I’ve been playing around with Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler (AIM) quite a bit and I’ve been liking it A LOT! It’s SO easy to bring all that GIS data into your model and make it look really good.

One thing that will really help out your model is bringing in 3D models of some of the more recognizable buildings and features of the area you are modeling. For example, here is the City of Denver with the building outlines modeled as buildings and the height of the buildings captured from the GIS data:

Mile High Stadium Building Outline

As you can see, centered in the image is Mile High Stadium and, well, it really doesn’t look like that AT ALL! So, what can you do? There is a ton of free 3D models out there on the internet, one of the best resources I’ve found is the Google Sketchup Warehouse. You can find all sorts of free 3D models there in the Sketchup format. In fact, HERE is a 3D model of Mile High Stadium. Simply save the file to your hard drive.

Next thing we want to do is bring it into AIM (Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler). The easiest way to do that is bring it first into 3ds Max Design. If you are using AIM, most likely you have one of the Autodesk design suites (and if you are reading this blog, most likely it’s the Autodesk Infrastructure Design Suite). The Premium version of the Infrastructure Design Suite comes with both AIM as well as 3ds Max Design so you are golden if you have that. Open up 3ds Max Design and close the opening welcome screen. You probably have never used 3ds Max Design before, don’t worry, what we are doing is easy.

Within 3ds Max, on the Application Menu (that’s the big green M in the top left corner of the application) choose the IMPORT (Import  non-native file formats into 3ds Max.) command

Import Model into 3ds Max Design

Now browse to the file you downloaded from the Google Sketchup Warehouse and you’ll see the another dialog box. The only thing you’ll want checked on is “Split Objects by Layer”

Import Sketchup File Settings

After importing, you’ll see your model in 3ds Max

Model Imported into 3ds Max Design

In our case, I don’t want to use the background image of the model, just the model itself so I can select it and hit the delete key on my keyboard (alternatively, you could just not select it in the next step). Now that 3ds Max has imported the file, I want to send it out to AIM, and that’s the easy part. In the Application Menu of 3ds Max (same place we went to import the model), there is a Send To menu and one of the options under that is Send to AIM. This will send whatever you have selected in 3ds Max so select your model, and run the command.

Send to AIM


You’ll be switched back over to AIM where you will then be asked to configure the data source that you are importing from 3ds Max. You’ll want to do a minimum of two things here. First, assign “Type” to the data source (in my example I chose Buildings because, well, it’s a building). Second, you’ll want to specify the location. Most likely when specifying the location you’ll want to use the “Interactive Placing…” option. This allows you to place it in your model wherever you choose. When it’s where you want it, just double click and you are done.

Configure Data Source

And now you’ll be able to see your 3D model in AIM and it will cast shadows and just look really awesome!

Here’s the Space Shuttle being carried by a 747 over Mile High

Space Shuttle over Mile High Stadium