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Change Terrain Reference Scale

Available with 3D Analyst license.


Changes the reference scale associated with a terrain pyramid level.


  • Consider changing a terrain pyramid's reference scale if you experience undesirable draw speed performance or require greater densification of data points in the pyramid's display scale range.

  • It may also be necessary to add or remove a pyramid level when changing the resolution of an existing one, which can be done by using Add Terrain Pyramid or Remove Terrain Pyramid.

  • When used in an SDE database, the input terrain cannot be registered as versioned.


ChangeTerrainReferenceScale_3d (in_terrain, old_refscale, new_refscale)
ParameterExplanationData Type

The terrain dataset to process.

Terrain Layer

The reference scale of an existing pyramid level.


The new reference scale for the pyramid level.


Code sample

ChangeTerrainReferenceScale example 1 (Python window)

The following sample demonstrates the use of this tool in the Python window.

arcpy.env.workspace = 'C:/data'
                                   1000, 2000)
ChangeTerrainReferenceScale example 2 (stand-alone script)

The following sample demonstrates the use of this tool in a stand-alone Python script.

Name: Update Terrain
Description: This script demonstrates how to update a terrain dataset
             with new elevation measurements obtained from Lidar by
             importing LAS files to multipoint features, then appending the
             new points to another multipoint feature that participates in a
             terrain. The terrain's pyramids are modified to optimize its
             draw speed.
# Import system modules
import arcpy

    # Set environment settings
    arcpy.env.workspace = "C:/data"

    # Set Variables
    inTerrain = "sample.gdb/featuredataset/terrain"
    currentPts = "existing_points"
    lasFiles = ['las/NE_Philly.las',
    newPts = 'in_memory/update_pts'
    # Define spatial reference of LAS files using factory code
    # for NAD_1983_StatePlane_Pennsylvania_South
    lasSR = arcpy.SpatialReference(2272)

    arcpy.AddMessage("Converting LAS files to multipoint features...")
    arcpy.ddd.LASToMultipoint(lasFiles, newPts, 1.5, 2, 1,
                              'INTENSITY', lasSR)

    arcpy.AddMessage("Appending LAS points to {0}..."\
    arcpy.AppendTerrainPoints_3d(inTerrain, currentPts, newPts)

    arcpy.AddMessage("Changing terrain pyramid reference scales...")
    arcpy.ddd.ChangeTerrainReferenceScale(inTerrain, 1000, 500)
    arcpy.ddd.ChangeTerrainReferenceScale(inTerrain, 2500, 2000)

    arcpy.AddMessage("Adding terrain pyramid level...")
    arcpy.ddd.AddTerrainPyramidLevel(inTerrain, "", "4 4500")

    arcpy.AddMessage("Changing pyramid resolution bounds for breaklines...")
    arcpy.ChangeTerrainResolutionBounds_3d(inTerrain, "breaklines", 5, 4)

    arcpy.AddMessage("Building terrain...")

    arcpy.AddMessage("Completed updates.")

except arcpy.ExecuteError:
except Exception as err:

Licensing information

  • ArcGIS Desktop Basic: Requires 3D Analyst
  • ArcGIS Desktop Standard: Requires 3D Analyst
  • ArcGIS Desktop Advanced: Requires 3D Analyst

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