned surfaces.  RGB is only available if the laser scanner uses an external or integrated camera to take corresponding images at each scan location.
  • CMY - If the point colors are defined in CMY, use this option to view their color.
  • Elevation - Points are color coded by elevation, with blue indicating points closest to the floor, and red indicating points closest to the ceiling.
  • Intensity - Shown in grayscale, intensity shows the strength of the reflected laser beam when scanning to create the point cloud.  Lighter points indicate areas with a strongly reflected beam, and darker points indicate areas where the reflected beam is weaker. You can expect highly reflective surfaces such as smooth floors and metal to generate lighter points, whereas dark surfaces that absorb light generate darker points.

Point Color Silhouette

When an area is scanned, surfaces of objects and their resulting shapes can be extrapolated using the resulting point cloud. Point clouds in SiteView can be displayed with or without a black outline that traces the silhouettes of these calculated shapes. Enabling point color silhouette better defines the edges of shapes within the displayed point cloud, improving the visibility of objects.

To enable or disable point color silhouette, go to SiteView Settings from the top toolbar, then click the toggle next to Point Cloud Silhouette to turn this feature on (toggle turns blue) or off (toggle turns gray).

View Point Cloud Cross Section

In SiteView, users can hide or show regions of the point cloud and and compare them to the panos underneath by using clipping panels.  Clipping panels are planes perpendicular to the X, Y, and Z axis.  Each axis has two clipping panels which start at the extremities of the point cloud, and users can adjust the clipping panel positions along their corresponding axis to show or hide sections of the point cloud.  For example, the Z-axis has one clipping panel that starts at the very bottom of the floor and a second clipping panel that starts at the very top of the ceiling.

Show Clipping Panel

The effect clipping panels have on the point cloud can be seen in both Walkthrough and 3D Mode.  When a clipping panel is adjusted, parts of the point cloud will no longer appear.  To open the clipping panel menu, click on the Show Clipping Panel button on the capture window toolbar.  The clipping panel menu offers clipping panel sliders to adjust the positions of the clipping panels along the named axis, the option to lock to and view the extremes of each clipping panel, the ability to download the point cloud region inside a volume defined by the clipping panel(s), and the option to reset all clipping panels.

Clipping Panel Sliders

The point cloud coordinate system is defined with the standard horizontal X-axis, vertical Y-axis, and a Z-axis that points in and out of the computer screen, and the same coordinate system is used on the reference plan. The clipping panel sliders move across a range from 0 to 100, where 0 begins at the corresponding axis, and 100 ends at the farthest location a point is located from the axis. The region of the point cloud that remains shown will depend on how the clipping panels are adjusted.

In 3D mode when viewing the point cloud in the initial view (looking down at the point cloud), the clipping panel behavior is as follows:

  • Clip along X-axis from 0 to 100 - When the X-axis clipping panel slider is moved from 0 to 100, the point cloud will be hidden from left to right.
  • Clip along X-axis from 100 to 0 - When the X-axis clipping panel slider is moved from 100 to 0, the point cloud will be hidden from right to left.
  • Clip along Y-axis from 0 to 100 - When the Y-axis clipping panel slider is moved from 0 to 100, the point cloud will be hidden from bottom to top.
  • Clip along Y-axis from 100 to 0 - When the Y-axis clipping panel slider is moved from 100 to 0, the point cloud will be hidden from top to bottom.
  • Clip along Z-axis from 0 to 100 - When the Z-axis clipping panel slider is moved from 0 to 100, the point cloud will be hidden from floor to ceiling.
  • Clip along Z-axis from 100 to 0 - When the Z-axis clipping panel slider is moved from 100 to 0, the point cloud will be hidden from ceiling to floor.

Lock Clipping Panel

Users can view cross sections of the point cloud from all six directions of the 3D space by using the lock clipping panel functions.  To lock the clipping panel, click on the Lock to ____ View button to the left or right of each clipping panel slider. Click the button again to deselect the Lock to ____ View option.
In 3D mode when viewing the point cloud in the initial view (looking down at the point cloud), the clipping panel behavior is as follows:

Along the X-axis, users can lock the clipping panel to the right or left view:

  • Lock to Right View - Viewer is at the rightmost part of the point cloud facing in the negative direction of the X-axis (toward the left), and a cross section of the point cloud is displayed from right to left as the user slides the clipping panel from 0 to 100. 
  • Lock to Left View - Viewer is at the leftmost location of the point cloud facing in the positive direction of the X-axis (toward the right), and a cross section of the point cloud is displayed from left to right as the user slides the clipping panel from 0 to 100. 

Along the Y-axis, users can lock the clipping panel to the back or front view:

  • Lock to Back View - Viewer is at the top of the point cloud facing the negative direction of the Y-axis (toward the bottom of the screen), and a cross section of the point cloud is displayed from top to bottom as the user slides the clipping panel from 0 to 100. 
  • Lock to Front View - Viewer is at the bottom of the point cloud facing the positive direction of the Y-axis (toward the top of the screen), and a cross section of the point cloud is displayed from bottom to top as the user slides the clipping panel from 0 to 100. 

Along the Z-axis, users can lock the clipping panel to the top or bottom view:

  • Lock to Top View - Viewer is looking down at the point cloud, and a cross section of the point cloud is displayed from ceiling to floor as the user slides the clipping panel from 0 to 100. 
  • Lock to Bottom View - Viewer is looking up from the bottom of the point cloud, and a cross section of the point cloud is displayed from floor to ceiling as the user slides the clipping panel from 0 to 100. 

Download Point Cloud Inside Clipping Volume

Once you have set a volume within the 3D space using the X, Y, and/or Z clipping panels, you have the option of downloading the point cloud within this defined clipping volume. This point cloud section will be saved to your computer as a PLY file within the Downloads folder.

To download a point cloud section:

  1. Use the X, Y, and/or Z clipping panels to define the section of the point cloud you want to download.
    Tip: View the point cloud in 3D Mode to gain an overall understanding of where the clipping volume is confined in 3D space, and use walkthrough mode to visually fine tune boundaries of the clipping panels.
  2. Click Show Clipping Panel > Download.
  3. In the Download Point Cloud box, click Download.
    Note: If you want for your point cloud section to be saved in the coordinate system from the source point cloud file, click the slider to ON (blue) next to the Use Coordinates from Source Data option.

You can now access your downloaded PLY file from the Downloads folder on your computer.

Reset or Hide Clipping Panel

Within the clipping panel properties box, click Reset to restore the default clipping panel settings along the X, Y, and Z axis. The entirety of the point cloud will be displayed again.

If you no longer wish to display the clipping panel properties box, click the Hide Clipping Panel button in the upper right. The Hide Clipping Panel will now toggle back to the Show Clipping Panel button.

Note: Any changes you made to the clipping panel will not be saved when you use Reset or Hide Clipping Panel. There is not an option to save your clipping panel in SiteView at this time. If you need to save the clipped point cloud, follow the instructions under Download Point Cloud Inside Clipping Volume to save the visible point cloud volume in PLY format on your computer.

View Point Cloud and Capture Side By Side

Sometimes you may need to view 360° imagery and a point cloud side by side instead of overlaying the point cloud on the digital twin. Setting up SiteView to view point clouds and digital twins next to each other is similar to viewing two digital twins from different dates simultaneously, or viewing a digital twin next to its corresponding BIM.

To view a point cloud and digital twin simultaneously in different windows:

  1. Make sure you are in Walk-through Mode. If not, click the Walk-through Mode button in the upper right of the capture window.
  2. Click Side-by-Side Comparison Layout in the upper right of the top toolbar.
  3. From the drop down menu, click the window splitting configuration you want to view your point cloud and capture in.
  4. In the capture window where you want to only view panos, from the in-window toolbar, click the Show All/Show 3D Objects button and click Show Panos from the drop down.

You are now able to view panos in one window and the corresponding point cloud in the other.