It is possible to bring point cloud files into 3D Studio Max and use the software’s advanced camera and animation tools to create rich visualisations of the scans. Do remember that point clouds behave differently to standard 3DS geometry – they cannot be directly manipulated in the same way as a mesh can; lighting and atmospheric effects will be different – point clouds do not cast shadows, for instance. With point clouds it is more a case of affecting that model rather than manipulating it
Note: standard 3DS will allow you to import the point cloud but it will not render it with the standard 3DS renderer – you will need to set the renderer to V-Ray or Arnold for it to render properly.
Import with 3D Studio Max
The following point cloud formats are supported by 3DS:
- .RCS / .RCP – RCS recommended – see this post on how to convert / export to an .RCS
- .LAS / .LAZ
In 3D Studio go to the Create Geometry panel and select from the drop-down Point Cloud Objects
Then select the Point Cloud button below Object Type and click in the viewport to place roughly where the point cloud is to go – this placeholder will show as a wireframe box.[Note: If this just appears as the 3 red/grey axis lines and not the white box then do a File – Reset and try again; there seems to be a bug sometimes when starting a point cloud]
Below Point Cloud Source click Load Point Cloud and browse to and select your saved RCS file – this will plant the point cloud into the placeholder (it will probably come in huge so you will need to zoom out to see it all)
With the point cloud object selected you will be able to see and edit its properties under the modify tab:
Point Cloud Properties:
- Limit Box: you can drag the walls of this box to crop the point cloud just to the area you want to be seen – it does not delete the areas outside, just hides them
- Display Colour Channel Dropdown: choose the colour mode for the points; true colour is their original colour. Single colour allows you to pick one colour for all points, etc.
- Level of Detail Rendering: for performance related issues you can slide this up and down to get a rougher but quicker representation of the model when you are working on it.
- Fixed in Rendering: if you click this to On and drag the Level of Detail high then when you render it will render highest quality – and not at the same setting you have for the viewport. [though actually rendering and lower quality levels can create interesting results, so it is worth experimenting with]
- Point Display: this is the size of the points and the most import variable in changing the look – experimentation here is absolutely key; high figures give fuller (and quicker) renders with a really low figures like 0.1 generate creating nice fine-point results. Note: the point sizes will relate to the resolution of your final render – so what looks fine at 640×480 may be too faint at 1920×1080.
- Limit Box: this is a way of disabling / enabling the limit box if you have used that to crop your point cloud
- Display Volumes: this is a useful way to choose only a certain area of the point cloud to be visible by selecting another object such as a cube or sphere to define the extent you want to see. These objects can be combined or inverted.
- Modifier List: there is a huge list of modifiers available in 3D Studio for bending, twisting, morphing etc. however the vast majority of them will not work on point cloud objects as they are not standard geometry.
Render with V-Ray
You must be using the V-Ray renderer (or Arnold) to be able to render point clouds; Scanline, Art, etc. will render blank.
The renders will look much richer than the viewport depictions so it is really worth spending some time getting the point cloud settings right – especially the pixel size which has the most effect.
Full point cloud renders do take time to process but V-Ray has a feature to cap the amount of time it will refine the renders for. This is very useful for experimenting with different settings to get fast feedback. For final renders remove the time limit to allow a full render to be generated.
In the render setup window – select the V-Ray tab and below Progressive Image Sampler the Render Time field is how long it will spend on the render, so 0.5 will mean the render is processed for 30 seconds, 2 will mean 2 minutes. To allow the render to process entirely enter 0 in this field