Monday, June 24, 2013

Getting Started with InfraWorks (2014) version - Part 1: Building the Existing Terrain

NOTE: This post is for those starting out with InfraWorks 2014. If you've got the newer version with the 2014 R4 or 2015 interface, there is separate post for that here.

Autodesk InfraWorks is the new Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler, in case you didn't know.  It's a super great tool for building amazing proposals and sharing design ideas and concepts in a stunning 3D environment.  If you've never used it before, like many software programs, the toughest question to answer is "Where to begin?"  Hopefully this will help.

Before showing any design ideas in InfraWorks, you first need to establish some existing conditions.  Probably the simplest way to do this is with an aerial image draped over some terrain information.  But where do you get such information?  There are tons and tons of sources, but one that you can use that is free and covers the entire USA is the National Map Viewer  Here you can zoom in to an area and then choose the data that you want to download.  There is lots of data here and I haven't experimented with much of it, but I will show you the sources I have tried that have worked for me.

The area of study that I'm going to use is a beautiful overlook near my home town.  I always thought the hilltop above it would be a great location for a ski resort.

Once I've zoomed in to the area, I click the Download button and then use the bounding box option.

Then I draw a box around the area that I'm interested in....

And select the types of data that I want, in this case - elevation and imagery

The actual sources of data can be a guess and you may need to go back and get other/more data if what you choose is not adequate coverage or quality.  Here I'm choosing an IMG file for elevation data and a GEOTiff and JPG2000 for aerial imagery.  Not sure which will work but it looks like a good semi-educated guess.

Once you click the next button, you'll be taken through a Checkout procedure (don't worry it's free) where you'll be asked to provide your e-mail address.  

You'll receive an e-mail with links to download your data.  It will come in the form of zip files that you'll need to extract to get to the underlying data.

Now that I have the raw data, I will open Infraworks and Create a project.

I'll give the project a name and choose where I want it stored.  InfraWorks creates a ton of files and folders so don't point this to your Desktop!

Once you're in InfraWorks, click the Data Sources button and choose Raster.

Then browse to the IMG file that you downloaded from the National Map Viewer.

Once you see the data source listed, click Refresh.  I was really surprised that it didn't ask me to configure it first - maybe because of the XML files included with the IMG it knew what it was supposed to be and georeferenced itself.  Typically you have to configure a data source before you can see it in your drawing.

The refreshing process may take awhile, maybe several minutes.  This should be a one-time investment.

After it's done, you may see something weird like this...
Turn the model on its side and zoom in to trigger the generation of the graphics.  You should start to see some terrain features come into view.  Click on the image below to see it full size - it is impressive!

Be patient and allow the software time to generate the graphics.  You may not be pleased with the performance - don't worry about it.  It will get better when you set the limits of the model.  You'll need some frame of reference to do that, typically an aerial photo.  We'll look at how to do that in Part 2!


  1. Thanks Eric! I find it a bit confusing to sort through all the download option on the Map Viewer. I ended up getting ArcGrid, GridFloat and IMG files. I download and import everything, but some comes in configured and some unconfigured. Not sure if I need it all. Was able to get the terrain to appear with just the IMG files.

    1. I've been trying to get jpg and tiff imagery and it has been working out for me.

  2. Hi Eric,

    Is there any resources like this available for the UK? I am pretty new to this and not totally sure what files I need! I have downloaded a trial version of ArcGIS but I am not sure if this will provide what I am after.

    Thanks Jonathan

    1. Jonathan, I don't know of any UK resources but perhaps someone will see your question and respond with some ideas. Anyone?

    2. There certainly is Jonathon:

  3. Having the same prob as Jonathan, need some South African data though... :( But your blog is awesome though, thanks Eric :)

  4. Jonathan - the OS Opendata is about as close as UK users get to free data, no aerial imagery but decentish maps

  5. Is there data available for India? Kindly share.

  6. Is there a blog post for downloading UK data to infraworks ?

  7. Hi Eric,
    When I add buildings they are not visible, but when I zoom in it starts displaying. But after Zooning out it dose not display. I increased the level of Density but after doing so my model becomes very slow. Can you have any idea to rectify this.

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