Geo Week News

February 24, 2012

Selling visual communication


How i-TEN Associates sees ‘the inevitable destination of laser scanning’

 ORLANDO – If there were an award given out for “prettiest presentation” at FARO’s 3D Documentation Conference this week, Paul Tice would certainly have been a finalist. As visualization specialist for i-TEN Associates, he’s one of the artists who makes the company’s mapping and enterprise assets management services pop.

In his talk, Tice focused on the power of visualizations to communicate ideas and information, specifically how he’s using point clouds to do everything from help amusement parks to market themselves to document historical dig sites for archaeologists. “What we’re doing is preserving the past, and sustaining the future,” he said, “it’s the inevitable destination of laser scanning technology.”

While i-TEN had half a century of experience using photogrammetry, hand drafting, and CAD to help clients tell stories, the company found itself with something of a dilemma when looking at the possibility of investing in laser scanning two years ago, Tice said. “We’re a small company,” he said, “and we had to decide whether to spend tens of thousands of dollars on this. There was a lot of risk involved.”

But they polled their customers and found architects and engineers who wanted to use it for MEP projects and adaptive reuse. A pool of potential clients who wanted to use it for historical documentation and marketing projects. There was potential in BIM. So they went forward.

That’s when they discovered every client’s dream project: “They want it fast, cheap, of high quality, impeccable accuracy, and they want you to have a great attitude about doing it,” joked Tice.

It wasn’t easy to meet those expectations. “We needed to create a deliverable,” he said of the growing pains, “had to figure out what the maximum resolution of the scans could be while keeping file size down. And then we couldn’t find our targets in the scan.” Not to mention working with the data after collection. “We’d move it and the computer would freeze. Then we’d get a blank screen. Then we’d crash. We had to upgrade all of our systems.”

And, of course, “while we’re trying to do this we had other projects to manage,” Tice said. “We’re doing photogrammetry, digital drafting, and all of our other work while we’re learning this new technology and spending tens of thousands of dollars.” That’s not the sort of thing that gets the accountants excited.

Eventually, though, the workflow developed, a merger of scanning and CAD. “We’re taking technicians into the field,” Tice said, “then bringing the data back to the office, processing that data, and then the CAD work begins. And the workflow is very brief: a day or two of scanning, then a day or two of processing, and then we’re drafting.”

As an example, he showed a marketing project i-TEN completed for Evergreen Wings water slide park, which occupied two employees for about two weeks. You can see the partial results here:


Evergreen Wings posted it to their channel as well, and has received nearly 3,500 views so far.

Timberline Lodge offered a chance to combine historical preservation and marketing. Here’s a sample of the work done there:


The company has created a number of other videos to showcase their work in other markets as well, from scanning electrical substations to scanning golf courses to create contour maps. Last summer, i-TEN even completed a pro bono project for the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, creating a 3D fly through and documentation of the USS Blueback submarine.

Most importantly, Tice said, these video files created from programs like Microstation, Adobe Premier and Luxology; 3D pdfs, iModel technology, Google SketchUp; and other deliverable formats i-TEN has discovered have allowed the company to generally create a scan-to-delivery workflow that actually does meet most of the needs of that dream project.

“We’ve gotten it to the point,” he laughed, “where we actually do have a smile on our face while we’re doing it.”

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