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3D Tiles Essentials

A 3D Tiles city styled so that buildings in different tiles are shown in different colors and so each tile's bounding volume is outlined as a box.

3D Tiles styling used to color tiles of buildings and to show bounding volumes

Tilesets and Tiles

3D Tiles provides a way to describe tilesets and their tiles, formatted as JSON.

Along with its properties, a tileset contains a set of tiles arranged in a tree – a spatial hierarchy. 3D Tiles supports a variety of 3D (and 2D) spatial subdivisions to facilitate optimized rendering by visualization software.

A tile:

  • Includes or points to the tile’s content.
  • May contain child tiles and can refer to external tilesets, making it possible to combine smaller tilesets into larger ones.
  • Defines a spatial bounding volume that encloses its children.
Colorful 3D model of factory interior with lots of pipes and fittings and a panel metadata for an item highlighted in orange

Individually selectable 3D Tiles of BIM data

Tile Content and Formats

A tile’s content is a binary blob in one of these formats:

  • Instanced 3D Model or Batched 3D Model: 3D model instances or heterogeneous 3D models
  • Point Cloud: Massive number of points
  • Composite: Multiple concatenated tiles of the other formats

Instanced and Batched 3D models are built on binary glTF, including geometry and texture. The lightweight glTF format is the ideal complement to 3D Tile's flexible spatial hierarchy.

The Cesium OSM Buildings model of the Seattle Space Needle with its 3D Tiles properties displayed

The Cesium OSM Buildings model of the Seattle Space Needle with its 3D Tiles properties displayed

Tile Properties

A tile's content is accompanied by a Feature Table, a list of the features in the content (like buildings or points) with position and appearance properties.

The content also has a Batch Table to capture additional properties useful for visualization or analysis.

Side-by-side point clouds of Mt Saint Helen's in CesiumJS with different screen space errors set. The low SSE appears smooth and the high appears blocky.

Dynamically set geometric error for these Mount St. Helen's point clouds illustrates the qualitative visual impact of the different values.

Levels of Detail

3D Tiles enables tunable Hierarchical Level of Detail (HLOD): only visible tiles are streamed, and only the most important for the view are shown. This is how 3D Tiles produces a smooth, fast user experience for interactions with massive, detailed 3D data.

  • Visualization software uses a tile’s geometric error property and other screen space metrics – like distance from the tile to the camera – to choose which tiles to stream and render.
  • Each tile's refinement strategy property determines whether the child should replace the parent or be added to it.
3D Tiles of city buildings colored based on their height

3D Tiles of New York City buildings colored based on their height using the 3D Tiles styling language

Declarative Styling at Runtime

3D Tiles defines a declarative styling language that can modify the color and visibility of tile features at runtime.

Visualization software can apply styling to features based on user interactions and on the feature properties in the Batch Table.

Cover image for Cesium/OGC article that says 3D Geospatial Data and Embracing Openness with a cityscape at night behind the text

An OGC Community Standard

3D Tiles is recommended by the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), a global organization that works to advance free, publicly available geospatial standards that enable new technologies.

Learn more about how Cesium supports and collaborates with OGC.

Learn more

3D Tiles Next

Point cloud data of a wooden cabin. This highly detailed cabin was compressed from a 4.48 GB LAS down to 0.67 GB.

3D Tiles supports Draco compression for point clouds like this cabin. 3D Tiles Next will support additional compression improvements.

Enhancing the Specification

Cesium's 3D Tiles Next project includes enhancements to the specification, developed with 3D Tiles' extension method. New and improved capabilities include:

  • Richer metadata support at per-vertex and per-texel granularity
  • Support for new data types like vector data and voxel data, as well as time-dynamic data
  • Compression improvements that enable faster transmission and smaller memory footprint
Learn more

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