Geo Week News

September 26, 2012

New way to get point clouds into 3ds Max


Clouds2Max launched by forensic industry vets

THE INTERNET – David Dustin and Eugene Liscio are competitors, technically, in the 3D forensic investigation and recreation space, but they share a problem: Their favorite tool for getting point clouds into Autodesk’s 3ds Max was made by Alice Labs, which has since been bought by Autodesk and so the plug-in is no longer supported.

With such a small community of people doing the work they do, the pair got to commiserating. “Finally,” said Dustin, head of Dustin Productions, “we decided we needed to figure out something different.” Both were also fans of Codeblend’s Click-VR Visualizer, which allows you to create interactive animations in 3ds Max, and they’d been impressed with programmer Tom Jachmann’s support, even with the time-zone difference in Germany.

“So we got together with him,” Dustin said, “put our heads together, and said this is what we need to do. That’s how Clouds2Max was born.”

Clouds2Max is a new plug-in for 3ds Max that allows you to import point clouds and work with them in 3ds Max and the user-turned-developers are pretty happy with it. “It’s really good,” said Dustin. “The performance in Max is excellent. Even better than the Alice Labs plug-in … The Alice Labs was a little better for a render engine, maybe, but we’ve figured out some alternative ways to do things.”

Here’s a quick demonstration of the software’s abilities:


Currently, Clouds2Max works with .pts files, .ptcb files, the new E57 format, xyz, ASCII, and .txt files. “We take those formats and compile them into a binary format so it loads faster,” said Dustin. He said they can currently get about 80 million points into the viewport and even then the navigation around the environment is “really smooth.”

Further, in combination with ClickVR, Clouds2Max users can create a point cloud-based environment that can be delivered to a client as an executable that will allow them to walk through that environment. “You also have the advantage of having animatable objects,” Dustin said, “like a vehicle moving through a point cloud, or a character walking through, say, if you’ve got a crime scene.”

“It’s like having a web viewer,” he said, “with the advantage of being able to make it interactive. You can have a body on the floor and you can turn it on and off in that area, walk around it. And you can also set up what are called ‘collision objects’ so that they can’t walk through walls or objects or whatever you set up.”

And since it’s done as an executable, the person receiving the file doesn’t have to have any special software to do this.

For those interested in giving Clouds2Max a spin, there’s a free trial version available on the site that’s good for 15 days and there are also example point cloud files that can be downloaded for testing. Liscio, head of AI2-3D, and Dustin are both also available for training and support.

Pricing is currently $850 per seat, which gets you two computers.

The only other option for getting point clouds into 3ds Max currently known to SPAR is Leica’s CloudWorx-VR, which you can learn more about here.

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