There are many free software applications to view 3D bathymetry data, such as the QPS iView4D, CARIS EasyView or FugroViewer. In sharing our 3D geospatial data, we have found there is reluctance by some clients to download these software packages so as to view the data. We have been experimenting with making 3D PDFs of the data, which can be viewed in Adobe Acrobat Reader.
The process to convert from a dense point cloud to a 3D PDF involves a number of steps. We start with a Fledermaus SD file of the 3D surface, then export a georeferenced hillshade image and an ESRI ascii file of the surface. The ESRI ascii file is imported to 3D meshing software and the hillshade image is overlaid as a texture layer, then saved as a high-density Wavefront .obj file.
The .obj file is simplified to reduce the number of faces, thinning the flatter areas and concentrating faces in high-relief aeas. The reduced .obj file is converted to a .u3d file, then imported into Adobe Acrobat which has a 3D PDF Converter plugin. With a few changes to the orientation and addition of text and a depth scale, the 3D PDF is finished with a file size about half the original Fledermaus size.
Below are some 3D PDF examples of bathymetry data from the Great Barrier Reef. Try opening them in Adobe Acrobat Reader, and click to activate. Open the Edit > Preferences > 3D & Multimedia > 3D Tool Options, to Open Model tree on 3D Activation, and to show the Default Toolbar State.
Have a play with the 3D Tool to change the Model Render Mode to Wireframe or some other render mode. Click the house to reset the Solid render mode. Use the Rotate and Spin buttons to zoom around the model. The measurement tool is also accurate for the model scale, measured in meters.