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AECbytes Tips and Tricks Issue #41 (April 23, 2009)

SketchUp Scenes in Google Earth

Bonnie Roskes
Independent Writer and Consultant

For this exercise, you will need both Google SketchUp (Free or Pro version) and Google Earth (any version).

If a SketchUp model with scenes is placed in Google Earth, you can see those scenes in Google Earth. To see what this means, download my “Google Earth Scenes DC” model from the 3D Warehouse. You can find it at this link.

The model is a sort of pavilion, located between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument in Washington, DC. When you download this model, be sure not to import it directly into another model, because this model contains scenes. Four Scene tabs appear above the drawing window, as shown below.

Scroll through the scenes to see the camera view for each. Scene 1 faces due north, while Scene 2 faces southeast.  Scene 3 faces east, looking directly at the Washington Monument (whose model was found in the 3D Warehouse and inserted into this model). This scene was created using the Position Camera tool, with the viewer standing inside the pavilion. Scene 4 was created in a similar way; it faces west looking toward the Lincoln Memorial whose model was also inserted.

Tip: Adding a few “landmark” models for reference is a good idea, but don’t add too many, or your file will get bogged down!

Before sending the pavilion to Google Earth, first erase or hide the other two models, so that they won’t be duplicated in Google Earth. (If you skip this step, you’ll have two memorials and two monuments in Google Earth, directly atop one another. Not really a big deal!)

Still in SketchUp, click Place Model.

This opens Google Earth (if it’s not already open), and flies you to the pavilion model. To see the other buildings, make sure the 3D Buildings layer is turned on.

Here’s how to view the scenes: Look in the Places window, and find the “SUPreview” item under “Temporary Places.” This is the pavilion model, assigned a temporary name.

Open “SUPreview,” which contains two items: “Tour” and “Model.” Double-clicking on these will take you to specific views of the pavilion. And when you open “Tour,” you will see the four scenes contained in the SketchUp model.

Double-click Scene 1, and this is how it looks in Google Earth.

Note that the view won’t be exactly the same as it was in SketchUp; the Google Earth camera is set a bit farther back.

Here is Scene 3 in Google Earth, which almost matches Scene 3 from SketchUp.

Because the camera is slightly different in the two applications, it takes some tweaking in SketchUp to get the exact scene you want in Google Earth. If a particular Google Earth scene isn’t quite right, return to SketchUp and display the same scene. Make the necessary adjustments, and update the scene by right-clicking on the Scene tab and choosing Update. Then click Place Model again, return to Google Earth, and update the KMZ file when prompted. Test out the updated scene to see if the changes are sufficient.

If you want to try this yourself, here’s a good way to get started. In Google Earth, fly to the location you want, and zoom in or out so that a large patch of area fills the view. It’s helpful to spin the view so that north points up.

Switch to SketchUp and click Get Current View.

This imports into SketchUp the exact view you see in Google Earth. With the Google Earth view oriented so that north is up, SketchUp’s Top view will match the Google Earth view. This makes it easier to orient your SketchUp scenes. And as you already saw, adding some ready-made landmarks as models in SketchUp can also help.

Wondering how to find an exact SketchUp model that appears in Google Earth? Within SketchUp, open the Components window and enter the name of the model you want, followed by “is:best-of-geo.” For this example, a search for “Washington monument is:best-of-geo” turns up the exact model that is found in Google Earth.

For some other advanced search syntax terms, see:

A video of this exercise can be seen at:

About the Author

Bonnie Roskes is the author of Google SketchUp 7 Hands-On: Basic and Advanced Exercises, which is her sixth release on SketchUp. She has also authored the Google SketchUp Cookbook, published by O’Reilly media. In addition to pro-level books, Bonnie also has a Student Coursebook on SketchUp, as well as design project books and geometry project books for kids in K-12. For info on all of Bonnie’s books, as well as free resources for teachers and parents, go to

Bonnie has also authored books on Piranesi and OneCNC, as well as reference manuals, user guides, and tutorials for other CAD applications. She has a BS and MS in structural engineering, and worked for several years in bridge design and analysis before moving to tech writing.

Contact for info on any of her materials.

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