RelMo v9 introduces two major new features. It is now possible to display and manipulate textures in 2D views and there are a whole range of new tools for the manipulation of point clouds, such as those generated using a laser scanner. Everything RelMo does has been speeded up considerably, from the import of files to triangulation and the eventual display in 2D and 3D. As always there are a number of other features and enhancements in this release; some of these are described below.
Due to ongoing developments of the Windows operating system, we are advised by Microsoft that some newer technologies are not (and will never be) supported by older operating systems. In particular some of the newer display technologies are not available for Windows XP and earlier. To take advantage of these technologies we will need to drop support for older operating systems. As a result version 9 of RelMo will be the last version which will run on Windows XP. Version 10 of RelMo will only run on Windows Vista or later (preferably Windows 7) We also intend to produce a 64-bit version of RelMo with version 10 as well.
Please note that in order to use the 3D display capabilities of RelMo you will need a graphics card supporting OpenGL version 1.5 or higher and preferably version 2.0. The generic Microsoft OpenGL drivers are set at OpenGL version 1.1 and are NOT suitable for use with RelMo. Please use specific graphics card drivers supplied by recognised graphics card manufacturers such as ATI or NVIDIA. We have had difficulties with Intel Integrated graphics systems as these use memory shared with the main system and are not suitable for use with RelMo.
As mentioned above one of the major new features of RelMo v9 is the ability to display textures in 2D views. This is limited to triangles and lines and is not supported in panels. Textures are not supported for all objects as they are not currently efficient to display in 2D due to changes in the way Microsoft supports these facilities behind the scenes. Basically Microsoft removed the hardware acceleration support for this in Windows Vista and above. To use textures in a particular object then you need to set the 2D textures option in the Object Properties dialog. That object will then use and display textures in 2D views if you so require. We envisage that this will be used mainly to display survey features such as the symbols for grass and wooded areas. To this end we have included a number of the British Ordnance Survey symbols in the install CD. You can however use any texture you wish and you can use a different texture for 2D and 3D views. To use a texture, simply select it in the triangle fill or line fill dialogs which have both been extended to allow the selection of 2D and 3D textures.
In conjunction with the 2D display of textures, we’ve also changed the way in which RelMo searches for and then uses textures generally. Now you can locate a texture in the same folder as the RelMo survey file (the rlm file), or put it in the main texture library as usual or now it can be in any sub-folder of the textures library. This should allow you to organise your textures much more efficiently. For example, you could have all the OS survey symbols in one folder, all your background images in another folder, all your traffic signs in another folder etc, etc.
We’ve also added in support for TIFF (tagged image format) and PNG (portable network graphics) image types to join the JPEG, BMP and GIF image types that RelMo has always supported.
A new option is to provide the option to either have a larger file size with no loss of quality in embedded images, or a smaller file size with a slight loss in quality. This is due to way in which embedded images and 3D views in layout pages are stored. Many users have a logo or similar embedded image in layout pages even if they do not use 3D views very often. RelMo has traditionally saved such image information internally as a JPEG no matter what the original image file. Although very efficient at compression resulting in small file sizes, the image quality degrades slightly with every open / save process. This option allows an alternative method which internally saves all images as PNG files. PNG files are completely lossless, i.e. they do not lose quality over time. The downside is that they create somewhat larger files. To activate this option, see the advanced property page of the options dialog.
The way in which RelMo performs triangulation has also been considerably enhanced. Triangulation now takes place very, very quickly indeed for 2D (planar) triangulations. For example 30 – 40 thousand points can be triangulated in a couple of seconds! This is particularly noticeable with large DXF file imports such as those imported from OS contour files. For the normal small scale surveys which you have surveyed, the triangulation often completes in a fraction of a second. These changes have meant that the triangle optimisation routines built into earlier versions are no longer necessary and have been removed. You can also re-triangulate a selection of triangles or points without destroying any existing triangles.
The way in which surveys, DXF files, Wavefront OBJ files and point cloud files are imported into RelMo has been speeded up dramatically. Gone are the lengthy delays and waiting while a file imports. This should be very noticeable with larger files.
This version also adds a number of new tools to cater with point cloud data. We recognised that many users are now working with point cloud data from laser scanners, so RelMo has been updated to deal with this data. Following the initial import of the point cloud data, you can reduce the density of points which is helpful when dealing with consolidated clouds from several scans as well as performing a 3D triangulation on the cloud. Note that a triangulation of 3D point cloud data is completely different to a planar triangulation as used in 2D. RelMo attempts to determine what are real faces of vehicles, buildings and the like at whatever orientation they might be to try and form a series of solid triangulated objects. This works particularly well and you can control the density of the triangles which are produced. The function is also very efficient and will triangulate a million or so points in about 2 minutes.
The end effect is to generate a triangulated scene within which you can perform a ‘virtual survey’. Actually the triangulation is mostly unnecessary for this, but it does make it much easier to see what you are surveying. Simply put this means that with a cloud of points, you can survey ordinary 2D and 3D features directly from the cloud just as if you were surveying the original scene. Of course once you have the 2D survey, this can be dealt with in the usual way to produce plans. There is no need to extract a JPEG or TIFF from the scanner software and tray and plot 2D features on top of that, this is a real 3D survey of whatever features you need! You have always of course been able to import an image file and trace the features over the top. That though is inherently a two-dimensional process and can only generate flat surveys.
To assist with processing point clouds, new block or area selection tools are also available in 3D. These allow you to select an area of points (point cloud points or normal RelMo points) or triangles from which you can then perform further actions. The way in which points are selected has been changed internally which results in a more consistent interface in 2D and 3D views. You can also now select areas of triangles which was not previously possible and there is a new context menu available when you have selected a number of triangles.
We’ve also changed the way in which the height of an inserted point is calculated. As you insert a point, RelMo has always attempted to interpolate the height at which the point is located by examining the triangles in the object. Rather than just look at the current object however, RelMo now searches back up the object tree to see if the parent / grandparent object etc contains any triangles and it will use those if necessary. This may seem a trivial enhancement, however it means that when creating virtual surveys or tracing over an embedded picture, the height or z-coordinate is as good as possible.
Since a lot of work with surveys involves the taking of measurements, most of the query tools present in 2D for a while are now available in 3D too so measuring the distance between points, determining the radius of a circle formed by three points and the like is just as easy in 3D as it is in 2D.
A problem has occasionally been evident during animation where the animated object disappears beneath the triangulated surface – described as ‘submarining’ by some users. This was tracked down to the way in which objects were rotated where the animation positions were not rotated correctly along with the main object. This has been fixed and animation positions are now correctly rotated which eliminates the cause of this problem. Fixed too is a problem where negative complex point heights caused the program to crash. You can now have negative heights without difficulty.
A new feature is also available which allows complex points ‘auto-level’ themselves to any parent object triangulation. This means that if for example you have a line of traffic cones these will pitch and roll to match the underlying terrain resulting in a more realistic looking 3D scene. Of more use might be to create a series of points to represent clumps or areas of grass. Setting the auto-level feature again allows a very realistic looking area of grass which ‘folds’ naturally around the terrain.
A new feature is provided which causes an object to drape or flatten itself onto the underlying parent object surface. This is useful for locating items such as road paint arrows directly onto the surface. Arrows and the like are usually in the form of a complex line style, so this is best used by converting the line style object into a conventional object first. Note however this function allows ANY object to be flattened, which looks a little odd for things like 3D models of cars!
Some new visual themes have been added so that now your interface can be made to follow the style of Visual Studio 2010 (in which RelMo is written) as well Visual Studio 2005 and all the Microsoft Office styles.
A lot of work has been done behind the scenes too. Hopefully most of these will be largely unnoticed by you and some of the more important fixes are outlined above. If something doesn’t work as expected however, please contact us for advice. It may be that we’ve introduced a bug, or it might be just that we expected you to perform an action in a certain way, but you’ve found another way. Either way we welcome your reports and will endeavour to rectify any of the problems you encounter in the use of RelMo.
RelMo3 is still intended to be the 3D viewer program distributed along with your surveys. We have updated RelMo3 in a number ways, most of which are designed to enhance the performance of RelMo3. The new themes added in RelMo Design are also included in RelMo3 as too are the way in which the 3D view is generated and displayed. In addition to distributing RelMo3 with your reconstruction, you can also now create video sequences which can be displayed on a far larger proportion of computers.