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I will need to create a high quality fly-over animation which penetrates the surfaces and reveals subsurface geology. The intended use is for demonstrations, presentations and a company website so it cannot include copyrighted data.

Available Data: I have high resolution satellite & aerial imagery, 20m resolution DEM for the entire area of interest, 10 x 10 km 1m resolution LiDAR data, subsurface geology in 3D DXF and ArcGIS multipatch features; basically all the data I would like to "fly over and through".

Software: I have ArcGIS 10 ArcEdtor with Maplex, 3D and Spatial Analyst, Access to MapInfo Professional (no experience), Google Sketchup Pro, Leapfrog Mining and CorelDraw X5 and Adobe Master Collection CS5 (limited experience) at my disposal.

I've seen some ArcGlobe and Google Earth animations and from what I have seen seems too choppy and the camera moves too fast and turns abruptly.

Here is an example of something I would like to create except that I need to also explore features beneath the surface. I will need some pop-up balloons to indicate points of interest similar to what's in the linked video as well as a compass or an arrow showing approximate north orientation.

I am only looking for suggestions how to create the "guts" of this animation; the actual fly over and into the data with the pop up labels and direction.

I would really appreciate any suggestions on:

  • Recommended workflow for such animations (preferably using the tools I already have)
  • Other software commonly used to create such animations

Please share links to any good examples.

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Here is another animation I like. Anyone knows which software might have been used to create it? –  Jakub Oct 5 '11 at 20:35
    
Here is pretty much exactly what I want to do. Those clouds again. What software was used to make that? It seems all the videos i like have the same look and feel. –  Jakub Oct 6 '11 at 15:23
    
Here is another up and coming SE site you might like –  Chad Cooper Oct 19 '11 at 14:43
    
Excellent, thanks. –  Jakub Oct 19 '11 at 15:44
    
Jakub, once again I'm not surprised to find another excellent question and answer posting of yours that is exactly what I'm looking for. The Silver Valley animation is top notch. I was in Coeur d'Alene mining district in August on a project so extra cool. These posts are over a year old. Would anyone have updated info?? Thank you, Kerry –  Kstoney Jan 10 '13 at 0:59
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3 Answers 3

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Not sure if standard GIS packages are going to give you what you need. You might have to get into 3D animation/visualization packages such as Vue (paid, but not too $$, maybe around $1,000 US) or Blender (open source with HUGE community). I'd love to know what the NPS used to create the flyover you referenced.

I'm currently struggling with getting real world elevation data into Vue, it will only take USGS DEM format. Blender can take a greyscale image and render elevation from it. Here are a couple of screenshots I made of elevation data in Blender, although I haven't played with it much. Here is a very short flyover that someone else did in Blender.

Problem with a lot of these 3D animation/visualization packages, we have discovered, is that they are intended for use in creating fantasy worlds (Vue was used to create a lot of Avatar, for example), not real worlds, so support for real world data just isn't there yet - and we are now having to bridge the two, and it's tough.

As far as workflows, that's what I'm ironing out right now. Good thing is both Blender and Vue can be scripted with Python, so you can automate most everything. I am translating my elevation data to DEM with gdal_translate, then importing it into Vue.

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Vue looks fantastic. Even the blender clips are great but seamless integration with real world data is very important. Vue does list support for SKP, DXF, Collada, USGS DEM.... How well do these files play with Vue? –  Jakub Oct 6 '11 at 14:42
    
@Jakub - I have primarily been working with bringing DEMs into Vue, and it's dicey at best - again the software isn't really designed for the real world. Our 3D specialist has also brought in OBJs, but they can be huge in filesize and be hard to process. I've been looking into Blender more and more as there is so much more out on the web regarding Blender, probably due to the fact that it's FOSS. Check out this and this. –  Chad Cooper Oct 6 '11 at 14:48
    
@Jakub - the learning curve on these modeling packages like Vue and Blender is pretty steep, in my opinion. For starters, the UIs are not your typical Windoze UI, so getting around alone takes getting used to. It's a whole different world. Although when you get a nice render, it's pretty cool. I'm just doing what I need to get by on my part of the project (which is getting data in), then our 3D specialist takes over. –  Chad Cooper Oct 6 '11 at 14:52
    
Thanks @Chad. I know what you mean by not a typical Win UI. I've used some pretty crazy rendering packages with sketchup models it takes a lot of effort to figure out where things are. The Blender UI seems a little like that. Anyhow. Thanks for your help, this is the direction i was looking for. ArcGlobe and Sketchup will not provide the quality I want altough i might end up a combination of software then put the movie together in post processing. I will take a closer look at Blender too. Have you tried 3Dem before? –  Jakub Oct 6 '11 at 15:03
    
@Jakub - 3DEM works great, but it's not supported anymore, and you can't use it programmatically, so for my purposes ultimately it's won't work. –  Chad Cooper Oct 6 '11 at 15:05
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I have created a couple of ArcGlobe videos in the past (~4yrs ago) that look to have about the same video quality as the NPS video you referenced. The key that I was told (and found to be true) was to:

  1. use keyframes to allow the software to create the appropriate transition between locations,

  2. capture the video at 4x - 8x times SLOWER than you want to present the video at so you can capture the higher resolution data you want to present, and

  3. import the ArcGlobe video into a video editing software and SPEED UP the originally exported ArcGlobe video.

This will retain the quality and visual speed that you want them to see in you video. For example, one 5 minute video (final cut) that I created took almost 30 minutes to record (in ArcGlobe) in order for me to get the quality I was after. Then I just sped up the whole thing to make it fit my 5 minute limit.

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Thanks. very good advice. Do you have any of the videos you created available online? I would love to see them. –  Jakub Oct 4 '11 at 23:41
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Does anyone know if ArcGlobe can display clouds like in the NPS video? That's a nice touch –  Stephen Lead Oct 5 '11 at 4:19
    
@StephenLead - agreed. –  Jakub Oct 5 '11 at 13:00
    
Jakub, unfortunately the videos that I created were for a clients internal use only and therefore are not distributable. @Stephen, that's a good question about clouds that I don't have any input or suggestions for. –  RyanDalton Oct 5 '11 at 14:35
    
@Jakub and Ryan, I've posted it as a separate question here –  Stephen Lead Oct 5 '11 at 22:28
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Natural Scene Designer is an excellent tool for fly throughs. It's affordable too. However, I'm not certain about flying underground. Although, if you have sketup pro you should be able to create something.

This methodology used to work with the free version of sketchup, but doesn't anymore, it should work with the pro version. To get your terrain data into your sketchup project I would use a DXF 3D face file, but change the grid size to something larger so that it is manageable (I used 250x250 meters). You can drape aerial imagery using one of these methods here or here. Then you should be able to add your geology using similar techniques.

Hope that gets you started.

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Thanks. I've seen that software around when I did a lot of work in Sketchup. Good point about the DXF 3D face files. As for the geology, that's actually the easier part. Leapfrog is absolutely fantastic and it has animation functionality so I might make that part of the animation there then transition it in post processing. I am just slightly uncertain about Sketchup rendering capabilities. I've rendered animations there overnight and it kept dropping frames. i wonder how it would perform with giant files and draped imagery. I will try it. –  Jakub Oct 4 '11 at 23:58
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