Category: 3D GIS

Editing in 3D

The standard editing environment is now available inside both ArcGlobe and ArcScene, allowing for the creation and maintenance of z-aware GIS features. You are able to:

  • start editing, stop editing, save edits, use Undo and Redo functions, and do other standard edit management tasks in 3D. The classic Snapping environment is also supported as are precision-creation options such as parallel, perpendicular, deflection, absolute XYZ.
  • create and delete individual features. This includes the creation and storage of vertical lines in the geodatabase.
  • move, rotate, scale and replace feature geometry (higher level geometry edits to features). This includes the ability to place 3D models (e.g.: COLLADA files) directly into the 3D view as new multipatch features, and then move/scale/rotate them on the landscape.

There are also additional tools for creating and maintaining Terrain datasets (particularly when working with LIDAR data sources) and editing TIN datasets (TIN editing toolbar in ArcMap).

Benefits of editing in 3D

Editing in 3D allows a city planner to drop in a new building, position it to exactly the correct location and instantly see the impact on the city environment.

Before view       
                 Before                   Placement of proposed building                   After

Geoscientist can interactively edit stratigraphic layers to get rid data anomalies and add local knowledge such as fault lines to the model.

Create subsurface horizons                           Manage subsurface well points

Facilities managers can create and maintain 3D transportation networks directly in 3D.

Easily add an extra transportation “floor”         Add a vertical line to the network (elevator)

Civil engineers can effectively manage billions of LIDAR points as multipoints and create a scalable terrain (using the terrain dataset). Also new profile tools and the ability to edit TINs allow for greater quality control of surfaces.

          Scalable terrain                 Lidar point profile tool                 TIN editing

Gert van Maren
3D Product Manager

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What is 3D Analyst at 10?

3D Analyst 10 makes ArcGIS a complete system for 3D GIS.

That is a big statement so let me explain. Not only can you view your geospatial data in 3D Analyst, at 10 you can edit your data in 3D and analyze your data in 3D. Now that is pretty huge. Most companies focus on 3D visualization of geospatial data and some are very good at it. However you can only look at your data on a globe for so long. After awhile, the WOW factor starts wearing off and you’ll want to edit and analyze your data in 3D. This is what makes 3D Analyst different from 3D viewers.

So what does that mean: Edit in 3D and 3D Analysis?
We have enabled the standard ArcGIS editing environment inside both ArcGlobe and ArcScene. You can create and delete individual features, move, rotate, scale and replace feature geometry. This includes the ability to place 3D models (e.g.: COLLADA files) directly into the 3D view as new multipatch features, and then move / scale / rotate them on the landscape. All the standard editing options – Undo, Redo, Edit Templates, etc – are supported, as is the classic Snapping environment.

We’ve also made huge improvements in the analysis of 3D vector features. We have added 3D boolean operators such as Intersect 3D, Union 3D and Inside 3D to be used with closed multipatches, new GP tools that expose 3D vector analysis specifically for virtual city workflows, such as Skyline and Skyline Barrier and enhanced existing GP tools to work better with 3D – ‘Select by Location’ dialog uses 3D distances, multipatch objects can participate in the Line of Sight tool.

Edit in 3D                 Maximum building height Analysis

Click here for a video of editing in 3D.                           Click here for a video of 3D Analysis.

Note: please download the .WMV file for optimal video quality.

So what does this all mean?
It means that 3DAnalyst 10 is a big leap forward for the handling of 3D GIS data. Not only can you view huge volumes of your data in 3D, you can edit your data in 3D, analyze it in 3D and easily share it with your colleagues or the public.

That sounds great but what can you actually do with it?
I’ll get into that in more detail next time.

Gert van Maren
3D Product Manager


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Lakers vs. Nuggets – A tale of two 3D Sketchup stadiums

So the Lakers beat the Nuggets to advance to the finals, and we decided to take a look at both sports venues in 3D to show how you can use Sketchup to add 3D buildings to your maps.

First we went to the Google 3D Sketchup Warehouse where we can find lots of Sketchup models, many published as KML/Z files which can be used directly in Explorer. Sketchup models have long been supported in ArcGIS Desktop in ArcGlobe, part of the 3D Analyst extension. Google acquired the company on March 14, 2006.

We went to the NBA Arenas collection at the 3D Warehouse


and located the Staples Center and Pepsi Center models, home of the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets respectively. Note that there’s a link to “View in Google Earth” (highlighted in yellow below with a red arrow) but obviously we can view these in Explorer too.

If you’ve let the file association for KML and KMZ be registered to ArcGIS Explorer all you have to do is click the link and the KML/Z will open in Explorer. If the KML/Z file association is registered to Google Earth instead of Explorer you’ll see the following dialog when Explorer first starts which lets you choose which application should open the files.

A similar dialog will display from Google Earth if you’ve set the KML and KMZ file association to Explorer.

You can also right-click the link and save the KML/Z file locally using Save Target As…

And then choose File > Open and click KML to browse for the file.

 Here’s the Pepsi Center in Explorer:

And here’s the Staples Center. Note that the model author has added additional information about the arena which can be viewed by clicking the model.

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Authoring and Publishing Your Own 3D Buildings for Explorer

We’ve recently had a couple of questions regarding how to author and publish your own 3D buildings that you can use in Explorer. It’s simple to do –  author your map using ArcGIS Desktop, publish/serve it using ArcGIS Server, and then connect to the service to begin using it in Explorer. Here’s how it’s done:

Step 1: Author your map

Since what we want to author is a 3D service, we’ll choose ArcGlobe as our authoring environment. ArcGlobe is part of the ArcGIS Desktop 3D Analyst product. Here we’ve started ArcGlobe, and have added our shapefile of building footprints, which in this case covers downtown Boston. We’ve zoomed in to those buildings, and removed the Continents and World Image layers (which are part of the ArcGlobe startup data) since we won’t need them.

Next, we’ll change how the buildings are symbolized. One of the buildings layer attributes is elevation. A handy technique to come up with some interesting visualization effects is to shade the buildings using the elevation attribute and using graduated colors. You can experiment with various color ramps and schemes. The more subtle light-to-dark single color ramps are perhaps more realistic, but here we’ve chosen a wilder color scheme for added drama.

Since we want to publish a 3D service, next we’ll click the Globe Extrusion tab in the layer properties and extrude the buildings, using the elevation field again as the extrusion values.

We’re now finished authoring, and will save our map which we have called “Boston Downtown.3dd.”

Step 2: Publish your map

The next step will be to publish our newly authored map using ArcGIS Server. Your exact procedure for doing this may differ (due to firewall configurations or whether you have to work with other departments – like your IT group – to publish something) but in the simplest case you’re literally just a mouse click away from publishing a 3D service.

Here we’ve started ArcCatalog directly from ArcGlobe, and navigated to our previously saved ArcGlobe map (Boston Downtown.3dd). To publish this map we simply right-click it and chose Publish to ArcGIS Server.


A wizard will allow you to specify the server, the name of the service, and it’s folder. Here’s we’ve just accepted our defaults. After this step, click Next to review your results, and we’re finished.


Step 3: Connect

We’ve now completed both the authoring and publishing, all we need to do now is connect to the server and add the service to our Explorer map. Here we’ve started Explorer, and zoomed in to the Boston area using the Place Finder task. Next we choose Open, then Servers, and enter the URL to connect to the server that is now publishing our new Boston Downtown 3D buildings.

And here’s how things look in ArcGIS Explorer. 

We’ve taken the simplest path to authoring and publishing a service, but as you can see it’s easy to do and took less than 10 minutes. You may want to refine your map service by adding scale dependencies or other layers during the authoring process, or by generating Server cache at specific scales. Refer to the ArcGIS Server documentation for more information on these topics.

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