Posts Tagged 'gdalinfo'

Some tips on HDF5 files

In general, my users ask me to export HDF formatted images into something directly usable with GIS desktop software (Geotiff, Erdas Imagine, etc.)

The problem with HDF is that it is not an image format but a data container format: it’s very general, can contain any type of object (variables, arrays, images…). The best way to handle this format is to write some lines of code to browse the file internal table storing the meta information.

From the command line, you can use gdalinfo to get some meta-information. The meta information can be more or less complex depending on what was stored in the HDF file.
Let’s consider an HDF5 file, which metainformation would be

Driver: HDF5/Hierarchical Data Format Release 5
Size is 512, 512
Coordinate System is `'
SUBDATASET_0_DESC=[1511x701] //FVC (8-bit integer)
SUBDATASET_1_DESC=[1511x701] //FVC_QF (8-bit character)
SUBDATASET_2_DESC=[1511x701] //FVC_err (8-bit integer)
Corner Coordinates:
Upper Left ( 0.0, 0.0)
Lower Left ( 0.0, 512.0)
Upper Right ( 512.0, 0.0)
Lower Right ( 512.0, 512.0)
Center ( 256.0, 256.0)

In HDF you can store different types of data in the same file, the Size information for the file is not meaningful in this case (here it is written that Size is 512, 512, which is wrong since the actual size of the images is given on the lines with the SUBADATASET_0_DESC.

The image size given in the header is not meaninful: the images are 1511×701 lines, as indicated in the line SUBDATASET_0_DESC and not 512×512 in the header. The same SUBADATASET_0_DESC line gives you the file type.

The example above is about an HDF5 image, but FWTools can also handle HDF4 images.

Now, to export the image to something easier to handle, you must give the dataset name to gdal_translate, not the hdf5 file name:

gdal_translate -of gtiff HDF5:"HDF5_LSASAF_MSG_FVC_SAme_200806100000"://FVC fvc.tif

to export the data set named FVC into a single image.


What format is this file?

Have you ever wondered what is really the file format of an image? Or what are the 4 corners coordinates, or the projection? You can get the answer in a single command line. Say we want to know more about an image name africa.img. Actually the file extension,.img can not be considered as a trustful indication of the real format inside the image, since you can change it as you like. Extensions are only a file naming convention and have nothing to do with the data really written in the file (and the format is much more HOW is written the data).

The command gdalinfo accepts several parameters, to know them simply type:


and you get a list of optional parameters (which can change in future versions), the only mandatory parameter being the filename (datasetname):

Usage: gdalinfo [--help-general] [-mm] [-stats] [-nogcp] [-nomd]
[-mdd domain]* datasetname

To get accurate information on the command line, have a look on

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May 2018
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