What is a scene layer?

A scene layer is a type of layer that is optimized for displaying large amounts of 3D data in a scene. A scene layer displays the following data types: 3D object ,building, integrated mesh, point, point cloud , or a voxel layer. The scene layer complies with the Indexed 3D Scene layer (I3S) format. The I3S format is an open 3D content delivery format used to disseminate 3D GIS data to mobile, web, and desktop clients.

Visualizing your information in 3D makes it easier to intuitively understand and experience geographic information in a realistic way. Even audiences unfamiliar with GIS can understand complex and detailed data by viewing it in a 3D scene on the web. Being able to capture the three-dimensional nature of objects in the real world allows you to analyze, measure, and query information with more precision. For example, you can analyze the development impact on a community or the impact of flooding.

Scene layer typeExample

3D Object

Visualize 3D objects such as exterior shells of buildings or objects that are explicitly modeled in three dimensions.

Textured buildings
A textured buildings from Montreal.


3D building models derived from building information models (BIM) from REVIT or IFC data. Used to visualize complex buildings and disciplines.

Building scene layer
A building scene layer example.

Integrated mesh

Textured continuous mesh capturing reality in a photogrammetric or sensor-based process. Visualize large areas with buildings, vegetation, and ground information.

Integrated mesh example
An integrated mesh of the City of Melbourne. Captured by Aerometrix.


Visualize large amounts of point features. Point allows you to draw millions of points symbolized by 3D symbols, such as all trees of a county.

Point scene layer example
Point scene layer of realistic trees: Urban Tree Forest Melbourne.
Point cloud

Provides fast display of large volumes of symbolized and filtered point cloud data.

Point cloud scene layer example
A point cloud scene layer example.


Represents multidimensional volumetric 3D or 4D data. Visualize and explore atmospheric or oceanic data, geological underground models, or space-time cubes of voxels.

Voxel scene layer example
Water temperatures in the Atlantic ocean.

You can use scene layers in many different scenarios, from 3D basemaps to modeling urban areas by visualizing buildings, trees, or bridges. The amount of detail in a scene layer depends on your needs. For example, a building can be represented as a 3D object scene layer showing the outer shell of a building or as a building scene layer including all assets within the building, such as furniture or light fixtures.

Scene layers are used by many ArcGIS applications, such as Scene Viewer, ArcGIS Earth, and ArcGIS Pro. When shared to ArcGIS Enterprise or ArcGIS Online, a scene layer becomes a web scene layer. Scene layers are cached to improve drawing performance. The cache contains different levels of detail (LODs); which LOD is used depends on the distance at which the data is viewed. This means that when you zoom out and increase the distance to your features, the complexity of the 3D data decreases.

Below are common capabilities you can use with each type of scene layer.

Scene Layer Capabilities

Work with web scene layers

You can share scene layers to ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise. Depending on how the scene layer is created, different capabilities are available for the different scene layer types.

Web scene layers from .slpk or .i3sREST

Scene layers can be persisted in different delivery content depending on your visualization and deployment needs. A scene layer package (.slpk) contains the scene layer cache that can be published as a web scene layer as a single file. In addition, you can create .i3sREST files for ready-to-serve content for ArcGIS Enterprise.

Web scene layers created from a scene layer package are shared from ArcGIS Pro by selecting the option to cache locally when configuring the web scene layer. For more information on sharing web scene layers, see Share a web scene layer. If you already have a scene layer package, use the Share Package tool to share and publish the web scene layer. If you do not have scene layer content, you can create scene layer content with one of the following tools:

Web scene layers with associated feature layers

Feature-based scene layers such as 3D object, building, or point scene layers can retain the connection to the feature layer from which the scene layer was created. For example, if all your building information is persisted in a multipatch feature class in your enterprise geodatabase, you can share by reference. The scene layer, together with the associated feature, builds a unit, allowing you to maintain the scene layer by editing the geometry and attributes. Web scene layers that have an associated feature layer provide dynamic statistical information that you can use for symbology or definition queries. When you access the attribute table of the scene layer, the table from the associated feature layer will be displayed.

The following table lists the ways to create and share a web scene layer:

SourceShare asPublished layer

Scene layer package

Web scene

Share package tool

Web scene layer

Point layer, 3D object feature layer, multipatch layer, building layer

Web layer or web scene layer with feature option checked

Web scene layer with associated feature layer

Point layer, 3D object feature layer, multipatch layer, building layer

Web layer or web scene layer with feature option unchecked

Web scene layer

Related topics