Entwine Point Tile

Entwine Point Tile (EPT) is a simple and flexible octree-based storage format for point cloud data. This document is a working draft of the format.

The organization of and EPT dataset contains JSON metadata portions as well as binary point data. This structure for a small dataset may look like this:

├── ept.json
├── ept-data
│   └── 0-0-0-0.laz
├── ept-hierarchy
│   └── 0-0-0-0.json
└── ept-sources
    ├── list.json
    └── 0.json

These files and directories are described below.


The core metadata required to interpret the contents of an EPT dataset. An example file might look like this:

    "bounds": [634962.0, 848881.0, -1818.0, 639620.0, 853539.0, 2840.0],
    "boundsConforming": [635577.0, 848882.0, 406.0, 639004.0, 853538.0, 616.0],
    "dataType": "laszip",
    "hierarchyType": "json",
    "points": 10653336,
    "schema": [
        { "name": "X", "type": "signed", "size": 4, "scale": 0.01, "offset": 637291.0 },
        { "name": "Y", "type": "signed", "size": 4, "scale": 0.01, "offset": 851210.0 },
        { "name": "Z", "type": "signed", "size": 4, "scale": 0.01, "offset": 511.0 },
        { "name": "Intensity", "type": "unsigned", "size": 2 },
        { "name": "ReturnNumber", "type": "unsigned", "size": 1 },
        { "name": "NumberOfReturns", "type": "unsigned", "size": 1 },
        { "name": "ScanDirectionFlag", "type": "unsigned", "size": 1 },
        { "name": "EdgeOfFlightLine", "type": "unsigned", "size": 1 },
        { "name": "Classification", "type": "unsigned", "size": 1 },
        { "name": "ScanAngleRank", "type": "float", "size": 4 },
        { "name": "UserData", "type": "unsigned", "size": 1 },
        { "name": "PointSourceId", "type": "unsigned", "size": 2 },
        { "name": "GpsTime", "type": "float", "size": 8 },
        { "name": "Red", "type": "unsigned", "size": 2 },
        { "name": "Green", "type": "unsigned", "size": 2 },
        { "name": "Blue", "type": "unsigned", "size": 2 },
        { "name": "OriginId", "type": "unsigned", "size": 4 }
    "span" : 256,
    "srs": {
        "authority": "EPSG",
        "horizontal": "3857",
        "vertical": "5703",
        "wkt": "PROJCS[\"WGS 84 ... AUTHORITY[\"EPSG\",\"3857\"]]"
    "version" : "1.1.0"


An array of 6 numbers of the format [xmin, ymin, zmin, xmax, ymax, zmax] describing the cubic bounds of the octree indexing structure. This value is always in native coordinate space, so any scale or offset values will not have been applied. This value is presented in the coordinate system matching the srs value.


An array of 6 numbers of the format [xmin, ymin, zmin, xmax, ymax, zmax] describing the narrowest bounds conforming to the maximal extents of the data. This value is always in native coordinate space, so any scale or offset values will not have been applied. This value is presented in the coordinate system matching the srs value.


A string describing the binary encoding of the tiled point cloud data. See the Point cloud data section. Possible values:

  • laszip: Point cloud files are LASzip compressed, with file extension .laz.

  • binary: Point cloud files are stored as uncompressed binary data in the format matching the schema, with file extension .bin.

  • zstandard: Point cloud files are stored as compressed binary data (using Zstandard compression) in the format matching the schema, with file extension .zst.


A string describing the encoding of the hierarchy information. See the Hierarchy section. The hierarchy itself is always represented as JSON, but this value may indicate a compression method for this JSON. Possible values:

  • json: Hierarchy is stored uncompressed with file extension .json.

  • gzip: Hierarchy is stored as Gzip compressed JSON with file extension .json.gz.


A number indicating the total number of points indexed into this EPT dataset.


An array of objects that represent the indexed dimensions - every dimension has a name, type, and size.

Known dimension names are mapped to PDAL well known dimension list, but arbitrary names may exist in addition to these prescribed dimensions. Sizes are specified in 8-bit bytes, and all dimension attributes must be of integral byte size.

There are 10 prescribed combinations of type and size representing primitive types available to most programming languages.

type size description
signed 1 int8
signed 2 int16
signed 4 int32
signed 8 int64
unsigned 1 uint8
unsigned 2 uint16
unsigned 4 uint32
unsigned 8 uint64
float 4 float32
float 8 float64

Attributes of other application-defined types (e.g. string) are possible as long as their type appropriately specifies their size in bytes.

For a dataType of binary, the schema provides information on the binary contents of each file. However for laszip data, the file should be parsed according to its header, as individual LASzip formats may combine dimension values. For example, for point format IDs 0-4, ReturnNumber, NumberOfReturns, ScanDirectionFlag, and EdgeOfFlightLine dimensions are bit-packed into a single byte.

In addition to the required name, type, and size specifications, attributes may also contain optional scale and/or offset values. These options specify that the absolutely positioned value of a given attribute should be computed as read_value * scale + offset. If scale does not exist then it is implicitly 1.0. If offset does not exist it is implicitly 0.0. This is commonly used to provide a fixed precision to the X, Y, and Z spatial dimensions.


This value represents the span of voxels in each spatial dimension defining the grid size used for the octree. This value must be a power of 2.

For example, a span of 256 means that the root volume of the octree consists of the bounds cube split into a voxelized resolution of 256 * 256 * 256.

For aerial LiDAR data which tends to be much denser in its X and Y ranges than the Z range, for example, this would loosely correspond to a practical resolution of 256 * 256 points per volume.

Because the span is constant throughout an entire EPT dataset, but each subsequent depth bisects the cubic volume of the previous, each increase in depth effectively doubles the resolution in each spatial dimension.


An object describing the spatial reference system for this indexed dataset, or may not exist if a spatial reference could not be determined and was not set manually. In this object there are string keys with string values of the following descriptions:

  • authority: Typically "EPSG" (if present), this value represents the authority for horizontal code as well as the vertical code if one is present.

  • horizontal: Horizontal coordinate system code with respect to the given authority. If present, authority must exist.

  • vertical: Vertical coordinate system code with respect to the given authority. If present, both authority and horizontal must exist.

  • wkt: A WKT specification of the spatial reference, if available.

For a valid srs specification: if one of either authority or horizontal exists, then the other must also exist. If vertical exists, then both authority and horizontal must exist.

The srs specification may be an empty object.


Version string in the form of <major>.<minor>.<patch>.


The point cloud data itself is arranged in a 3D analogous manner to slippy map tiling schemes. The filename scheme Zoom-X-Y is expanded to three dimensions as Depth-X-Y-Z. As opposed to raster tiling schemes where coarser-resolution data is replaced as its sub-tiles are traversed, the point cloud data is instead additive, meaning that full-resolution is obtained by the accumulated traversal from depth 0 to the last depth containing a positive point count for the selected area.

The root volume is always named 0-0-0-0. This volume always represents the volume of the cubic bounds value from ept.json split in each dimension by span. So a bounds with a volume of 256 cubic meters, with a span value of 256, corresponds to a root node with a resolution of up to 1 point per cubic meter.

Each node at depth D may have up to 8 child nodes at depth D + 1 which represent bisected sub-volumes. To zoom in, depth D is incremented by one, and each of X, Y, and Z are doubled and then possibly incremented by one. Coordinates are treated as Cartesian during this bisection, so X -> 2 * X represents the sub-volume where the new maximum X value is the midpoint from its parent, and X -> 2 * X + 1 represents the sub-volume where the new minimum X value is the midpoint from its parent.

In web-mercator, for example, where X increases going eastward and Y increases going northward, a traversal from 0-0-0-0 to 1-1-0-1 represents a traversal to the east/south/down sub-volume.

There is no fixed maximum resolution depth, instead the tiles must be traversed until no more data exists. For look-ahead capability, see ept-hierarchy.

Note that unlike raster tiling schemes, where lower-resolution data is replaced by higher-resolution data during traversal, EPT is an additive scheme rather than a replacement scheme. So data at lower resolution nodes is not duplicated at higher resolution nodes, and full resolution for a given area is found via the aggregation of all the points from the highest resolution leaf node with all overlapping lower resolution nodes.


The hierarchy section contains information about what nodes exist and how many points they contain. The file format is simple JSON object, with string keys of D-X-Y-Z mapping to a point count for the corresponding file. The root file of the hierarchy data exists at ept-hierarchy/0-0-0-0.json. For example:

    "0-0-0-0": 65341,
        "1-0-0-0": 438,
            "2-0-1-0": 322,
        "1-0-0-1": 56209,
            "2-0-1-2": 4332,
            "2-1-1-2": 20300,
            "2-1-1-3": 64020,
                "3-2-3-6": 32004,
                    "4-4-6-12": 1500,
                    "4-5-6-13": 2400,
                "3-3-3-7": 542,
        "1-0-1-0": 30390,
            "2-1-2-0": 2300,
        "1-1-1-1": 2303

Note that this sample is visually arranged hierarchically for clarity, which is not the case in practice. In this example, the root node 0-0-0-0 contains 65341 points. Nodes with zero points are never included in the hierarchy, so the absence of any child key indicates a leaf node (for example 4-4-6-12 above).

Hierarchy nodes must always contain a positive value with the sole exception of the sentinel value -1. This value indicates that the number of points indicator value for this node resides in a subtree in its own file. For example:


    "0-0-0-0": 65341,
        "1-0-0-0": 438,
            "2-0-1-0": 322,
        "1-0-0-1": 56209,
            "2-0-1-2": 4332,
            "2-1-1-2": 20300,
            "2-1-1-3": 64020,
                "3-2-3-6": -1,
                "3-3-3-7": -1,
        "1-0-1-0": 30390,
            "2-1-2-0": 2300,
        "1-1-1-1": 2303


    "3-2-3-6": 32004,
        "4-4-6-12": 1500,
        "4-5-6-13": 2400


    "3-3-3-7": 542


Sparse input data source information is stored in an array at ept-sources/manifest.json. This contains an array of JSON objects representing a metadata summary for each input source. This array may potentially be an empty array if this information is not stored. If an OriginId dimension exists in the schema, then each item’s position in this array maps to its OriginId value in the EPT dataset, starting from 0 at the first position in the array. An sample manifest.json file may look like this:

        "path": "autzen-low.laz",
        "bounds": [635577.0, 848882.0, 406.0, 639004.0, 853538.0, 511.0],
        "inserted": true,
        "points": 6000 ,
        "metadataPath": "autzen-low.json"
        "path": "autzen-high.laz",
        "bounds": [635577.0, 848882.0, 511.0, 639004.0, 853538.0, 616.0],
        "inserted": true,
        "points": 4000,
        "metadataPath": "autzen-high.json"


A source object must contain a bounds which is an array of 6 numbers of the format [xmin, ymin, zmin, xmax, ymax, zmax].


A string value representing an error which occurred during the insertion of this file. For successfully inserted files, this key must be absent.


A flag denoting whether this file has been inserted into the EPT dataset. In general this should always be true for public-facing EPT datasets, and will be false for builds which are only partially complete.


A source object may optionally contain a string URL which points to a file, relative to the ept-sources/ location, which contains more thorough metadata for this source. If present, this URL must end in .json and this file must exist in JSON format. The format of this metadata file is discussed more fully in the Source metadata section, below.


The number of points inserted from this file.

Source metadata

To be lossless and facilitate a full reconstitution of original source data files from an EPT index, the full metadata for each input file may be retained. For each listed source in ept-sources/manifest.json containing a metadataPath, this URL points to a JSON file containing the associated metadata for that source.

This file contains a JSON object which may contain bounds, path, points, schema, and srs keys. These keys have the same meanings and range of values described above, but are expressed here on a per-source basis rather than per-EPT dataset.

In addition to the keys described above, each metadata object can also contain a metadata key, which maps to a JSON object representing arbitrary metadata for this source.

With the ept-sources/list.json file described above, a corresponding ept-sources/autzen-high.json file might look something like:

    "path": "autzen-high.laz",
    "bounds": [635577.0, 848882.0, 511.0, 639004.0, 853538.0, 616.0],
    "points" : 120000,
    "srs" :
        "authority" : "EPSG",
        "horizontal" : "3857",
        "wkt": "PROJCS[\"WGS 84 ... AUTHORITY[\"EPSG\",\"3857\"]]"
    "metadata" : {
        "key": "value",
        "sofware_id": "PDAL",
        "version": 58,
        "something_else": -1
    "schema": [] // Omitted for brevity.