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Configure a scene for 3D editing

On the View tab, in the View group, the Convert drop-down menu Convert includes commands to create 3D scenes. Scenes allow you to tilt your 2D map and edit data in three dimensions using a vertical axis.

The vertical datum to which the zero-elevation surface references height values is defined by the ground elevation surface. You cannot remove the ground surface, but you can customize its elevation sources.

You can also add your own custom elevation surfaces and use them to derive other z-values for features or for specific analyses.

The following sections introduce a basic workflow you can use to configure a scene for creating and modifying 3D content. For detailed steps to use a specific tool, browse the table of contents or search the help using a keyword or phrase.

For steps to create multipatch features, see Create multipatch features.

Convert a map to a scene

Converting a map to a scene creates a new 3D scene and copies the layers from the active 2D map to the scene. You can switch the active scene between a local and a global scene at any time.

To learn more, see Scenes.

  1. Open the map you want to convert to a scene.
  2. On the View tab, in the View group, click the Convert drop-down menu Convert and choose one of the following:
    • To Global Scene To Global Scene—Create a globally projected 3D scene intended for the large-scale display of real-world content when the curvature of the earth is a necessary component.
    • To Local Scene To Local Scene—Create a locally projected 3D scene intended for workflows that require accurate local measurements for distance, direction, scale, or area.
  3. To change the active scene to a different viewing mode, repeat step 2.
Tip:

You can also perform these operations in the Catalog pane by right-clicking the map and using the context menu.

Scene viewing modes

The basic operational differences between local and global scenes are outlined in the following table.

Local scene 3D Scene ViewGlobal scene 3D Global View

Display your 3D content using a local perspective and scale with a geographic coordinate system (GCS) or a projected coordinate system (PCS).

Display your 3D content using a global perspective and scale with a geographic coordinate system (GCS).

Change the clipping extent of your data.

You cannot change the clipping extent of your data.

Perform below-surface analysis.

Not intended for below-surface analysis.

Configure basic illumination settings and visual effects.

Configure enhanced illumination settings and visual effects.

3D scene viewing modes

Link the map and scene

Linking 2D maps and 3D scenes synchronizes the relative centers of their respective extents as you pan or zoom in the active view. This enables you to visually track your edits from different points of view as you make changes to the data.

To learn more, see Introduction to linked views.

  1. On the scene view tab at the top of the scene, right-click and click Float.

    The scene undocks and floats over the map, allowing you to see both the map and scene views.

  2. On the View tab, in the Link group, click the Link Views drop-down arrow and choose one of the following:
    • Link Center Link Center
    • Link Center and Scale Link Center and Scale
  3. Using the pointer, pan and zoom in the scene.

    All map and scene views update synchronously and display the same relative center of your extents.

Add an elevation source to the ground surface

The default elevation source for the ground surface is a cached elevation image service. If you are not connected to the Internet, you can add a local elevation source to the ground elevation surface. An elevation source can be a TIN, an image surface, or a raster dataset.

To learn more about elevation surfaces, see Elevation surfaces.

  1. On the Map tab, in the Layer group, click the Add Data drop-down menu Browse and click Elevation Source Add Elevation Source.

    The Add Elevation Source dialog box appears.

  2. Click the file location you want to search; for example, click All Portal All Portal.
  3. In the search box, type the surface name or part of the name; for example, type terrain3D, and press Enter.
  4. Click the elevation source and click OK.

    The dialog box closes and the elevation surface is added to the scene.

Add a custom elevation surface

Elevation surfaces can provide z-values when you create or modify 3D content. You can create as many custom elevation surfaces containing as many elevation sources as your work requires. You add, remove, and configure them in the Contents pane.

Elevation sources define the height and unit of measure across a surface. In areas where the elevation source values overlap, the value from the elevation source listed first, or highest in the list, is used to define the surface.

Caution:

When you edit z-aware features in linked map and scene views that are side by side, use the same elevation source for both views.

  1. On the View tab, in the Windows group, click Contents Contents.

    The Contents pane appears.

  2. Expand the Elevation Surfaces group layer.
  3. Right-click the Elevation Surfaces group layer and use the following commands:
    • Paste Paste—Pastes an elevation surface from the clipboard.
    • Add Elevation Surface Add—Adds a custom elevation surface to the group layer. To rename it, press F2. To add an elevation source to it, right-click the surface and use the context menu.
  4. Right-click an elevation surface and use the following commands:
    • Copy Copy—Copies the elevation surface to the clipboard.
    • Paste Paste—Pastes an elevation source from the clipboard to the surface.
    • Add Elevation Source Add Elevation Source—Opens the Add Elevation Source dialog box.
    • Remove—Removes the elevation surface from the scene.
  5. Right-click an elevation source and use the following commands:
    • Properties Properties—Opens the properties dialog box where you can rename the elevation source layer or change its vertical units.
    • Copy Copy—Copies the elevation source to the clipboard.
    • Remove Remove—Removes the elevation source from the surface.

Add a vertical coordinate system

Vertical coordinate systems define the unit of measure and the origin of zero for z-values when you create or modify 3D content.

To learn more about vertical systems, see Vertical coordinate systems.

  1. On the View tab, in the Windows group, click Contents Contents.

    The Contents pane appears.

  2. Right-click the scene and click Properties Properties.

    The Map Properties dialog box appears.

  3. On the dialog box, on the Coordinate Systems tab, click the Current Z coordinate system box.

    A list of the available z-coordinate systems appear in a list.

  4. Expand Vertical coordinate system and choose a coordinate system.
  5. Click OK.

    The vertical coordinate system is added to the scene, and the dialog box closes.

Organize your 3D content

Scenes organize 2D and 3D data into group layers. You can drag a layer between the 2D and 3D group layers at any time and change how features display in 3D space. You can drape 2D features onto a surface, or display them in 3D space in relation to an elevation surface, extrude them, or apply 3D symbols.

In some cases, display conflicts can occur between 3D features. To learn about displaying features in front of or behind other features, see Set depth priority for a 3D layer.

  1. On the View tab, in the Windows group, click Contents Contents.

    The Contents pane appears.

  2. Drag a layer to one of the following group layers:
    • 2D Layers—Layers drape onto the ground surface by default.
    • 3D Layers—Layers can be configured to display features at a specified height in relation to an elevation surface. Features can be extruded and displayed using 3D symbology.

2D and 3D group layers

The basic functional differences between 2D and 3D layers and how you can configure them to display features in 3D space are outlined in the following table.

2D layers3D layers

On the ground elevation surface

Relative to the ground or a custom elevation surface

On a custom elevation surface

On a custom elevation surface

At an absolute height

At an offset from an elevation surface

2D and 3D layer height options

Configure how z-values are obtained

Layer elevation properties determine how features are drawn in 3D space. Depending on the feature type, you can derive z-values directly from a surface, relative to a surface, or at an absolute height from z-values stored with the feature geometry.

To learn more about base heights, see Define height characteristics for layers.

  1. In the Contents pane, right-click the layer, and click Properties Properties.
  2. On the Elevation tab, click the Features are arrow and select one of the following:
    • On the ground Elevation Ground—Z-values are obtained from the ground elevation surface. Examples include any features that are placed on the ground such as light poles, trees, and cars.
    • Relative to the ground Elevation Relative To Ground—Z-values can be obtained from the feature geometry, an attribute field, or an expression. The height of features are displayed in relation to the ground elevation surface. Examples include features that are placed at a known height above or below the ground such as security cameras, well base points, or subway stations.
    • At an absolute height Elevation Absolute Height—Z-values can be obtained from the feature geometry, an attribute field, or an expression. You can also specify a vertical exaggeration value to visually distinguish the features from other features in your scene. Examples include features that are placed at a specific height regardless of the ground elevation surface such as airplanes, earthquake epicenters, or satellites.
    • On custom elevation surface Elevation On Custom—Z-values are obtained from a custom elevation surface. Examples include features that are placed on an elevation surface other than the ground such as well site intersections on a subsurface geologic plane, site pollution levels, or ozone readings.
    • Relative to custom elevation surface Elevation Relative Custom—Z-values can be obtained from the feature geometry, an attribute field, or an expression. The height of features are displayed in relation to the custom elevation surface.
  3. Click OK.

    Your settings are saved and the dialog box closes.