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Creating 3D City Landscapes Using Blender

By Justin Sorensen


Hey everyone, I’m Justin Sorensen with the Marriott Library’s GIS Services and for today’s Map Monday release, I’m going to show you how quick and easy it is to create 3D city landscapes using Blender.

Blender is a free, open source 3D creation suite used to create animations, visual effects, printable models, and interactive applications. For our purposes, we will be focusing on the Blender GIS Add-On, a program extension allowing quick and easy import of satellite basemaps, ground topography, and building geometry at the click of a button.

Start by downloading and installing Blender to your computer as well as the Blender GIS Add-On following the installation instructions provided with the download.

After successfully installing both products, a GIS tool will appear indicating that we are now ready to begin working with the Blender GIS Add-On. Begin by selecting the “GIS” tool, navigating to the “WebGeodata” option, and selecting “Basemap”. For this demonstration, we will maintain the default options of a Google basemap and a Satellite layer, but feel free to experiment with the other basemap options that are available. Selecting “OK”, we are now presented with an overview map of the entire world in which we can select a location from. Today, we will be creating a 3D city landscape representing New York City. To do this, we press “G” on the keyboard to bring up a search box where we will enter our “Go To” location as “New York City” and the “Zoom Level” as “15”. Selecting “OK”, we are taken to a satellite view of New York City where we can zoom in and navigate to the extent of the 3D city landscape we wish to create. Selecting “E” on the keyboard locks this extent into place and we are ready to begin creating our city landscape model.

Returning to the “GIS” tool, we will navigate again to the “WebGeodata” option and select “Get SRTM”, which imports topographic information of the area displayed on the screen and applies it to the model for a 3D perspective. We will now add in the building features for New York City by returning to the “GIS” tool, navigation to the “WebGeodata” option and selecting “Get OSM” or Open Street Map data. Here, we can select the OSM features we wish to import, in particular the buildings layer, making sure that the elevation for each building is consistent with the ground level and selecting “OK”. Now, depending on the number of features being returned or the geographic extent of the area you are working with, this process may take some time to complete, but when it does, you will have a quick and easy 3D digital representation of an area of your choice that can either be exported and shared as a visualization or with a few additional steps, can be exported as an .STL file for physical creation using a 3D printer.

It’s just that easy! So if you are interested in creating digital or physical 3D city landscapes, consider giving Blender and its powerful GIS Add-On a try.

Until next time…Happy Mapping!

Justin Sorensen | GIS Specialist
Creativity & Innovation Services / GIS Services
justin.sorensen@utah.edu

  • Interested in creating or collaborating on a similar project? Please visit the GIS Services website to connect with me.

About Map Monday Releases from GIS Services

Throughout the semester, GIS Services has released bi-weekly maps on a variety of topics, demonstrating ideas and uses for incorporating geospatial technology into projects and research you are developing. To view our collection of maps, projects, or to learn more about the geospatial services offered through the J. Willard Marriott Library, please visit the GIS Services website @ www.lib.utah.edu/services/geospatial

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