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Quick lesson: Create a scene

Using 3D technology to extend your 2D maps allows you to present your information in a more realistic manner. In this lesson, you'll experience the power of 3D for yourself. You will assume the role of the director of the Parks and Recreation department for Portland, Oregon. You are presenting an urban tree management plan to the city council for approval. One of your responsibilities is urban tree management for the city. Trees are vital to an urban environment as they, among other things, provide needed shade for pedestrians during hot sunny days and minimize water runoff during heavy rainfalls.

Your department has collected tree data with location and height attributes of each tree in the city. Using this data, you will present a comprehensive plan to the city council outlining your department’s vision for urban tree management. Unfortunately, you don't have 3D models of the trees. However, you recently learned that you can use Scene Viewer to convert your 2D tree data into realistic-looking 3D trees highlighting the spatial relationships between the trees and urban elements, such as buildings. Re-creating the trees, buildings, and streets of Portland in 3D in Scene Viewer will help the city council understand current urban conditions and make more informed decisions. Throughout this scenario, you'll be guided through the following skills: creating a new scene, adding data to a scene, changing symbols with 3D styles, capturing slides, and saving the scene. This lesson is designed for beginners—anyone who is new to ArcGIS Online, GIS, or 3D. Estimated time: 20 minutes.

View the finished scene

Sign in and search for Portland, OR

  1. Go to and sign in.
  2. If you haven't joined an organization and don't yet have an account, you can sign up for a free trial or create a free personal account.
  3. Once you're signed in, click Scene at the top of the site to open Scene Viewer.
  4. Click New Scene from the gallery.

    A new scene opens.

  5. Zoom with the navigation controls at the upper left or use your mouse wheel. You can also navigate the scene using the mouse buttons to pan and rotate.

    Next, you'll refocus the scene to the location you want.

  6. In the Search box, type Portland,Oregon and press Enter.

    The scene zooms in to Portland, Oregon.

Add a 2D data layer to a new scene

The 2D tree data that your team collected is critical for planning and visualization because it contains the location and tree height attributes for trees in downtown Portland. Your team shared the data as a point feature layer in ArcGIS Online so it is ready to add to your scene. You'll add the data as a new layer to the scene. As you move around your Portland scene, you will start to see how your 2D points interact with the 3D terrain.

  1. Click Modify scene Modify scene at the upper left of your screen to open the Designer.
  2. Click + Add layers.
  3. In the search box, copy and paste PortlandTrees owner:ArcGISOnlineExercises.

    This ensures that the correct layer is displayed in Content for this lesson.

  4. Press Enter or click the Search button Search.

    The results of your search are listed in Content.

  5. Click the Add button Add next to PortlandTrees.

    The tree layer is added to the scene as 2D points.

  6. Click Done.

Choose a style with real-world heights

Because the data is a point layer in Scene Viewer, you can use the height attribute to turn the points into authentic looking trees with actual sizes. You will configure the tree layer with 3D symbols that use real-world heights to gain a better understanding of tree patterns and their behavior in an urban setting.

  1. Zoom to the PortlandTrees layer. Pan and rotate the scene to explore the layer.
  2. Click PortlandTrees to configure the layer.

    When you first open Configure Layer, you'll see the 2D tree point layer in the scene.

    Next, you'll choose a style that allows you to use the height attribute of the tree data to change these 2D points into tree symbols with actual heights.

  3. Under Choose the main attribute to visualize, leave the setting to none.

    If you choose an attribute from the drop-down menu, you can style the trees more thematically with the Counts and Amounts 3D style that uses proportional symbols and color rather than the real-world height values in the tree data.

  4. Click Select in 3D Object to choose the style and apply it to the scene.

    Zoom to the tree layer and navigate around the scene to observe the changes you applied. The 2D circles have transformed to default 3D cylinders representing Portland's trees. These are 3D symbols with real-world dimensions.

Next, you'll change these 3D cylinders to custom tree symbols that can be visualized in Scene Viewer.

Change symbols

To change the 3D cylinders to custom tree symbols, complete the following steps:

  1. Click Options to open and modify the 3D Object style.
  2. Click the cylinder symbol next to Symbol.
  3. At the top of the window, click Vegetation from the drop-down menu.

    You will see a wide variety of tree styles from which to choose. You can scroll down and explore all the tree styles.

  4. Click the third tree in the first row to choose the American Chestnut style.
  5. Click Done.

    Move around the scene again. The cylinders have changed to realistic-looking trees with a uniform size.

Apply real-world heights based on attribute

To make your trees more authentically reflect the urban condition in downtown Portland, apply the height attribute to the trees to visualize each tree with their varying real-world sizes.

  1. Click the attribute drop-down menu next to Size.
  2. Select Crown_Height.

    The tree data your team collected has tree height values in feet, and the dimension units for the scene need to match.

  3. Click the unit drop-down menu and select ft. Leave all other settings unchanged.
  4. Click Done twice to go back to the Designer start pane.

Add an additional layer with transparency

The last layer you will add to your scene to give it context will contain 3D models of downtown buildings in Portland. After you add the buildings, you will see the trees with actual heights and their spatial relationship to the buildings, which give a realistic representation of the Portland urban environment.

  1. Click + Add layers.
  2. Copy and paste PortlandBuildings owner:ArcGISOnlineExercises in the search box.
  3. Click Add.
  4. Click Done.

    Scene Viewer automatically zooms to the extent of the building layer when added.

  5. Click the Zoom to button Zoom to to the left of the PortlandTrees layer to go back to the tree layer extent. You may need to zoom in to get to the city level.
  6. Navigate around the scene.

    With the buildings added, you may notice that it is more difficult to see the trees among the buildings. You'll add a transparency to the buildings so the trees are more visible and easier for your audience to identify.

  7. Click PortlandBuildings to configure the layer.
  8. Under Choose the main attribute to visualize, leave the setting to none.
  9. Click Select in the Color style to choose and apply it to the scene.
  10. Click Options to open and modify the Color style.
  11. Under Transparency, set the transparency to fifty percent so you can see the trees.
  12. Click Done twice to go back to the Designer start pane.

Capture a slide

When presenting your plan to the city, you want to present your ideas in a way that council members can quickly understand and grasp the key concepts needed to drive decision making. Use scene slides to focus your story and intuitively guide viewers through highlights of your scene. Slides are like bookmarks and allow you to quickly navigate to important points of your scene that indicate where tree landscaping is sufficient and perhaps where more tree planting is needed.

  1. Zoom, pan, and tilt the camera to show the viewpoint and extent you want capture. Find an area where there are a lot of trees.
  2. Click Slides.
  3. Click Capture Slide.

    The slide is added to the Slides pane with a thumbnail and a default name. The slide also appears below the scene when you point to the scene.

  4. Note:

    If you don't like the way a slide looks, you can click the Remove Slide button Remove slide to delete it. Additionally, you can navigate to a new extent and click the Update Slide buttonUpdate slide to update the slide.

  5. Click Slide 1 and rename it TreeSidewalk.
  6. Zoom and find a pedestrian area along the waterfront that could use additional trees for shade cover.
  7. Click Capture Slide.
  8. Rename the slide Waterfront.
  9. Click Done.

Save the scene

Now you can save the scene to share with others in your department or members of the city council. Furthermore, in the future, you could also embed the scene in your department's website and create a 3D web app or story map to share with the public.

  1. Before you save the scene, adjust the scene to the viewpoint you want for the thumbnail of the scene.
  2. Click Save Scene.

    If you don't like the thumbnail, you can capture a different viewpoint.

  3. Provide a title, summary, and tags, and click Save.

    Your scene is saved and is ready to be shared with others.

Next steps

Using Scene Viewer, in less than 20 minutes, you've taken 2D tree data with location and tree heights, applied a few configure layer options, and created a compelling 3D visualization of the urban tree environment for Portland, Oregon. Viewers can use this scene to make informed decisions about urban tree management issues, such as where there are sufficient trees and, alternatively, where additional tree planting is needed.

To find more scenario-based lessons, browse the ArcGIS Learn gallery. To start, try Get Started with Scene Viewer. You can also visit The ArcGIS Book and The ArcGIS Imagery Book websites.

You can also explore ArcGIS Online on your own and discover what else is possible. A few ideas are listed below. Some require an organizational account with publishing or administrative privileges and may consume credits.