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Visualizing 3D Data in ArcGIS 10

Article ID : Software : Platform Date : : TT100040 ArcGIS Desktop 10, 3D Analyst Extension Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 1 September, 2011
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Introduction With ArcGIS 10, it brings GIS into the era of 3D GIS. In ArcGIS 10, there are lots of enhancements for 3D visualization and 3D data visualization. In this issue of Smartips, we will visualize different type of GIS data in 3D.

Raster Dataset Raster dataset can be used for representing different spatial information. Elevation data is one of the common types that represented in raster format and displayed in 3D. You can further visualize other raster dataset such as aerial photos and satellite images according to the height information from elevation data. To visualize a raster dataset in 3D, you can follow the steps below by using elevation as an example: 1) Prepare the raster dataset The raster dataset can be generated from contour lines or spot heights by Create TIN tool (Fig.1) and then converted into raster by TIN to Raster tool (Fig. 2). They can be both found in 3D Analyst Toolbox.

Fig.1

Fig. 2

2) Set base height for raster dataset You can display your raster dataset in 3D with base height option in ArcScene or ArcGlobe. Add the raster dataset that you have made in above to either ArcScene or ArcGlobe. The base height setting can be accessed in layer properties by right clicking the selected raster layer as in Fig.3.

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Fig 3

Fig. 4

In the layer properties, go to Base Heights tab as in Fig.4. Check the option Floating on a custom surface and make sure that the custom surface is the raster dataset you are working on. After clicking OK, the raster layer will be displayed in 3D based on the height information as following. You can use the same techniques to set the base heights for other raster datasets.

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Vector Feature Class All vector feature classes also can be visualized in 3D by using ArcScene. Building polygon should be one of the most common types of vector data used in 3D GIS applications. To visualize building polygon in 3D, you can follow the steps below:

1) Make building footprint polygon on elevation surface Similar to making an elevation surface to 3D, you have to add the building polygon to ArcScene or ArcGlobe. Then right click to open the layer properties of the building layer as Fig.3 in above. Check the option Floating on a custom surface as Fig. 4. After clicking OK, you will found the building polygons are stretched on top of the elevation surface according to elevation base height.

2) Extrude the building polygons The step in above gives the base height to building polygon; however, it doesnt define the height of the building. To make the building polygons into 3D, it required the steps of extrusion. To extrude the building polygons into specific height, do the following steps: Right click building layer > properties of the building polygons layer Choose Extrusion tab (Fig. 5) Check the option Extrude features in layer.. and type an value to extrude all features into same height or defining an attribute field which is storing height information of individual building. Finally, it is required to choose the extrusion rule. If your building height data is an absolute value which measured from sea level, you should choose the option using it as a value that features are extruded to otherwise, you can choose the other options. Now, you can see all building polygons are displayed in 3D.

Fig. 5

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3) Converted into Multipatch If you want to use the extruded building for analysis, you have to convert them into Geodatabase multipatch format. Multipatch is a geometry type which ArcGIS used to store 3D objects. For most 3D analysis in ArcGIS 10 are only works on Multipatch data. Use Layer 3D to Feature Class tool (Fig. 6) to convert the extruded buildings into multipatch feature class. Now the building footprint is in 3D and you can perform analysis on it.

Fig. 6

The issue of smartips gives a brief introduction for 3D GIS. To explore more about 3D GIS, you can visit 3D GIS Resources Center on ArcGIS Resources Center at http://resources.arcgis.com/content/3dgis/10.0/about.

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