I was really interested to notice that my city appears to have gotten the 3D Buildings treatment on Google Earth. I am trying to figure out how I might these 3D buildings to generate 'skylines' for a given street.

Speaking more abstractly, I think what I want is to generate/export a projection of an arbitrary subset (let's say: 150 > n > 1) of these 3D buildings onto an arbitrary 2D plane of my choosing. More specifically to the goal at hand, one of that 2D plane's dimensions would run normal to the earth's surface, from the surface to some arbitrary height, and the other dimension would run for some arbitrary length of street. (I guess I'll assume for the moment that the street is effectively straight.)

More practically speaking, I envision being able to (in the Google Earth app) place a near clipping plane (i.e. take out all the buildings/terrain/etc between the camera and this plane) and a far clipping plane (i.e. take out all the buildings/terrain/etc behind that plane to infinity), then position the camera and export what the camera sees (again, ideally in a variety of ways, like a standard raster of what I see in Google Earth, or an orthographic wireframe projection, or an orthographic hidden-line projection, or... etc.)

I see that it's possible to download single models, but it seems like it'd be a long haul to get from that to the desired goal, assuming for the moment I even knew what tool I'd use to do the clipping planes/camera/export once I got the models all downloaded. Anyone have any ideas on how I might go about this?

1 Answer 1


I think you would need to use Sketch Up, which allows you to place the virtual camera anywhere in the scene, as well as import data from Google Earth. It's been a while since I used Sketch Up, so I'm not sure if you'd have to import the buildings individually, or whether you can specify an area.

The terrain data might be a problem because of licensing. IIRC, when you import terrain it's not at the highest resolution, and there may be restrictions on the size you can import. That said, you could download the SRTM dataset for your area and (somehow) import that into Sketch Up, then use a source of free aerial photography such as Landsat to drape over the terrain. Not the highest resolution data in the world, but should be sufficient for distant hills and so on.

  • I agree, it looks like SketchUp could be used for this purpose, assuming there was a decent batch import scenario. I've not been able to ascertain whether that's possible though. Also if it were just about exporting the models one at a time and importing them into SketchUp, that would be doable, but the relative positioning of the models is obviously the thing that makes or breaks this, and for me, that's still an open question.
    – ipmcc
    Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 13:55
  • Sketch Up is designed to model buildings for GE, so I'd be very surprised if it didn't automatically place them in the scene in the right place. Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 15:25

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