Objectives The digital twin city seeks to restore virtually the geographic scene that is close to reality and provide the audience an immersive experience. Three dimensional (3D) real urban scene is one of the key technologies to achieve the goal. Nowadays, the combination of geographic information system and game engine becomes an industrial trend and provides new opportunities for 3D real urban scene. Oblique photogrammetric data, as being a fundamental data source for 3D urban modeling, is able to represent large-scale and high-precision scene. The game engine plays an excellent role in offering realistic effects and post-production systems that are greatly useful for geospatial data visualization. However, the diversity of specifications and formats of oblique photogrammetric data has caused many different data loading and transformation methods, resulting in a problem to be solved in 3D real urban scene.
Methods This paper aims to propose a data transformation approach from oblique photogrammetric data to rendering resources in game engine. To stress, the proposed approach can allow us to load instantly massive amount of oblique photogrammetric data in Unreal Engine, which is one of the most popular game engines. We further compared oblique photogrammetric data with rendering resources in game engine and discussed the significance of such a data transformation. The approach reorganizes the original structure of the data by parsing data into a tree structure that better suits transformation purposes. Also, the proposed approach transforms respectively the geometry and texture data when iterating tree nodes, as well as considers the essential physical properties of rendering assets. All these features are combined into a package data format.
Results In the case study of Futian district, Shenzhen, the results show that the proposed approach successfully converts oblique photogrammetric data to rendering resources in Unreal Engine 4. In the transformation process, the geometrical structure and collision properties of triangular mesh are guaranteed, and color, bump and other visual elements of original data are kept in materials. The rendering resources are loaded to simulate the real urban scenarios at different time periods of a day in Unreal Engine 4.
Conclusions This paper devises a novel approach which can convert the oblique photogrammetric data into rendering resource for a game engine to load and render, and meantime maintain the consistency of data's geometry and texture. For its scalability, it also supports parallel processing of large-scale data transformation when data is organized in the same directory. The proposed approach may be of great theoretical and practical value for other related 3D model data transformation problems.