Metadata

In addition to point data, PDAL stores metadata during the processing of a pipeline. Metadata is stored internally as strings, though the API accepts a variety of types that are automatically converted as necessary. Each item of metadata consists of a name, a description (optional), a value and a type. In addition, each item of metadata can have a list of child metadata values.

Metadata is made available to users of PDAL through a JSON tree. Commands such as pdal pipeline and pdal translate provide options to allow the JSON-formatted metadata created by PDAL to be written to a file.

Metadata Nodes

Each item of metadata is stored in an object known as a MetadataNode. Metadata nodes are reference types that can be copied cheaply. Metadata nodes are annotated with the original data type to allow better interpretation of the data. For example, when binary data is stored in a base 64-encoded format, knowing that the data doesn’t ulitmately represent a string can allow algorithms to convert it back to its binary representation when desired. Similarly, knowing that data is numeric allows it to be written as a JSON numeric type rather than as a string.

The name of a metadata node is immutable. If you wish to add a copy of metadata (and subchildren) to some node using a different name, you need to call the provided function “clone()”.

A metadata node is added as a child to another node using add(). Usually the type of the data assigned to the metadata node is determined through overloading, but there are instances where this is impossible and the programmer must call a specific function to set the type of the metadata node. Binary data that has been converted to a string by base 64 encoding can be tagged as a such by calling addEncoded(). Programmers can specify the type of a node explictly by calling addWithType(). Currently supported types are: “boolean”, “string”, “float”, “double”, “bounds”, “nonNegativeInteger”, “integer”, “uuid” and “base64Binary”.

Metadata nodes can be presented as lists when transformed to JSON. If multiple nodes with the same name are added to a parent node, those subnodes will automatically be tagged as list nodes and will be enclosed in square brackets. Single nodes can be forced to be treated as JSON lists by calling addList() instead of add() on a parent node.

Metadata and Stages

Stages in PDAL each have a base metadata node. You can retrieve a stage’s metadata node by calling getMetadata(). When a PDAL pipeline is run, its metadata is organized as a list of stage nodes to which subnodes have been added. From within the implementation of a stage, metadata is typically added similarly to the following:

MetadataNode root = getMetadata();
root.add("nodename", "Some string data");
root.add("intlist", 45);
root.add("intlist", 55);
Uuid nullUuid;
MetadataNode pnode("parent");
root.add(pnode);
pnode.add("nulluuidnode", nullUuid);
pnode.addList("num_in_list", 66);

If the above code was part of a stage “writers.test”, a transformation to JSON would produce the following output:

{
  "writers.test":
  {
    "intlist":
    [
      45,
      55
    ],
    "nodename": "Some string data",
    "parent":
    {
      "nulluuidnode": "00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000",
      "num_in_list":
      [
        66
      ]
    }
  }
}