How to Publish Scene Layers in ArcGIS Online

In ArcGIS Online there are different types of scene layers that are supported in the scene viewer, 3D Templates, 3D Web AppBuilder apps and the 4.x JS API. In this latest release of ArcGIS Online we added the ability to publish scene layers from feature layers with point or multipatch geometries. This feature is beta at this release but it can still be a new useful feature to help you create some very interesting and exciting web scenes.
What are Point and 3D Object Scene Layers?
Before I go into the new beta feature of publishing of scene layers in ArcGIS Online, I want to quickly go over the scene layers that you will be publishing from feature layers.
A Point scene layers is composed of points in a scene layer. Using point scene layers allows you to add a large number of points into the web scene.  The thing you will notice about point scene layers is the auto-thinning on the features within the scene layer. This means when you zoom away from the layer you will see a fewer points and as you zoom in closer more features will zoom in. This is done to improve the performance of the scene layer you are visualizing. You can also leverage the new smart mapping feature in the scene viewer on point scene layers.

3D Objects are features that are configured to represent 3D models like buildings. These features can be textured or un-textured. The features do not always have to be building models, for instance if you have a multipatch feature for a geologic body that can be published as a scene layer. This type of scene layer currently does not have smart mapping support but you can apply simple color & transparency on the layer.

Publishing Scene Layers from Feature Layers (Beta)
In the Dec 2016 release of ArcGIS Online we added in the ability to publish scene layers from feature layers. This means you can take feature layers that contain layers that are only point or only multipatch geometry and publish a scene layer from them. The output will be a point scene layer from the feature layer containing only points or 3D Object scene layer from the feature layer containing only multipatch features. You will create the feature layers by uploading a zipped gdb or publishing a feature layer from ArcMap or ArcGIS Pro. The main thing you will need to remember is to not mix the geometries in the feature layers. They need to be either all point geometries or all multipatch geometries. Trial and Developer accounts are currently limited to only publishing point scene layers. If you upload a mutlipatch dataset it will be simplified to a polygon feature layer which is currently not supported in scene layers.

The steps to do this are as follow. You can use this sample data of some multipatch features representing buildings in New York City to try it out yourself.
1)      Publish a feature layer with Point or Multipatch data.

2)      On the item details for the feature layer click on the publish button and click on the Scene Layer (Beta) option to begin publishing the scene layer.

4)      In the publishing dialog you have the option to display this scene layer in a global scene or a local scene. For this scene layer I am going to select it to display in a global scene: 4326 (WGS84) because I want to use my organizations basemaps which are supported in global scenes. If I wanted to use this in a local scene I would have selected the local scene option with the projected coordinate system of NAD 1983 StatePlane New York Long Island (wkid: 102718).

5)      The scene layer is now being published which is shown by the “Building Cache” notification on the item.

Once completed you can then add it to the scene viewer through the item details or in the scene viewer itself by searching for it under My Content.

Publishing times can vary depending on many factors like the number of fields and attribute information in those fields, the number of layers within the feature layer and how the features were symbolized with textures or not. Some examples on times you can expect to see -21,000 multipatch features with no textures generated from building footprints with only one attribute took roughly 5 minutes to build the scene layer cache. A smaller feature layer of  3,500 points took 1 minute and 30 seconds with 7 fields. Also Depending on the traffic/load on the system publishing times can be impacted.

Scene Layers and Coordinate Systems
In the publishing steps covered above I briefly covered the coordinate system options you have when publishing scene layers from a feature layer. When publishing these scene layers you will have the option WGS84 which is supported in global scenes or you can leverage the feature layers projected coordinate system. Because other geographic coordinate systems outside of WGS84 are not supported in the scene viewer today, data that is in a non-WGS84 geographic coordinate system will be automatically published to WGS84. The reason why the coordinate system can matter when you are publishing this data is because it is cached which means in clients that are light weight like the scene viewer or other web applications cannot re-project the scene layers to the web scenes current coordinate system. This is the same restriction you will see on other cached datasets like tile layers and elevation layers. However if your data is in Web Mercator however this can be used in both global and local scenes with other Web Mercator cached layers. By default scene layers in Web Mercator will load in global scenes but you can open a new local scene and add the scene layer through the scene viewer Add Layers.
Why would you want to publish these scene layers from feature layers?
There are a few reasons why you may want to publish your scene layers. Here are a few reasons why you may want to publish a scene layer from your feature layer:

  • The feature layer you are loading has more than 2000 features. Currently in the scene viewer there is a limit on the number of features contained within a feature layer that can be loaded into the scene viewer. If you have a feature layer that contains more than 2000 features you will want to publish a scene layer which can handle millions of features.
  • You want to view the multipatch features. The scene viewer does not support viewing multipatch feature layers so you will need to view these features as scene layers.
  • Configurable popups. Currently in the scene viewer there is not an option to configure popups for layers. When you publish the scene layer from the feature layer this creates a relationship where the popups can be pulled from the feature layer from which the scene layer was published from. This means you can configure the popup for the feature layer at any time after the publishing of the scene layer and the scene layer will pull the latest popup configuration.

What other ways can you Create Scene Layers in ArcGIS Online
Besides being able to create scene layers from feature layers, you can also create scene layers from scene layer packages. The scene layer packages are uploaded to ArcGIS Online and then published to generate the scene layer. This workflow mirrors that to uploading a tile package or vector tile package and publishing tile layers and vector tile layers. These packages are generated by a few of our other products and I am going to quickly go over them. Note that these workflows are not in beta so credits will be consumed with these scene layers.
ArcGIS Pro
In ArcGIS Pro you can create scene layer package by using the GP tool – Create Scene Layer Package. In ArcGIS Pro 1.3 this currently supports creating scene layer packages with multipatch data. The output will be a scene layer package with data in WGS84 which means the output scene layers will only support global scenes. In the coming release of ArcGIS Pro 1.4 you will be able to create scene layer packages with point, multipatch and LAS data. This will then allow you to create Point, 3D Object and Point Cloud scene layers. Also the scene layer package tool will support different coordinate systems allowing you to create scene layers outside of WGS84. For larger scene layer packages you will need to use the Share Package tool to be able to upload them to ArcGIS Online instead of through the browser using Add Item.
Since the release CityEngine 2016.0 you could create scene layer packages from the multipatch data in your CityEngine scene. These packages support different coordinate systems and you can upload them to ArcGIS Online through Add Item > My Computer or use ArcGIS Pro’s Share Package tool. An additional note on CityEngine exports. You can also export out your data into a file geodatabase. You can zip that geodatabase and upload it to ArcGIS Online and then publish it as a feature layer which can then generate a scene layer from the feature layer.
With drone to map you are able to create scene layer packages that can be used to publish integrated mesh scene layers. These scene layers are generated from a number of overlapping photos. The output can capture man-made structures like buildings but can also be useful for capturing terrain or natural features like trees, hills or cliffs.
Let me know in the comments below if you have any questions.


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  1. micahshane says:

    quick questions…
    “Note that these workflows are not in beta so credits will be consumed with these scene layers.”
    regarding scene layer packages from CityEngine…If i upload my scene layer package to my content does it use credits at that point?…or does it only use credits when I use that scene in an application and share it?

    Is there any way to get pop-ups to work on features in scene layer packages?

    Also…if I export from CE to a geodatabase, zip it, and upload it to arcgis…does that use credits or does that count as beta as well since it is a feature layer (multipatch i assume) ?

    • Russell Roberts says:

      If you publish a scene layer from a scene layer package you are charged 1.2 credits per 1GB per month rate for the scene layer package & for the scene layer created from the scene layer package. There are no usage costs for these items.

      the popups on scene layer from city engine will be the default attribute set. Note 2016.0 does not include attributes in scene layer packages, 2016.1 added that support. The scene viewer currently does not have the option to customize the popup.

      the feature layer will not be considered beta, so there is a credit charge for the feature layer but the resulting scene layer will be beta and have no charge. For the popups there you can customize them in the visualization tab of the feature layer item or the map viewer and just be sure the save the popup back to the layer.

  2. tjallie says:

    Hi there,
    I was wondering if you could point me in the right direction? I can create a 3D model of seismic epicenters in ArcScene 10.5 on my desktop. I would like to share these results via my ArcGis Online account. After looking through many help pages and chats I am still unable to mimic it using a 3D local scene layer on 3D viewer of ArcGIS Online. It seems that most of the 3D functionality is in ArcGIS Pro but alas, I do not have access to it.
    Best regards

    • Russell Roberts says:

      So if you have an ArcGIS Online organizational account you can take your seismic epicenters and upload them to AGOL by zipping them up as a file geodatabase and when you upload it to AGOL this will create a feature layer from your data. Then You will go to the scene viewer, create a New Local scene and add your data into that scene. After that you can clip the extent of the scene if you want to be just around the area where your data exists and you can navigate below ground to see all the earthquake activity. This blog I wrote a while back could help you out and mirrors a similar example to what you are trying to do.

      • tjallie says:

        Thanks for quick reply, I tried what you are describing with shapefiles but that did not work. Will try the FilegeoDB route now.

        • Russell Roberts says:

          You will need to have an account with a publisher role (ability to publish feature layer) and then go to My Content > Add Item >From My Computer and then you will pick the zipped file and make sure you check the option to publish the feature layer.

  3. turfimageinc says:

    Can you add lines such as trails to a scene from a layer package in “My Content” like you can in the maps? Thank you ~ John Schweisinger

    • Russell Roberts says:

      So lines are currently not a supported geometry in scene layers or scene layer packages but they are supported in feature layers or map image layers. For example you can publish the the trails as a feature layer from a zipped shapefile, zipped gdb or published from ArcMap or Pro, then you can add the trails directly into the scene viewer.

      • mprpd says:

        I have been able to add the trails to my content.. but I cannot find the Trails Layer when trying to add to the scene.. I only have 3 options.. esri featured content, content enter url… But I cannot find the trails layer even with a search using the tags.

        • Russell Roberts says:

          Is your layer a feature collection (Map Notes, Shapefile or CSV)? The Scene Viewer does not support that layer type which could be the reason why it is not showing up under your content view in the scene viewer. Can you publish that layer as a hosted feature layer and it will show up.

          • mprpd says:

            Is there a way to add the layer to ArcGIS online and use in Scene Viewer? Or is it required to be a hosted feature layer on a different ArcGIS Server?

          • Russell Roberts says:

            It can be a hosted feature layer published to ArcGIS Online or it can be a feature layer coming from your on-premise ArcGIS Server.

          • mprpd says:

            I have added the layer to my content.. However, It does not give the option for “Publish” only share.. Am I missing something? Im not sure but under “Create” I have App, Map, Scene > Where do I publish?

          • Russell Roberts says:

            Do you have an organizational account or and developers account that supports the publishing of hosted layers? You will not see the publish option on the My Content page. You will see it either when you upload the content where you set the tilte, tags etc. or when you are on the item detail page for the item.

          • mprpd says:

            I am not sure… I believe I have an organizational account. i will find out. Thank you very much for your help.

  4. Carma Satchwell says:

    Hi Russell

    Thanks for this post. I am currently helping a customer through this workflow.
    I have tried this on 3 different ArcGIS Online accounts using the same data, and only on 1 subscription am I successful.

    The workflow being:
    1 – Add Item and upload zipped FGDB containing Building Objects (do not auto publish)
    2 – Publish the FGDB as Feature Layer from Item Details page
    3 – Publish this Feature Layer from Item Details page, as Scene layer (beta)
    4 – Select Local Scene
    5 – Wait….until cached
    6 – Open in Scene Viewer.

    When successful, a local scene opens with the data. This occurs on 1 of the organization subscriptions I have access to.
    When it’s not successful, a global scene opens and the error of not having the first note appears. Which I should only see if caching is not complete, which it is. This occurs on 2 of the organization subscriptions I have access to.

    What would be the difference in subscriptions? Do we put this down to the fact that the experience is not yet consistent in this Beta release?

    Many thanks
    Carma Satchwell – Esri Switzerland

    • Russell Roberts says:

      Subscriptions that do not support publishing multipatch feature layers which will impact the publishing of 3D object scene layers are: Developer and Trial accounts. If you upload a multipatch feature layer with these accounts it will be downgraded to a polygon feature layer and you will not be shown the option to publish it as a feature layer. Make sure the publisher role being used has support for publishing scene layers. All other organizational subscriptions should support publishing these features.

      Currently if you leave the page showing the scene layer is being built on, the jobID is lost and that can show the caching as being completed but in actual fact it is being built still. This is something we want to address before it leaves beta.

      • Carma Satchwell says:

        Thanks Russell
        All are full accounts and we wait until the caching is finished until navigating away from the page. I have learnt this from previous experience.

  5. yodyrap says:

    Hi There. I attempted to publish a multipatch file (actually using the esri NYC building sample) to AGOL using the scene layer package and share GP in ArcGIS Pro 1.4.1 and did not get the different publishing options when i unpacked the layer package I was told that “Multipatch Feature Services are Not Supported”. I then uploaded a zipped FGDB and was able to publish the multipatch layer, however now all the buildings are the same color. How can i maintain my multipatch rendering that I had in ArcGIS pro in the scene layer?

    • Russell Roberts says:

      You can try a couple workflows. In Pro switch to a map view and apply the renderer to the multipatch and share the web map. Then do the Feature Layer to Scene Layer publishing. Or you can you try bringing the MP into ArcMap, apply the styling there and publish the feature layer from ArcMap. Then use the publish option on the feature layer in ArcGIS Online to publish the scene layer.

  6. vertexgeo says:

    Looking for a little insight,
    Attempting to publish a scene layer from hosted feature layer using 15,500 points. Published on Friday May 19, 2017. It is now Monday May 22, 2017. Still getting the “Layer Name” cannot be added, Scene service is missing root node error. I have successfully published a handful of point scene layers with 20 – 30,000 points in the past month using the same workflow. Tried rebuilding cache and compared settings with other layers that do not throw errors. Is there a recommended workflow or settings to consider when encountering this error?

    • Russell Roberts says:

      Can you share your dataset with me and I can see if there is an issue with the data(service definition, feature layer etc.) during the cooking process. I checked publishing other scene services and that is working for me. You can create a group and invite russell_jsapi into it and I can check it out.


      • vertexgeo says:

        Thank you. Tried again from scratch and still getting same error. Invite to group sent.

        • Russell Roberts says:

          Got the invite, can repro the failure to create cache. Is this dataset using a different projection compared to other datasets you have used in the past?

        • Russell Roberts says:

          So I looked into the issue. The issue is due to the feature layer is using a custom projection and does not have a WKID and the scene layer cannot be cached which is a current limitation but I have brought it up to the team and hope to support this in a future update. You can reproject the data to WGS84 (Global Scene) or a Projected Coordinated System (Local Scene) with a WKID the scene layer will be able to be published.