How to Geo-Locate Your Google SketchUp Model

No matter what kind of model you build in Google SketchUp, displaying it in Google Earth begins with giving it a geographic location, or geo-location for short. In SketchUp, geo-locating your model involves placing it where it belongs on a chunk of terrain and aerial imagery (called a geo-location snapshot) that you download from the Web.

Adding a geo-location snapshot to your model in SketchUp 8 is about ten times easier than it was in SketchUp 7. The 3D terrain data in SketchUp 8’s geo-location snapshots is also more detailed and accurate than it used to be, and the aerial imagery is in full color.

Follow these steps to add a geo-location snapshot to your SketchUp file:

  1. Make sure you’re online.

  2. Open the SketchUp file you want to geo-locate.

  3. Choose File, Geo-Location, Add Location from the menu bar.

  4. Find the area where you want your model to be located.

    When you’re zoomed in close enough, you see a white, 1 km x 1 km square: This is the largest snapshot you can import all at once. That’s still a very big area, so you probably want to keep zooming.

  5. Click the Select Region button to display a cropping rectangle.

  6. Drag the blue pins to specify the precise corners of your geo-location snapshot.

    Try to frame an area that’s just big enough to provide a base for your model. Importing too much terrain data can bog down your computer. You can always bring in more terrain data later.

  7. Click the Grab button to add a geo-location to your SketchUp file.

    The separate window closes, and a big, colorful rectangle appears in the middle of your model. That’s your new geo-location snapshot.

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  8. If you’re geo-locating a model you’ve built already, move it into position on the snapshot.

    Use the Move tool (and maybe the Rotate tool) to pick up your model and place it where it belongs. You’re not done yet, though; you still need to make sure your model is vertically situated on the terrain. Follow these steps to do just that:

    1. Choose File, Geo-location, Show Terrain to switch to the 3D version of your geo-location snapshot.

    2. Select everything you want to move and use the Move tool to start moving; tap the up- or down-arrow key to constrain your move to the blue axis.

    3. Sink your model into the terrain until it sits properly — avoid the dreaded floating model syndrome at all costs.

If you want to import another snapshot into SketchUp, you can. SketchUp automatically tiles all the snapshots you “take” to form a patchwork in your model. This is super-handy if you find that you didn’t get everything you needed the first time.

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