I think I've had it. I've been struggling to create polished scenes and flyover animations using the ESRI tools. SketchUp is great but it does not handle large datasets and most 3rd party models (3D DXF, COLLADA) do not retain spatial reference when imported into SketchUp.

I've been able to build fairly large scenes in SketchUp in the past after I prepared my GIS data in ArcGIS 9.x and then used the Sketchup Plugin to export my features. Adding new features was very easy simply export them to SketchUp then copy the model from a new SketchUp project and paste into place in my primary model. This is no longer possible in ArcGIS 10 and the "Collada" method; files exported from ArcGIS are centered at 0,0,0 when opened in SketchUp. The existing "ESRI" workflow seems to be designed only around improving the 3D characteristics of simple extruded multipatch features in SketchUp but the ArcGIS --> SketchUp workflow via the legacy Google plugin has been obliterated.

I am not looking for a freeware but rather a solid, polished software that is capable of producing large 3D scenes from GIS data. My budget is up to $8,000 or less.

What are alternatives are there? I have fairly large datasets; Usually LiDAR surface and my scenes need to be very large and detailed so this software needs to handle large datasets and also need to be able to retain spatial reference in files imported from 3D DXF, Collada, etc.


Geoweb3D looks pretty impressive, probably one worth checking out.

Beyond that I would just look at standard 3D modeling packages like 3ds Max and using FME to get data in and out in the right formats.

  • That does look good. I will try that. – Jakub Sisak GeoGraphics Oct 28 '11 at 20:19
  • I've spent some time taking a closer look at Geoweb3D and it really looks fantastic. Like the ESRI integration too. I keep meaning to ask you about FME. Are you a user? What is the cost? I am thinking i could use that as well as the Geoweb3D but I will download the trial before I make a decision. – Jakub Sisak GeoGraphics Oct 29 '11 at 2:02
  • Yeah I am just a user, I'm actually not sure how much it costs, but like many other packages there is an annual maintenance fee if you want the latest and greatest version (worth it in this case IMO since they are adding new formats, transformers, APIs, etc. all the time). – blah238 Oct 29 '11 at 2:14

Have you checked out CityEngine?

  • I've seen the demo but it looks like it's focused on building city blocks, etc. There is a free trial so i will take a closer look. I think this is a recent acquisition by ESRI so hopefully they are finally taking a serious look at 3D. – Jakub Sisak GeoGraphics Oct 29 '11 at 1:20
  • 1
    @Jakub How did CityEngine seem? – jwx Apr 25 '13 at 1:00

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