Exploratory analysis tools

Using exploratory analysis in 3D, you can investigate your data by interactively creating graphics and editing analysis parameters in real time. The interactive tools help you create analytical objects by clicking in the scene or using input source layers. You can manipulate analysis parameters and receive real-time visual feedback in the scene.

There are five exploratory analysis tools:

  • The Line of Sight tool creates sight lines to determine if one or more targets are visible from a given observer location.
  • The View Dome tool determines the parts of a sphere that are visible from an observer located at the center.
  • The Viewshed tool determines the visible surface area from a given observer location through a defined viewing angle.
  • The Slice tool visually cuts through the view's display to reveal hidden content.
  • The Cut and Fill tool provides volume calculations while visually demonstrating the surface area where the ground will be filled or removed.

The first three analysis tools determine the visible sight lines, field of view, or spherical visibility coverage. The Slice tool temporarily removes displayed content using clipping planes as volumes. The Cut and Fill tool calculates volumetric displacement using a planar surface. In all cases, the results are temporary and must be saved as feature classes if you want to reload the interactive objects again.

Each tool uses a different method to achieve visibility analysis and has customizable creation methods and parameter values. The analysis feedback in the view is color-coded to distinguish what is obstructed, unobstructed, and out of range.

The 3D exploratory analysis tools operate on the terrain and data layers currently visible in a scene view. The accuracy of their calculations is based on the 3D objects and their level of detail. The level of detail can vary based on the scene's camera position and your graphics hardware specifications.

For 2D analysis, or for high-precision needs, the following analogous geoprocessing tools are recommended:

Specific solutions also exist to answer visibility questions by using files created with ArcGIS Solutions for Visibility Assessment.

Access the 3D exploratory tools

In a scene, on the Analysis tab, in the Workflows group, click the Exploratory 3D Analysis drop-down menu and click a tool. Any customized template you save is added to the gallery list. See the Update and manage analysis objects section below to learn more about templates.

Once you select a tool, review and set creation properties in the Exploratory Analysis pane. The tool is active to begin adding analysis objects in the view. Any selected analysis object can be updated in the view using interactive handles or using the Properties tab in the Exploratory Analysis pane.

Creation methods and tips

One of the main differences between the interactive 3D exploratory tools and other visibility tools is that you click in the view to create graphics, and manually make updates in real time. Each tool offers many creation methods specific to the tool, such as the following:

  • Click to place observers and targets.
  • Choose to orient placement interactively instead of using defined values.
  • Use the current camera location as the observer and only click to add targets.
  • Provide line layers to use for creating targets at set intervals.
  • Choose a 3D object to set the extent of a slicing plane.
  • Trace a building footprint to determine the volume of ground that will need to be filled in or hauled away.
  • Use a layer file to generate the analysis from. These can be converted exploratory analysis points from a previous pass.

Keyboard shortcuts can be used with your exploratory analysis workflow to navigate the viewing perspective and update observer and target positions.

You can use snapping to help you place analysis objects in the view, for example, on the corner of a building.

Update and manage analysis objects

Selection is an important part of updating an analysis object. You can use the Exploratory Analysis pane's Property tab to browse through analysis objects and select one or all. Alternatively, drag the edit handles that appear over a selected object to reposition or resize.

Since all analysis results are temporary, you can save templates to keep a tool with the current settings. Or, if you work with a design regularly, you can convert your observer points, sight lines, or volumetric shapes to feature classes to reuse or share with others.

Resource budget

The exploratory analysis tools consume part of your computer's display capabilities when they render in a scene. To avoid overwhelming the scene's ability to draw, there is a limit to the number and complexity of concurrent analysis objects that you can create. When this limit is reached, a notification appears in the upper corner of the application. You must clear one or more existing analysis objects before you can add more. On the Analysis tab, in the Workflows group, click the Exploratory 3D Analysis drop-down menu and click Clear All Clear All to clear all analysis objects.

Common workflows

There are many scenarios for analyzing visibility in 3D space. For example, you may be interested in where security camera coverage is lacking or duplicated. Perhaps you want to know the outward impact of an incident from a central source location. Follow the common workflows to get started using these tools and discover your own use cases.

Share as an image or PDF file or print

The exploratory analysis graphics for the Viewshed, Line of Sight, View Dome, and Slice tools are captured when sharing a scene as an image or PDF file, or when printing.

On the Share tab, in the Export group, click Map Export to export to any number of image file types or to PDF.

Optionally, on the same tab, in the Print group, click Map Print to print the map with the exploratory analysis graphics included.

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