Introduction: Capture 3D Models From Google Maps or Earth

About: Sebastian Morales is a Mexican born artist, engineer and researcher based in NYC. His work often exists in the confluence of sculpture, kinetics, the human body and code. His work can be seen at

Have you ever found yourself wondering through google maps and imagining how cool it would be to get access to that 3D models?? Me too! I have been thinking about this for almost 2 years now and finally decided to give it a shot.

Thinking about it, this method can be applied to a lot more than google earth models... movies? In this particular case I just wanted to get the corner of a particular building in the city of New York city, but you will see how this method can to much more.

In the past I remember people using programs like 3D ripper that would capture the geometry directly from openGL, I actually tried it once but without any luck. Also, I think this program only works for windows. In this Instructable I will teach you how to capture the 3d models with texture from google earth using the photogrammetry approach.


Identify what you want to capture and what is irrelevant. The clear the idea here the better the chances of success. Orbit around your building, try to do it in a smooth fashion and regular speed. Having a mouse might help but not necessary.


Try moving at a regular speed about the object of interest, I would say that you have about 1.5 minutes to capture all the geometry you want before you run into problems afterwards. Maybe you can push it up to 2 or even 2.5 minutes. I really haven't tried it much.

A good tip here is to only capture the section of the window with no words, logs or icons, this will save you time later and increase your chances of success.
This is also one of the reasons why I like using google earth better than google maps, you can turn all icons off.

I am including the actual video I capture for you to get an idea of how I was moving.


The free version of Autodesk Remake (formerly Memento) will only allow you to upload up to 250 frames. Now, our screen recording is about 1.5 minutes long, at 60fps, it means we have about 5400 frames. Truth to be told, most of those frames are repeated since we were moving slowly compared to the screen recording.

There are probably a couple of ways to do this but the one I am most familiar is using photoshop. First import the video frames as layers, limit to every 20 frames or so (5400/20=270), let it run and then export the layers as files. This last step might take some time but that is it.

Step 4: Autodesk Remake

This is one of the easiest steps to follow, open Remake, select Create 3D from Photos. Select the images and Create Model. The defaults work fine.

You are almost done but this step actually takes a long time, hours. Go out have some nice dinner, and get back to work.
Hopefully if everything went right, the moment you open remake you should be able to open your new 3D model.

Oh!! What is Remake you ask?

Remake, formerly called Mememnto is a super powerful tool to create 3D models from data. The data could be from a scanner or form a bunch of pictures. It is similar to 123D Make but on heavy steroids. Download it for free and give it a try!

Clean the model and remove the parts you don't need. From here you can export it as an OBJ or STL, but if you do decide to go for an STL, remember to first make the mesh into a solid, since right now you will probably just have the shell. You can probably do this inside Remake or inside Meshmixer.

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