The Link Between Land Surveying and Animation Graphics



What do Monsters University and Boston College have in common? Or Turbo the super speedy snail and the Charles W. Morgan Whaling Ship? Or Finding Nemo and the Nantucket Marina?

At first glance, Hollywood movies and socially significant sites seem to be about as similar as Californians and New Englanders. But dig a little deeper, and you’ll find that both have been brought to virtual life by 3D modeling software such as 3ds Max and Maya. Animation studios and land surveyors both use these programs to process data and create accurate three-dimensional digital representations of imagined and real objects.

How 3D Modeling Software Works

Basically, these types of programs use nodes to create wireframes or networks of a subject. Then elements such as surfaces, textures and lighting are added to make the model an accurate visual representation of the subject. And lastly, a built-in camera sequencer lays out the desired number of camera shots and blends them into a single camera sequence.

In animated movies, animation artists generate nodes to create skeletons based on a character (such as Turbo) or world (such as Monsters University). Next, they add skins, liquids and textures to fill in the surfaces and finally, they create the actual moving scenes.


In land surveying, surveyors precisely measure existing sites and post-process the measurements in their 3D modeling software, where that data is processed into nodes and wireframes of the sites are generated. Surfaces and walls—sometimes with intricate molding—are modeled and ceilings are then put in place. Surveyors are also able to create highly accurate topographic models of the floors. In some cases, even the surroundings are reproduced to create settings for sites. Lastly, camera sequences are generated so viewers can move around, under, over and through sites. You can see many examples of this on our
3D animations page, where some of our most notable projects can be experienced.

So next time you’re watching Toy Story 3 or The Croods with your kids, remember the movie was made with the exact same software that preserves our most important landmarks for generations to come!