View Full Version : Best way of showing a point cloud?

12 December 2011, 12:33 PM

I've been scripting a Point Cloud importer at work and I'm curious if anyone here could give some advice on what's the best/fastest way to show the cloud in the viewport (nitrous, max 2012)?

Importing each point as a helper object works, but is incredibly slow. Importing them as Vertices in a mesh is fast, but they doesn't show unless you're in the objects vertex mode and ideally the size should only be one pixel, not a square. I was also thinking about the possibility of using particles..

Preferably something that works with volume select (to hide/unhide parts of the cloud) would be the best because of the large size and density we are working with.

12 December 2011, 01:22 PM
This isn't a scripted solution but Autodesk Labs have a free point cloud plugin which does all that you asked for.

12 December 2011, 01:27 PM
Yes, I am guessing you're thinking about Helix. The preview version expired today and they've discontinued the development.

"The technology preview stops running on the 20th. Thanks to everyone who provided feedback. At this time there are no plans to extend the preview of the current technology. The team is investigating other technologies. It is possible there may be another technology preview in the future."
*link* (

12 December 2011, 05:20 PM
For our point cloud work here, we've gone to Krakatoa from ThinkBox. It's awesome. We have a license of Frost also, but so far I'm preferring the speed of Krakatoa and willing to render the particles on their own pass instead of meshing them into geometry with Frost. Worth looking into versus scripting your own solution perhaps.

12 December 2011, 05:56 PM
Regarding Krakatoa, for showing particles in the viewport, the FREE evaluation version of Krakatoa will do the job nicely. It will even let you render them without a watermark at resolutions below 480x360.
But if all you want to do is show the particles in the viewports for preview purposes, you can use the PRT Loader - it supports small points, large (Z-buffered) points and Vectors from Velocity and Normals and Tangents.
In addition, the whole Magma channel editing system works on top of the PRT Loader so you can display values as colors, modify channels and perform surface operations like stealing data from scene objects and so on. All for free.
Then you can cull particles using geometry volumes, and resave the modified particles to new file sequences after processing. You can load and save Krakatoa's own PRT files, RealFlow BIN files and ASCII Comma-Separated Values files, and there are MAXScript interfaces to both save and load PRT files if you want to use that format (which is already supported by RealFlow and Naiad, among others) for storage - it is compressed and pretty extensible.

Not only does VolumeSelect work with the PRT Loader (except for the mesh mode, but Krakatoa 2 is adding its own solutions for this), you can add ANY deformation modifiers on the PRT Loader and deform it as if it were a mesh. It even provides a SkinWrap modifier to deform by arbitrary control mesh, for example a skinned character.

And it was designed to work with large particle counts.

There are PRT loading operators for PFlow so you can mesh your particles using PFlow Shapes without using Krakatoa rendering. There are some bonus PFlow operators that require a license, but the basic PRT Birth, Update and ID Test operators work in the evaluation version.

Did I mention all these features are available FOR FREE? :D

12 December 2011, 06:39 PM
Thanks for your replies! I'll definitively check out the PRT loader. For now I got it working with particle flow and it's fast too. But so far I've only tested with 400 000 particles. Going to try a much larger file tomorrow.

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12 December 2011, 06:39 PM
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