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Do GIS people know much about 3D graphics?

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#1
mikerouge

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I have a GIS background. I was recently working on a terrain problem and noticed how much more elegantly and efficiently computer graphics whizzes can solve the same problems. GIS has TINs, they have meshes. Totally different formats and vocabulary, but basically very similar.

I have never seen a GIS text that discusses OpenGL or 3d graphics programming, and I tried to learn it myself but gave up after a few days because the learning curve is so steep. It's my impression that very few GIS people, even those who are happy programming, get involved with 3D graphics, even though it could answer their prayers.

Do you agree? Am I right in perceiving a massive chasm between GIS and 3D graphics even when the operations and end results are very very similar?

I would be interested to hear from anyone that does span the GIS / 3D graphics gap. Maybe my beliefs are inaccurate.

Thank you for reading

#2
dsl

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Interesting topic.

I think a lot of GIS people get involved in 3D graphics, at least with building 3D models. I've found Sketchup to be a good introduction for this. I've been learning 3D programming for quite a while, and like you said the learning curve is steep (of which I'm still at the bottom). I started with FLEX/papervision, and am learning a bit of OpenGL. I think the learning curve is steep for anyone not just GISers. There are a lot of matrix and vector mathematics involved in 3D graphics, and I don't think there are many GIS programs that emphasize mathematics (perhaps statistics is an exception). This is a shame, because learning some of the math behind the buttons gives a leg up in understanding the techniques. I think the other disadvantage we have in this area is we are used to a cartesian coordinate system where the z value is up. In 3D, typically the y is up and the z value points into the screen. Not to mention, world coordinate systems, screen coordinate systems, model coordinate systems can get really confusing really fast. There will need to be a shift in teaching as companies like ESRI move towards integrating 3D with everything, as they are with ArcGIS 10. This will allow the user to enjoy the value of 3D without any of the heavy lifting, but still requires thinking in "3D."

Cheers,
David

#3
Crischan

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Depends on your education. When coming from a programme which offers photogrammetry too, one has to dive into math and even mess around with differently orientated coordinate systems (which isn't so bad after all once you realise that the concepts are the same and you only have to be careful about order - but you have to be careful with anything which is using a lot of math, formulas and indices).

But you're perfecty right that 3D concepts / software can solve lots of problems elegantly. We used Blender to mix geodata with real world imagery to produce animations of planned wind turbines. Much more nicer than with ArcScene and they even rotate (which is nice in this marketing-orientated world....)

I am still thinking there could be more gained from 3D for GIS, for example in the field of calculating viewsheds (think of using raytracing...
Crischan Wygoda
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#4
Michael Schmeling

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Well, I have a strong background in 3D programming, including software like 3ds Max and realtime graphics engines, but I wouldn't say I am a "GIS professional". I combine GIS tasks and 3D programming mainly for illustrations.
Michael Schmeling
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Arid Ocean Map Illustrations
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#5
mikerouge

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Thank you for your responses. The point about more explicitly 3D coming into GIS in future is interesting and valid. Can you imagine ArcScene with a four viewport layout like most 3D packages? That would be a leap of faith

Viewsheds are a classic example here. It seems a 3D person would mess around with vector normals and facets when looking at visibility, whereas the GIS approach is really quite primitive in comparison.




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