libLAS C API to PDAL transition guide

Author:Vaclav Petras
Contact:wenzeslaus@gmail.com
Date:09/04/2015

This page shows how to port code using libLAS C API to PDAL API (which is C++). The new code is not using full power of PDAL but it uses just what is necessary to read content of a LAS file.

Includes

libLAS include:

#include <liblas/capi/liblas.h>

For PDAL, in addition to PDAL headers, we also include standard headers which will be useful later:

#include <memory>
#include <pdal/PointTable.hpp>
#include <pdal/PointView.hpp>
#include <pdal/LasReader.hpp>
#include <pdal/LasHeader.hpp>
#include <pdal/Options.hpp>

Initial steps

Opening the dataset in libLAS:

LASReaderH LAS_reader;
LASHeaderH LAS_header;
LASSRSH LAS_srs;
LAS_reader = LASReader_Create(in_opt->answer);
LAS_header = LASReader_GetHeader(LAS_reader);

The higher level of abstraction in PDAL requires a little bit more code for the initial steps:

pdal::Option las_opt("filename", in_opt->answer);
pdal::Options las_opts;
las_opts.add(las_opt);
pdal::PointTable table;
pdal::LasReader las_reader;
las_reader.setOptions(las_opts);
las_reader.prepare(table);
pdal::PointViewSet point_view_set = las_reader.execute(table);
pdal::PointViewPtr point_view = *point_view_set.begin();
pdal::Dimension::IdList dims = point_view->dims();
pdal::LasHeader las_header = las_reader.header();

The PDAL code is also different in the way that we read all the data right away while in libLAS we just open the file. To make use of other readers supported by PDAL, see StageFactory class.

The test if the file was loaded successfully, the test of the header pointer was used with libLAS:

if (LAS_header == NULL) {
    /* fail */
}

In general, PDAL will throw a pdal_error exception in case something is wrong and it can’t recover such in the case when the file can’t be opened. To handle the exceptional state by yourself, you can wrap the code in try-catch block:

try {
    /* actual code */
} catch {
    /* fail in your own way */
}

Dataset properties

We assume we defined all the following variables as double.

The general properties from the LAS file are retrieved from the header in libLAS:

scale_x = LASHeader_GetScaleX(LAS_header);
scale_y = LASHeader_GetScaleY(LAS_header);
scale_z = LASHeader_GetScaleZ(LAS_header);

offset_x = LASHeader_GetOffsetX(LAS_header);
offset_y = LASHeader_GetOffsetY(LAS_header);
offset_z = LASHeader_GetOffsetZ(LAS_header);

xmin = LASHeader_GetMinX(LAS_header);
xmax = LASHeader_GetMaxX(LAS_header);
ymin = LASHeader_GetMinY(LAS_header);
ymax = LASHeader_GetMaxY(LAS_header);

And the same applies PDAL:

scale_x = las_header.scaleX();
scale_y = las_header.scaleY();
scale_z = las_header.scaleZ();

offset_x = las_header.offsetX();
offset_y = las_header.offsetY();
offset_z = las_header.offsetZ();

xmin = las_header.minX();
xmax = las_header.maxX();
ymin = las_header.minY();
ymax = las_header.maxY();

The point record count in libLAS:

unsigned int n_features = LASHeader_GetPointRecordsCount(LAS_header);

is just point count in PDAL:

unsigned int n_features = las_header.pointCount();

WKT of a spatial reference system is obtained from the header in libLAS:

LAS_srs = LASHeader_GetSRS(LAS_header);
char* projstr = LASSRS_GetWKT_CompoundOK(LAS_srs);

In PDAL, spatial reference is part of the PointTable:

char* projstr = table.spatialRef().getWKT(pdal::SpatialReference::eCompoundOK).c_str();

Whether the time or color is supported by the LAS format, one would have to determine from the format ID in libLAS:

las_point_format = LASHeader_GetDataFormatId(LAS_header);
have_time = (las_point_format == 1 ...

In PDAL, there is a convenient function for it in the header:

have_time = las_header.hasTime();
have_color = las_header.hasColor();

The presence of color, time and other dimensions can be also determined with:

pdal::Dimension::IdList dims = point_view->dims();

Iterating over points

libLAS:

while ((LAS_point = LASReader_GetNextPoint(LAS_reader)) != NULL) {
    // ...
}

PDAL:

for (pdal::PointId idx = 0; idx < point_view->size(); ++idx) {
    // ...
}

Point validity

The correct usage of libLAS required to test point validity:

LASPoint_IsValid(LAS_point)

In PDAL, there is no need to do that and the caller can assume that all the points provided by PDAL are valid.

Coordinates

libLAS:

x = LASPoint_GetX(LAS_point);
y = LASPoint_GetY(LAS_point);
z = LASPoint_GetZ(LAS_point);

In PDAL, point coordinates are one of the dimensions:

using namespace pdal::Dimension;
x = point_view->getFieldAs<double>(Id::X, idx);
y = point_view->getFieldAs<double>(Id::Y, idx);
z = point_view->getFieldAs<double>(Id::Z, idx);

Thanks to using namespace pdal::Dimension we can just write Id::X etc.

Returns

libLAS:

int return_no = LASPoint_GetReturnNumber(LAS_point);
int n_returns = LASPoint_GetNumberOfReturns(LAS_point);

PDAL:

int return_no = point_view->getFieldAs<int>(Id::ReturnNumber, idx);
int n_returns = point_view->getFieldAs<int>(Id::NumberOfReturns, idx);

Classes

libLAS:

int point_class = (int) LASPoint_GetClassification(LAS_point);

PDAL:

int point_class = point_view->getFieldAs<int>(Id::Classification, idx);

Color

libLAS:

LASColorH LAS_color = LASPoint_GetColor(LAS_point);
int red = LASColor_GetRed(LAS_color);
int green = LASColor_GetGreen(LAS_color);
int blue = LASColor_GetBlue(LAS_color);

PDAL:

int red = point_view->getFieldAs<int>(Id::Red, idx);
int green = point_view->getFieldAs<int>(Id::Green, idx);
int blue = point_view->getFieldAs<int>(Id::Blue, idx);

For LAS format, hasColor() method of LasHeader to see if the format supports RGB. However, in general, you can test use hasDim(Id::Red), hasDim(Id::Green) and hasDim(Id::Blue) method calls on the point, to see if the color was defined.

Time

libLAS:

double time = LASPoint_GetTime(LAS_point);

PDAL:

double time = point_view->getFieldAs<double>(Id::GpsTime, idx);

Other point attributes

libLAS:

LASPoint_GetIntensity(LAS_point)
LASPoint_GetScanDirection(LAS_point)
LASPoint_GetFlightLineEdge(LAS_point)
LASPoint_GetScanAngleRank(LAS_point)
LASPoint_GetPointSourceId(LAS_point)
LASPoint_GetUserData(LAS_point)

PDAL:

point_view->getFieldAs<int>(Id::Intensity, idx)
point_view->getFieldAs<int>(Id::ScanDirectionFlag, idx)
point_view->getFieldAs<int>(Id::EdgeOfFlightLine, idx)
point_view->getFieldAs<int>(Id::ScanAngleRank, idx)
point_view->getFieldAs<int>(Id::PointSourceId, idx)
point_view->getFieldAs<int>(Id::UserData, idx)

Memory management

In libLAS C API, we need to explicitly take care of freeing the memory:

LASSRS_Destroy(LAS_srs);
LASHeader_Destroy(LAS_header);
LASReader_Destroy(LAS_reader);

When using C++ and PDAL, the objects created on stack free the memory when they go out of scope. When using smart pointers, they will take care of the memory they manage. This does not apply to special cases such as exit() function calls.