Start putting 3D models in your GIS

Apparently Autodesk pushed out an update to Maya PLE for the Mac this weekend which made me think we haven’t really talked too much about how we can make 3D Models for our GIS as we begin moving more closely to a 3D GIS. We tend to use Sketch-Up quite a bit since it is great for making structures and has an amazingly quick learning curve. 3DS Max is probably still the package of choice for many since it is so robust and has a significant install base since it was culled from Autodesk’s early 3D products. Lightwave is a product I have never had a chance to use unfortunately and I have only spent about an hour with an older version of Blender (but it is OpenSource/free so check it out). That brings me to the last major player in my eyes which is Maya. The best thing about Maya is that even after it was bought by Autodesk a couple of years ago, they still offer up a free Personal Learning Edition which is great to use to learn how to create 3D models with a plethora of training modules and loads of examples online. I definitely recommend spending a little bit of time in a 3D modeling environment just so you know what goes into building models whether you have a license for a package or if you use the free versions of Google SketchUp, Blender, or Maya PLE. Watching someone else do it makes it look amazingly simple…it isn’t. Not to discriminate, if you are looking to create photo realistic 3D landscapes, skip any of the above mentioned (unless you want a car or house in your landscape) and find products like VNS or WCS from 3D Nature.

Autodesk – Autodesk Maya


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Jesse is Instructor in Geography and a PhD candidate in Geography focusing on the integration of phenomenology and geospatial technologies to study prehistoric cultural landscape. He is a GIS Professional and Registered Professional Archaeologist and holds an MA in Geography and a BS in Anthropology with a concentration in archaeology.