Civil 3D Surface from LIDAR Contours

The other day I taught a short (ahem, too short!) class at the DE GIS conference. One of the things that we talked about was building a Civil 3D Surface from LIDAR contours. If a picture is worth 1000 words, a film is worth 1,000,000, so I made a short video using jing.

Read on to see the video and learn more. (*** if you can’t get the video to play, I might have reached my jing bandwidth limit. I am working on an easy way to get video out to the masses so stay tuned!***)

The video was taken in Civil 3D 2009, but uses tools found in 2008 as well. The video shows the following:

1. Attach a drawing using Map tools.

2. Create a quick preview query, then refine the query to a window.

3. Build a surface from the queried contours.

Details of this procedure can also be found in my AU Paper on Large Surfaces

Lidar Contours Video 

**This is the first time I’ve used jing, and I think I just need to redo the video at a smaller size. Bear with me if you can’t see the one in the link above.

Here is another version that is a smaller size, and here is an attempt to embed the video:


  1. John Frank says:

    You moved quick! I’ll have to replay that a few times. Was there sound?

  2. there was no sound for this one (I have another sore throat. What a winter!), and I apologize for moving quickly. I will make sure that I slow down next time. I may re-record this one now that I know how to get around in jing!

  3. Garnet Dawes says:

    The Video was awesome,

    That Query is handy,

    I’ve had some expierience with Large Lidar Files 5-6 million points, The way I’ve gotten around the size is buy querying the Data to conform to contour intervals.

    My question for you is this:

    The file you reference is a dwg, how did you get the points into the initial file? Will this procedure work for points referenced through an ODBC link to an access file, and then brought in through mapwspace?

  4. Chris Wallis says:

    sorry ’bout the sore throat… whisky will help (helps me…)

    I saw how you map querried in the contours from the dwg that had the info (im good with that) – what im more wondering is when building surface from lidar, the contous are way way too “jiggily” (because so many points) I cant get a smooth contour..

    perhaps Im missing something (i’ll also have to view again!)

    thank you !

  5. migdalia guzman says:

    Help me please. I have a point file with the following format:

    Comes from LIDAR. How I can import this file to create a surface in C3D 2008?


  6. Jason Hickey says:

    That *appears* to be listing Lat/Long (or long/lat, can’t tell) along with an elevation. It’s essentially a NEZ (comma delimited) point file. I’d run it through a program such as CORPSCON (or the non-US equivalent) to convert to another coordinate system (just to get it out of lat/long) and just reference it into the surface as a point file. How many points are in the file? You may want to look into doing some decimation of the points if there are millions of points in the file (by using a program such as VRMesh.)