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Thread: Anyone Worked With GIS Software?

  1. #1
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    Anyone Worked With GIS Software?

    I'm trying to figure out if GIS software can do what I need it to do before spending the next several weeks learning it. For anyone who has worked with it, is it the kind of software for 3D virtual cities?

    I've downloaded QGIS and a lot of different databases. The software is not very intuitive and even the tutorial PDFs and videos aren't a lot of help because all the ones I've found are from an earlier version, which is different than the one I have.

    What I'm hoping to find is a file that has 3D buildings, something like what aerial lidar might create.
    “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness..." - Mark Twain

    Diapers and Politicians need to be changed often... Usually for the same reason.

  2. #2
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    I last worked with GIS software ten plus years ago. I used it to understand where people lived and how you could reduce traffic demand. The software I used would be equivelant to Tableau today. Good visualization tools and statistical modeling, but not 3D building modeling. I can’t advise on current software. PM me if needed.
    Shawn

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  3. #3
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    Thank you, Shawn. That may explain why what I've seen so far using the software hasn't yielded what I hoped it would. The bid specs I was given mentioned ERSI ArcGIS software. I went on the ESRI website and found this image, which was exactly what I was hoping to be able to do.

    I have recreated something like this in AutoCAD but when I import it into the 3D walkthru software it's flat.

    In this video they seem to have a 3D map of the city in which they are working.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_c...&v=vshq2KV2GjI

    The group who contacted me about making a 3D walkthru isn't expecting everything outlined in the bid specs, just a reasonable simulation of properties around the city to make a presentation at an upcoming city summit. I have landscape software that can create a 3D walkthru but it's very labor intensive. I spent two days laying out the roads in a small parcel of downtown and recreating two existing buildings, just a tiny fraction of the total acreage. I have only three months to do this.

    Maybe ArcGIS can do what I need but the open source and free QGIS can't. But I've seen them compared favorably, as if they are on the same playing field.

    I'm going to see if I can find a QGIS forum to join. Maybe I can get answers there. And I'm meeting with them this afternoon so maybe someone there can help. It looks like pretty cool software but I'm having trouble getting started. But it was that way with AutoCAD at first but once the door was open, I picked it up pretty quickly. Fingers crossed.
    “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness..." - Mark Twain

    Diapers and Politicians need to be changed often... Usually for the same reason.

  4. #4
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    Julie, I used GIS for agriculture, which is not what you are doing, however... Where is the elevation of the building data coming from? On the programs I used, you'd have needed to add a layer with that data to get away from a blank flat.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Rozmiarek View Post
    Julie, I used GIS for agriculture, which is not what you are doing, however... Where is the elevation of the building data coming from? On the programs I used, you'd have needed to add a layer with that data to get away from a blank flat.
    That's one of the areas I'm trying to learn, Steve - layers. I create layers but can't seem to define them like I've seen in videos.

    I have downloaded lots of data for the area, including one for the city. But I cen't seem to get that data into the project. I know there's something I have to do to make that happen but can't figure out what it is.
    “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness..." - Mark Twain

    Diapers and Politicians need to be changed often... Usually for the same reason.

  6. #6
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    Julie, when you bring data in, you need to tell the software what it is, it's usually not automatically done. You'll have to assign "attributes" to the dataset, basically telling the GIS software what the raw numbers it just imported are. There is probably a description file associated with the data to import that tells you what each database column is. You'll need to tell that to the GIS. It's sometimes partially automatic, the GIS only needs to know what kind of data it is, ie elevations.

  7. #7
    Julie, I studied GIS at University and have been working with it for 10+ years. I have manly used ArcGIS but have played with the various release of QGIS in the past. If you were making a 2D map, the two programs are comparable for what you can make. QGIS is an open source collaborative program which is why it is free. Programmers have figured out how to code the core functions of ArcGIS and other GIS programs and share them with the public. For more advanced functions like 3D mapping, I would not consider QGIS comparable to ArcGIS. While QGIS has released a 3D component, my understanding is that it is buggy and not terribly user friendly.

    It looks like from your posts that your end product will be made with some sort of 3D Walk-through software. I would look at what type of data that program can import. If it cannot read what QGIS can produce you can save your time.
    Secondly you need to look at your data. If you were able to get polygon shapes for all of your town buildings online, you may need to add a height attribute and add how tall each building is. This height is what tells the program (GIS or walk-through) that your shape is 3D. If your AutoCAD data did not have this height info, or if the other program could not read the height info it would come in flat.

    I would also be cautious of data you get online. A lot of the data available free or cheap online is only for personal use. Some may be ok for commercial use but if you are being paid for this work and do not get the correct licencing for the data, you can be on the hook for a big penalty.

  8. #8
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    Thank you Steve and Ryan. The pieces are slowly falling into place. I was able to load in shapefiles from the county and get a more detailed map of the area but there are no 3D buildings, just outlines. When I met with the group who wants the work done, I learned the bid specs were created by the city but the city doesn't have the manpower resources to do what they laid out in the specs. So this volunteer group took up the project and invited me in because of something I presented to the city last year.

    We were able to focus in on what they expect and can afford. I'll be working for peanuts but I don't mind donating some of my time. I just don't want to get shackled to the computer for the next three months with only a hardy hand clasp and a pat on the back waiting for me.

    I'll be meeting with the city in the next day or two. They have ArcGIS and City Engine so maybe I can get a DFX file from them and run with that.

    What the volunteer group is trying to do is enlighten the citizens about what could happen if the city doesn't change the Land Development Regulations. So they want me to create some videos that will help the citizens understand. Building out to max LDR specs is easy. It's recreating the existing that takes time. Thus my hopes I can find something that has already done some of that work. Fingers crossed the city can create that DFX file for me.

    Thanks again for the help! This quest has sparked an interest in me so I may go ahead and try to learn the software even if it doesn't do what I need now.
    “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness..." - Mark Twain

    Diapers and Politicians need to be changed often... Usually for the same reason.

  9. #9
    Julie Moriarty,

    I'm not sure of the resolution or accuracy necessary, but with a bit of cross referencing with Google Earth, it's possible to make 3D site images and animated walk-through quite easily in Sketchup.

    This is a ten-minute treatment of a portion of Punta Gorda, FL.:

    Punta Gorda FL_TST_10.2.18.jpg

    In Sketchup, you add Geo-Location by selecting the region, then "grab" it and it appears in the new SKP drawing. As I chose a one mile square area, the resolution is poor, but it's possible to piece higher resolution images together that are quite detailed. Everything is to scale and it's possible to trace off the streets, add trees, cars, and people to be rendered in the integrated VRay. The site portions include the contours. Then, the buildings are done by tracing the footprint and extruding them. It's possible to do quite good approximations of buildings by going to Google Earth street view of the area and approximating the shapes and sizes. Use layers /colors to note different buildings or zones.

    Walk-throughs are possible by choosing the walk-through tool- it looks like a pair of footprints and then set and eye level and angle of view, create a a path, and then record the path view.

    I've done quite complex 3D models using this technique. As SKP is so intuitive, I've never looked at a manual, but look up techniques as needed. This is a several month treatment of a portion of Pasadena, CA:

    JPL_Z_1.27.15_ALL_SW to NE_4.26.15.jpg

    JPL_Z_R_ CITSoD_Bridge_Studio_S to N_6.21.15.jpg

    J_Studio Whole Bridge_NW to SE 2_ M Lo_sm_6.18.16..jpg

    It was a job to make the 360 degree background, but besides the 23 buildings, that model demonstrate the feasibility of the grading and new streets, can apply the shadows that would appear in that location for any time of day or day of the year and time and can generate renderings and walk-throughs that can be viewed from any angle.

    I think the full ArcGIS software is $7,000 or so - 10X+ Sketchup.

    If you give me a center point address of the subject site and the approximate dimensions of the area under consideration, I could make a bit better demonstration of the capabilities.

    Alan Caro
    Last edited by Alan Caro; 10-02-2018 at 8:00 PM.

  10. #10
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    Wow! I had no idea SketchUp can do that. I love what you did! Very cool.

    I have the free program but since I own a full version of AutoCAD, I've never seen the need to own a full version of SketchUp. Can you create 3D walkthrus with the full version?
    “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness..." - Mark Twain

    Diapers and Politicians need to be changed often... Usually for the same reason.

  11. #11
    Julie Moriarty,

    I use AutoCad as well, when accurate 2D- the plan, sections, elevations, and details are necessary, whereas the 3D model is much easier in SKP. Many architects use Revit to create a 3D model that can then generate 2D - and that is so as to lead to BIM, but as SKP can import and export to .dxf and .dwg including in 3D, it's possible to do the construction documents in ACAD and the 3D model for presentation purposes in SKP. Here is a drawing done in SKP as exported to AutoCad:

    C_STBL_Main Building_Level 2_ 2 _ACAD 2014_SW TST_8.17.16..jpg

    This is the Sketchup version of the drawing that was exported to ACAD:

    C_STBL_Level 2_Part L1_TST_2.19.17.jpg

    SKP is so easy to use in 3D, the models from which the Pasadena images were taken was entirely designed and drawn on screen- there were no preliminary sketches or drawings.

    Yes, the pro version of SKP has the easy to use the walk-through feature. As it's done by setting the eye height, when the path goes up a slope or up steps, the view will follow the elevation change. I designed a 50-seat, tiered home theatre for a large house in Malibu and the walk though showed the camera moving in elevation for each step in the theatre. The path can stop and the camera can view can be rotated or tilted.

    If the model is complex with a lot of textures, a walk-through animated and fully rendered, the rendering time can be extremely long even with a fast computer. VRay which is the typical choice for SKP rendering is CPU based, but has a GPU acceleration. However a block diagram in the manner of the NZ ARCgis example is reasonably fast. I'm looking into changing to Lumion, which is very good GPU-based rendering, but it's quite expensive.

    With a block diagram, it might be more impressive at a presentation to have the model active and projected and run the walk though in real-time and then zoom back and forth to aerial views. Someone at the meeting could ask to see if a particular building will block the view from their house and that could be shown - that kind of thing.

    I have a love-hate relationship with SKP as it can be done very casually and then it all falls apart when it's refined or there are problems. I have a very complex building- it's 1,100' long on five levels with a full height interior atrium, and everything is curved. I spent four hours today disassembling something and correcting a tiny mis-alignment that had caused all the stairways to be off.

    There is a free trial of the pro version https://www.sketchup.com/products/sketchup-pro and it's well worth giving it a test drive. I learned 90% of the techniques I use simply by trying each control and seeing what it did.

    It's possible by copy and paste to create quite large areas of buildings in a reasonable time. I did a study for an 84 house subdivision in Sketchup that was intended to demonstrate an alternative to conventional production housing- reduced front setback, garages not facing the street, and this was very useful in being to generate quick (non-rendered) 2D images. A 2D image- this will be a screen shot may be exported with a couple of clicks:

    CSBL_Alcatraz__Whole_NW to SE_Low_5.14.18..jpg

    I always follow your guitar projects, but what is your usual work?

    Alan Caro
    Last edited by Alan Caro; 10-03-2018 at 7:04 AM.

  12. #12
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    Thank you, Alan. The more I learn about what GIS software can do and compare that to the software I'm using for the walkthrus, the more it seems the group would prefer the results of the software I have now. It's designed for landscaping but you can build fairly detailed buildings, too. But they want to see a landscaped environment. This software creates that easily. I could never build what they have in AutoCAD or SketchUp.

    The software accepts SKP files too, so anything they don't have in their inventory I can make in SketchUP, or search the 3D warehouse for something, and import it into the landscape software. A little over a year ago I used that software to create a 3D walkthru for a vacant piece of city land to show one possibility of what could be done with it. I was able to present it at a City Council meeting. That's how I got the call on this project.

    The rendering you mentioned reminded me of trying to create walkthrus in AutoCAD. Lengthy rendering times and frequent crashes made me realize AutoCAD probably isn't the best software for this application. One of the last jobs I worked on before retiring was a $500M data center. I was pulled out of the field as one of three electricians to help make the project run smoothly and as sort of a liaison between the suits and hardhats. That's where I learned AutoCAD and sealed myself into a position for the duration of the project.

    For the second phase of the project, I had to create 3D files of exactly where we intended to install our switchgear, transformers, panels and large conduit to be run through Navis Works. All of our computers were basic desktops running on 32 bit. I had four CAD people working for me and crashes were killing us. I managed to convince the boss we needed real CAD computers. He bought two. Crashes dropped but still happened. As part of the 3D effort, I coordinated with the mechanical contractor on the project. They too had frequent crashes. After I told him how much better it was with our new computers, he got his boss to buy two for them, but they went 64 bit and what a difference it made! Maybe rendering on a 64 bit computer would go better but that's not in the cards.

    What you presented here gave me some ideas on how to better present this to the crowd. Thank you! This will be a work in progress throughout but it's interesting. I've always gravitated toward design and that resulted in the occasional being plucked from the field to do things most electricians never get to do.
    “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness..." - Mark Twain

    Diapers and Politicians need to be changed often... Usually for the same reason.

  13. #13
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    PS: How long did it take you to create those projects? Just curious...
    “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness..." - Mark Twain

    Diapers and Politicians need to be changed often... Usually for the same reason.

  14. #14
    Julie Moriarty,

    Yes, I can see how an ARCgis-generated presentation is certainly desirable when accuracy is necessary. However, my sense of that kind of presentation is more in the line of the aesthetic effect than the precision of it.

    The transition from 2D to 3D CAD ten years ago caught a lot professionals off guard, both in learning it and the hardware requirements. ACAD 2D was always well-written so as to run on moderate systems, but 3D and renderings changed the requirements. ARCgis takes a lot of pure compute power, but fortunately that is partially done on the GPU. Having a fast computer is certainly necessary as 3D CAD constantly pushes the limits. CAD is single threaded- it uses one processor core to compute the position of the lines that make the 3D polygons, so the clock speed of the system needs to be as high as possible. I run a liquid cooled 8-core Xeon at 4.3Ghz on all cores and it's not fast enough. Quite a few 3D CAD systems are running i7-8700K's at 4.8-5GHz+. There has to be a lot of memory fro rendering- this system has 64GB after my 32GB system ran out during rendering, the GPU needs to be powerful to move all the textures and surfaces- millions of polygons with attributes, and the disk has to be fast- there's a PCIe M.2 SSD with a 512GB SATA SSD as a cache buffer- and so on. A rendering system though may need to have as many cores as possible as CPU rendering is in general noticeably higher quality.

    There are three programs I've long wanted to learn: Solidworks, ARCgis, and Wolfram Mathematica, but each of those needs years of experience to achieve fluency.

    Project times: The big curved building and the buildings set up against the mountains were each probably about five-six months full-time work, the subdivision idea was done continuously in about two weeks. It's very fast to simply design and draw on the screen.

    It's interesting but not a complete surprise that work as an electrician would lead to more general design. It's engineering- loads and connections and the placement is a 3D design. I've always thought that framers had to have the most amazing 3D visualization as they had to be able to make and fit pieces that create complex forms that are also structural.

    As I've been watching your various guitar builds, I'm reminded of a fellow I met years ago in Del Mar, CA. He designed Stratocasters for Fender and had an early 3D CAD system, a Silicon Graphics Indy and when he showed me the 3D model and passing the cursor over a body cut-out popped up a menu with the size, depth and title it seemed magic. That was probably 1993. I didn't start with 3D until 2004 or so.

    Do you draft plans for guitar projects?

    Alan Caro

  15. #15
    If you're going to investigate using SketchUp, you should also look into Placemaker. With it you can get up to 7.5 cm res imagery.

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