Exploring the 3D viewer in QGIS 3.0

QGIS 3.0 is scheduled to be released on Dec 8, 2017. There has been a lot of buzz about its 3D capabilities. The following video illustrates some of its capabilities, although I was not able to test everything for reasons that will be explained later.

Working with the 3D Map Viewer

I’ve been testing the pre-release version (2.99) for several months now and had not seen anything related to 3D. Its not obvious where to find it, and when you do find it, its not obvious how to work with it.  The four important things to keep in mind are:

  1. The 3D Map Viewer can be found under the View menu.
  2. In the viewer window you have to click on the wrench tool to set the elevation model for the view. All other data layers will be automatically clipped to the extent of the elevation model.
  3. There are not any zoom, rotate, or tilt controls available in the map viewer. Instead you zoom in and out with the scroll wheel on your mouse. You rotate by holding the shift key down and dragging the mouse left and right. You tilt by hlding the shoft key down and moving the mouse forward and back. This is not particularly intuitive (especially on laptops with no scroll wheels) but once you understand it becomes second nature very quickly.
  4. The 3D settings for each layer are not available in the layers propertiesas you mighgt expect. Rather they are found in the layer styling panel which I was not even aware of. This can be accessed through the View –>Panels–>Layer Styling Panel menu path. The Layer Styling Panel is where you can set things like the extrusion properties.

I read in several blog posts that the 3D viewer often crashes on laptops with integrated graphics cards. Supposedly it works better on desktops or high end gaming laptops with an independent graphics card. I suspect once this tool is released and gets more use there will be more information forthcoming about which graphics cards work and which do not. If you are willing to share your experiences, please post in the comments below with information about your graphics card, computer model, operating system, etc.

My experience

On my laptop (Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro), as you’ll see in the video, I was able to view the elevation model with imagery and vector data draped on top of it. But as soon as I tried to turn on 3D rendering for a layer and set an extrusion value it crashed. This means that I was unable to do any of the cool cityscape views I’d seen.

My overall impression is that this is a great start. I was impressed with its speed and ease of use once I understood the controls. I am looking forward to seeing how it progresses down the road. Its not ArcScene yet, but it has a lot of capability and if you can accomplish what you need with it, you can save your company some money.

One thing that I would like to see is the ability to enter a viewpoint, i.e. a specific latitude and longitude, elevation, and view direction.  These can act like a spatial bookmark to help understand exactly what you would see from a specific location. This is an essential tool for creating visual simulations for construction projects, etc.  Its also the only thing I ever really needed ArcScene for at work.

More info

Some additional information can be found at Free and Open Source GIS Ramblings,  the Lutra Consulting blog (Lutra Consulting is the developer of the 3D Map viewer), and xhyt.com.

This video is one of about 70 lectures in a course I am creating called QGIS 3.0 for GIS Professionals that should be available within a few days of the release of QGIS 3.0. For more information on this and other courses please see my courses page.

One Reply to “Exploring the 3D viewer in QGIS 3.0”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *