SketchUp terrain data

by Design Workshop Sydney

SketchUp allows you to easily import terrain data and aerial imagery into your model. It’s one of the many features we explore in our SketchUp for Urban Planning courses.sketchup-terrain-data
First create a new file in SketchUp and go to View > Toolbars. Make sure that Google is ticked. In the Mac version we go to Tool Palettes and tick Google. To bring in a geo-snapshot go to the Google toolbar and select the Add Location button. Type in your location address and zoom out to see a wider sample. Then click the Select Region button on the top right. You may need to adjust the blue pins, but don’t select too small an area. Then click the Grab button; after a few seconds Google places this geo-map into your SketchUp file.
Note that the human figure is placed at the origin point of the three axes. Also note that the model is at the correct scale and accurate to solar north. Next click on the Toggle Terrain button to see the land mass. What you see will depend on how flat the terrain is. You can also go to File > Geo-location > Show terrain. This toggles between a flat 2D image of the landscape and a 3D model. What’s actually happening is that you’re toggling between 2 layers. You can see this in Window > Layers > note the 2 new layers: Google Earth Terrain and Google Earth Snapshot. When you use the Toggle Terrain button you are actually switching back & forth between these 2 layers, Google Earth Snapshot (flat) and Google Earth Terrain (3d).
Note also Layer 0 – the bullet point is highlighted indicating that this is the active layer – this where we tend to do all our drawing. The terrain object is locked by default – note that it turns red when you click on it. If you need to unlock it at any stage simply right-click and choose Unlock, but be careful not to move it.
To test the shadows create a shape with the Rectangle tool, then Push/Pull upwards to create a box. Go to Window > Shadows, and turn on the Show/Hide Shadows button (top left). Scrub the slider to change time of day – you can see the shadows will be accurate because the coordinates came in at the same time as the aerial imagery. Note that the Green axis points to solar North. Then go to Window > Model Info > Geo-location, and note that the Latitude and Longitude are correct for this site. To continue modeling it’s best to switch off the shadows since they slow the modeling process down. And delete the box (triple-click to select).
Many useful tips and techniques can be found at the SketchUp website. And see many examples of our own clients’ work on our Facebook page.
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