Surface Level of Detail in Civil 3D

It has become common to work with surfaces in Civil 3D that are created from large datasets that contain tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands or even millions of points.  Even with the latest hardware, performance can become an issue when attempting to display these large datasets.  Civil 3D 2012 introduced a new feature called “Surface Level of Detail” to help with the display of these large surfaces.

Surface Level of Detail is easy to use, you simply turn it on or off on the View tab of the Ribbon.


This feature only affects the display of surfaces; it does not impact other objects.  It also does not affect the accuracy or the data in the surface.  When turned on it only changes the display of the surface to show less detail.  For example, if you are using a surface style that displays triangles, as you zoom out the level of detail is decreased and a smaller number of larger triangles are shown.



Surface borders, user-defined contours, and watersheds are not affected by the level of detail. However, all other surface components, including contours are affected.  Plotting is not affected by the level of detail setting.

You can still edit the surface; however the edits require that you are zoomed in enough to display the “real” level of detail.  If you need to zoom in to edit the surface a red tooltip will be displayed during the surface editing commands.


Level of Detail is an easy to use command that can really improve your performance when working with large, complex surfaces.  So next time you are working with a large surface turn it on and see how you like it.  It may become your latest “can’t live without it” tool.

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