3DField Open GL Example

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The project on the left was made with the free 3DField trial in a few simple steps. (Click the image for a full-screen view, or see a full-color version here.)

Alternate views are here:  1 / 2 / 3 (the possibilities are limitless). If you like the compressed web images, the originals are even better. 3DField can also generate phenomenal rotating, full screen animations.

1.) Open a new map and establish a coordinate system for the project by importing a DXF area outline (e.g. the state of Wisconsin). If you need to generate a DXF file from a shapefile, see the free Massachusetts DXF Author.


2.) Click Objects/Boundary for this dialog box. Convert the DXF image to a 3DField boundary by clicking around it with the boundary tool. Without a boundary, data contours will flow to the edge of the screen rather than stopping at the edge of your area object. See the 3DField documentation for detailed instructions about designating a boundary.


3.) Load a basemap image by clicking Objects/Base Map if you'd like additional background detail (e.g., political units or a highway map). The Link to Points/Assigning Coordinates option is used to geo-reference the image with two points. The program actually guesses an alignment based on similarities with the DXF-based boundary. As a result, image registration is very quick.

4.) Add data points to the map. You can add points one-at-a-time with the "Add" button (in the Objects/Points menu, left) by manually double-clicking on the map. That sets the X-Y map point, and then you provide the data value and point name.

Another approach for a lot of points is to use a spreadsheet program like Excel to prepare your data. The spreadsheet columns need to be set as X, Y, Value (Z) and Name in that order. You can then select and copy the columns and rows in Excel, then go to 3DField and click Edit/Paste. The points will appear on the map.

The trial version of 3DField truncates the table at 53 rows. Since Wisconsin has 72 counties, I selected 53 representative sample points spread around the state.

You can also add/delete/change the points with the Objects/Points menu (left) or import a "csv" or "dat" comma delimited file.

The values for the table (the acreage of family owned forestland) were easy to find on the US Forest Service Forest Inventory Analysis site. I established the X and Y values simply by moving the cursor over the counties on the map and observing the X/Y values in the bottom status bar:. In this example, X = 636120 and Y = 254500.

5.) Once you have the data points established, double click one of the maps to generate from the Map List (left). 3DField quickly generates a 2D map:

6.) Select one of the 3D map types from the menu bar to transform the image. Then use the Image/Format command (left) to customize the product.

7.) The Open GL format choices appear to the left. This is where you can fine tune the fantastic image effects in 3DField. Each map type has a different formatting dialog, so you'll want to experiment with all of them.

You can also easily change the color scale. Click its icon in the menu bar to bring up this dialog box:

Palettes can be saved and reloaded.


Checking all the OpenGL options results in the image below. Turn off features that do not suit your purpose.

To produce the final image, I used Paint Shop Pro to convert the 2D basemap image to grayscale for better contrast with the elevated data "skin". The map title was then added for the finished image.  Go to 3dField to learn more or to purchase a registration for the program.

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