21. Working with 3D Tiles

21.1. What are 3D Tiles?

3D tiles are specification for streaming and rendering large-scale 3D geospatial datasets. They use a hierarchical structure to efficiently manage and display 3D content, optimising performance by dynamically loading appropriate levels of detail. This technology is widely used in urban planning, architecture, simulation, gaming, and virtual reality, providing a standardised and interoperable solution for visualising complex geographical data. Read Using 3D tiles services for more details.


Fig. 21.1 Example of 3D tiles

21.2. Data Sources

Support for 3D tiles:

  • Remote source - http://example.com/tileset.json

  • Local files - file:///path/to/tiles/tileset.json

21.2.1. Using data from Cesium ion

Cesium ion is a cloud-based platform for managing and streaming 3D geospatial data. It simplifies data management, visualisation and sharing. To add 3D tiles from Cesium ion, you need to first sign up to their service here: https://ion.cesium.com.

You can also use Cesium ion plugin from the QGIS repository to add the data to QGIS.

21.2.2. Using Google 3D data

To use Google Photorealistic 3D tiles in QGIS, get an API key for 3D tiles. Once you have the key, simply add Google tiles using the same connection process.


Fig. 21.2 Google 3D Tiles connection

21.3. 3D Tiles Properties

The 3D tiles Layer Properties dialog provides the following sections:

metadata Information

system Source

symbology Symbology[1]

3d 3D View[1]

rendering Rendering

elevationscale Elevation[1]

editMetadata Metadata

[1] Also available in the Layer styling panel

21.3.1. Information Properties

The Information tab is read-only and represents an interesting place to quickly grab summarized information and metadata on the current layer. Provided information are:

  • based on the provider of the layer: name, URL, source type and path, number of zoom levels

  • the Coordinate Reference System: name, units, method, accuracy, reference (i.e. whether it’s static or dynamic)

  • picked from the filled metadata: access, extents, links, contacts, history…

21.3.2. Source Properties

The system Source tab displays basic information about the selected 3D tile, including:

  • the Layer name to display in the Layers Panel;

  • the Coordinate Reference System: Displays the layer’s Coordinate Reference System (CRS). You can change the layer’s CRS, by selecting a recently used one in the drop-down list or clicking on the setProjection Select CRS button (see Coordinate Reference System Selector). Use this process only if the layer CRS is wrong or not specified.

21.3.3. Symbology Properties


Fig. 21.3 3D Tile Layer Symbology

By default, the layer is styled using texture, but you can change it to see the wireframe mesh behind the scene by choosing Wireframe in the drop-down menu. You can also, change the mesh fill and line symbols similar to the vector polygons. Checking checkbox Use texture colors will render each mesh element with the average value of the full texture. This is a good option to try when dealing with a large dataset and want to get a quick overview of the data.


Fig. 21.4 3D Tiles - textured and wireframe

To view the data you can open new3DMap New 3D map view.


Fig. 21.5 3D Map View

From the Symbology tab, you can also set some options that invariably act on all features of the layer:

  • Maximum error: This parameter determines the level of detail displayed in the 3D model. Similar to point clouds, 3D tiles often contain more information than necessary for visual representation. By adjusting this setting, you control the balance between display density and rendering speed. A larger value (e.g., 5 mm) may introduce noticeable gaps between elements, while a smaller value (e.g., 0.1 mm) could lead to the rendering of an excessive number of details, potentially slowing down the rendering process. Different units can be selected to tailor the setting to your specific needs.

  • Opacity: Adjust the visibility of the underlying layer on the map canvas using this tool. Use slider to tailor the visibility of your scene layer according to your preferences. Alternatively, specify the exact percentage of visibility through the menu next to the slider.

  • Blending mode: You can achieve special rendering effects with these tools that you may previously only know from graphics programs. The pixels of your overlaying and underlaying layers are mixed through the settings described in Blending Modes.

21.3.4. 3D View Properties

  • Maximum screen space error determines the threshold for swapping terrain tiles with more detailed ones (and vice versa) - i.e. how soon the 3D view will use higher quality tiles. Lower numbers mean more details in the scene at the expenses of increased rendering complexity.

  • unchecked Show bounding boxes Show 3D bounding boxes of the terrain tiles (useful for troubleshooting terrain issues).

21.3.5. Rendering Properties

Under unchecked Scale dependent visibility, you can set the Maximum (inclusive) and Minimum (exclusive) scales, defining a range of scales in which features will be visible. Out of this range, they are hidden. The mapIdentification Set to current canvas scale button helps you use the current map canvas scale as boundary of the range visibility. See Visibility Scale Selector for more information.

21.3.6. Elevation Properties

The elevationscale Elevation tab provides options to control the layer elevation properties within a 3D map view. Specifically, you can set:

  • Elevation Surface: how the 3D layer vertices Z values should be interpreted as terrain elevation. You can apply a Scale factor and an Offset.

21.3.7. Metadata Properties

The editMetadata Metadata tab provides you with options to create and edit a metadata report on your layer. See Metadata for more information.