Is Recap the right tool for large point clouds?

Discuss all Autodesk ReCap Studio related issues here.
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Full Name: Matt Stachoni
Company Details: Tutor Perini Corporation
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Re: Is Recap the right tool for large point clouds?

Post by mstachoni » Wed Jul 10, 2019 6:44 pm

ReCap sucks for large projects. And Autodesk knows it. And they absolutely don't care. I think it sucks for small projects too.

ReCap used to have one of the preeminent development teams at Autodesk. I was told at one point they had more employees devoted to it than any other product. Autodesk's vision was to have it be one part of a larger Reality Capture initiative that included scan-to-mesh / scan-to-BIM functionality using Cloud computing power (i.e., Amazon Web Services / Azure that they package and sell). Autodesk had already pursued this with their cloud-based rendering functionality in Revit, Navisworks, and 3ds Max, and tried to apply this fictional "zero cost infinite computing paradigm" to everything. Everything was going Cloud.

So at one point they put in some (experimental) cloud-based scan-to-mesh functionality into ReCap - which actually worked pretty well- and found out that (a) the cloud processing time required went right off the scale and (b) Amazon isn't run by stupid people, and could not provide such mass use of cloud computing in a cost-effective manner to their customers, so they pulled it from the final product.

They put the applicaiton into "Maintenance Mode," which is Autodesk speak for "Yeah the product still exists but we aren't actively developing it" and decimated the ReCap team. The Marketing Director of Autodesk's Reality Solution Group was let go and went on to found and is CEO of Cintoo. Which is awesome BTW.

I'm on a project where we are literally scanning the daily construction progress over a multiple-year schedule on about 1.5 million SF of buildable area. We will end up taking thousands of scans and handling roughly 30 terabytes of raw scan data over time. There's absolutely no way I would attempt this project in ReCap. It's solely a deliverable format for the Owner.

Cyclone Register is the only app I know of that has the large-project capability which allows you to link together separate scan databases, so we can register small portions and then link those sub-projects together throughout the course of the job. Not sure of the latest version of Faro Scene but I've heard good things about it. We are also implementing JetStream and CloudWorx, so hopefully we can negate the need for ReCap to get scans into our Autodesk software. In terms of data storage requirements, the raw scan number triples when you consider the Cyclone databases and resultant ReCap files which are created as the scan data is sent through the pipeline.

The amount of data being collected is really a function of the distances you are workling with. The trade off is the number of scans vs the resolution settings. We have very large expansive areas that need to be captured, so we can either take fewer scans at a higher resolution and still get decent detail at a distance, or drop the resolution but have to scan more often with considerable overlap to get the necessary detail and decent C2C registration. You need to develop a feel for how many scans you need at XYZ resolution to adequately get the details you need. The saving grace in scanning large outdoor areas is that lots of laser dots just hit air and don't return, so your resultant file sizes aren't that bad.

When you scan interiors, every point hits something hard and usually within 30 meters or so, and you can lower the resolution and thus lower your file sizes. Don't overestimate the need for photography. We aren't photographing anything until we get into scanning final as-builts of finished spaces and want things to look nice. With my P40 I can lower the resolution just one notch, turn on full HD photography, and have comparable file sizes to the higher resolution scans w/o photos.

On the other hand, with lowered resulution you get faster scan times, meaning you can capture more data per day, so your data storage requirements go back up again...

In the end I find that worrying about data size isn't worth the effort. Disks are cheap and I can always stuff another one into my workstation in minutes. Once you get the data imported into your registration software, you can archive the raw scan data to a pedestrian huge mechanical HDD and forget about it. Once you create the ReCap deliverable, you can also archive the registration software databases as well.
- Matt

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