Making 3D Maps
Using ArcScene 10

Today, I consider this as a milestone at work and in GIS practice because I was finally able to construct my first set of 3D maps.

The Original Problem: Produce a map of population values at barangay level of Metro Manila and 4 adjacant provinces. Use bar chart rendered in 3D to show the values.

Using my ever trustworthy ArcGIS 10, here was my original bar chart map for the barangay level of NCR and its four adjacent provinces:


As you can see, it’s not so pretty, right? I mean, some of the population values are so small and you can hardly see the distinctions among the boundaries. And then it looks cluttered and flat. And DULL.

I was using ArcGIS 10’s ArcMap 10 when I first handled this particular map request from my client. The bar charts are already in 3D but definitely, we know that it will look much better if we tilt the basemap a little vertically so that we can see the bars going upwards.

I did realize that 3D mapping is not entirely possible in ArcMap at its fullest functionality. There’s 3D Analyst toolbar but then the most I can do was simply to rotate the map from the top view using the checkbox located in the Properties section of the layer being rotated. It was still top view.

The next thing I did was purely exploratory. For the record, I had a client waiting for my output this evening and even though I was pressed for time, I tried my best to find the right set of commands to execute the required map.

Google helped a lot since I was also checking out websites like Stack Exchange and ArcGIS Resource Center.

I closed the ArcMap program then I used ArcScene 10 for the remainder of this exercise. I just reloaded the layers I used in ArcMap in this new map at ArcScene. It helped that the interface was the same but the gear of ArcScene is to create 3D maps instead of the usual 2D ones.

Using the ArcToolbox for Feature to 3D Attribute, I succeeded in converting my original 2-dimensional layer basemap into a 3D one.

But it still did not have the effect that I wanted for my client.

Here’s the top view after my feature to 3D attribute geoprocessing tool at ArcScene 10:

Screenshot (51)

When I tilted the view to reflect the side or profile view, I was aghast to find that the elevation values looked like snowflakes and was therefore unusable. I needed it to have tall and solid stacks, but instead it looked like this in reflecting the values of the population as Z-value:

Screenshot (52)


Fortunately, I had the urge to check out the properties of my layer and then I went to the Extrusion tab.

Extrusion tab turns points into lines, lines into polygons, and polygons into solid blocks. The polygon to solid block feature was precisely what I needed to have a solid stack at my disposal so I tinkered there and placed the appropriate expression:

Screenshot (53)


At first, I was unable to get the elevations right so it looked messed up in 3D wedges like this:

Screenshot (50)


Eventually, I managed to find the right combination of parameters in the Extrusion tab that allowed me to produce the 3D map that looked seamless:



I also experimented on using a different color and a different perspective and here is the other snap shot of what I came up with.


My client was finally happy. I am also happy because I am quite new to the practice and I never really imagined that today will be the day of learning how to make 3D maps. 🙂

I guess there is so much more to learn in the field of GIS. I am also in the recent process of learning more about Web GIS and I plan to write about that too in the coming days. GIS is a very nice area to explore; there are so many things that can be done with it and it keeps on growing dynamically. 🙂

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