I need to make a few ~75 frame time-lapse animations where each frame is a map of site status in a given week. Each week's statuses are a different field in a single shapefile. I export a frame of each week to jpg files and put them together in a video editor. I've done this manually when there were fewer frames, but now it's taking too long to make each frame individually. I'm using ArcGIS 10.2.

Is there a way to automate the creation and export of these time series maps? I need to do the following many times:

  • Set the display symbology for one field at a time, one field for each week (e.g. cell value of 0 = blue symbol, 1 = red symbol, 2 = no symbol)
  • Export the map to a jpg, with the file name for that image corresponding to which week is displayed (e.g. 2013-01.jpg, 2013-02.jpg).
  • Preferably be able to adjust this to add more weeks on the end for when the shapefile gets updated every few months with new data
  • 1
    I would suggest looking into arcpy to automate this task. There are many tutorials...it'll be a bit confusing at first but well worth the effort. Commented Sep 29, 2014 at 21:05

1 Answer 1


If you want to use time data with the time-related tools in ArcGIS like the Time Slider and animation tools, you need to store your time values differently. Creating one feature per site and adding a new field for each week's data at that site won't work. Instead, you will need to create one new feature for each site for every week.

So you will have one feature for Site 1, Week 1, another feature (with the same geometry as the first if you like) for Site 1, Week 2, etc. for each week during which you have data for Site 1. You will then need to store all time values in either:

  1. One field, which would represent an instant in time.
  2. Two fields, a start time and an end time during which the feature exists.

I'd guess you'd want to use the second option, then you could make the first day of your week the Start time, and the last day the End time. Then when you use the time slider, any features which span the current time on the time slider will be displayed.

When it comes to exporting the individual weeks to JPEGs, you could use Data Driven Pages to automate the generation of each site/week map, and use a Page Definition Query to limit each map to only show the particular week you're interested in.

  • Thanks, I'll look into the time slider tools. I'd hoped to avoid creating so many individual layers, but if it comes down to it I guess I'll have to.
    – Mon Mo
    Commented Sep 30, 2014 at 18:14

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