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Animating data through time

Release 9.2
Last modified March 11, 2008
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About animating data through time

The majority of GIS data has a temporal component that can be utilized to visualize changes over time. By visualizing temporal changes, you immediately understand the state of the data at each time stamp, and can see any patterns or trends that emerge as time passes. In ArcMap, ArcScene, and ArcGlobe, you can create an animation that changes the data in the display or in a graph (ArcMap only) through time or some other value. This can be achieved by creating a time layer track that is bound to a layer or table.

Example animation videos


Cropland change (year 1700 - 1992)
Population change (year 1800-2000)

Why animate temporal data?


There are many reasons you might want to animate data through time, such as:


What data can be animated through time?


In ArcMap, ArcScene, or ArcGlobe, the following layers can be animated in the display:


In ArcMap, the following layers and tables can be animated in a graph:

Learn more about supported data

How is data animated?


Any layer or table will animate, provided there is a field with multiple time values in the attribute table (netCDF layers must have time stored as a dimension).
Learn more about supported field formats
Learn more about table format issues
Layers must also be symbolized appropriately in the table of contents. The animation will appear to show no progression in the display if, for instance, you have features representing county population through time, and you are symbolizing the data with a single symbol. Such data should be symbolized in quantities.
Learn more about symbolizing data
To animate graphs, you'll simply bind a created time layer track to the layer or table containing the data in the graph that you want to animate. When the animation is played, the graph will animate.
Learn more about animating data in graphs


How to animate data through time

Step 1: Create the time layer track


The steps for animating a feature class, netCDF or raster catalog layer, or a table through time are the same. If you want to animate a table or a layer in a graph, create the graph (for instance, set the y-axis to represent population values and the x-axis to represent city name), then proceed with the following steps. To animate through time in the display or in a graph, a time layer track must be created. You create a time layer track using the Create Animation Keyframe dialog box where you'll create the keyframes that will be contained within the time layer track. You can animate data through time in ArcMap, ArcScene and ArcGlobe using the Animation toolbar. Note that graphs can only be created in ArcMap.

  1. Click View on the Main Menu of the application, point to toolbars, then click Animation.
  2. Click the Animation drop-down arrow and click Create Keyframe.

  3. Create keyframes

  4. Click the Type drop-down arrow and choose Time Layer.
  5. Click the Source object drop-down arrow and click the layer or table you want to bind to the track that you'll create. This is a layer or table you want to animate, that must have a time or date field in its attribute table. If this is a layer created from a netCDF file, there must be a dimension through which you can animate, such as time. Dimensions may not be present in the attribute table of the netCDF layer, but they will be available to select when setting the time field in step 2.
  6. If a graph is created from a layer or table, the graph will animate through time if the layer or table from which the graph is created is bound to a time layer track.
    The track can be bound later to multiple layers or tables to animate more than one layer or table within the same track. This can be achieved through the General tab of the Track Properties dialog box, accessed via the Tracks tab of the Animation Manager dialog box.
  7. Click New to create a new track with a default name, or type a name for a new track into the Destination track text box, then click New.
  8. In the Keyframe name input box, alter the default name given for the first keyframe. For example, type "Start Time".
  9. Click Create to create a new keyframe for the track.
  10. In the Keyframe name input box, type a name for the second keyframe. For example, type "End Time".
  11. Click Create again to create another keyframe for the track.
  12. Only two keyframes are required (a start keyframe and an end keyframe) for a time layer track, but you can add more if you want to display different intervals between each keyframe. You'll see these keyframes that you created on the Keyframes tab of the Animation Manager in step 2.
  13. Click Close.

Tips

  • If the Create button is disabled, click the New button. When you type a name for a new track, you have to click New to establish it as a new track. The Create button will then become enabled.
  • For time layer tracks, it is only necessary to create two keyframes, a start and an end keyframe. However, you can create more than two keyframes if you want to display different intervals between each keyframe. For instance, you might have three keyframes. From the first keyframe to the second keyframe, you might display hourly data. From the second keyframe to the third keyframe, you might display daily data.
  • To remove all animation tracks that you have created, click the Animation drop-down arrow and click Clear Animation. All animation tracks are removed.
  • To optimize performance when animating raster catalogs through time in ArcGlobe, click Tools, click Options, then click the General tab. Uncheck Make newly added layers visible by default so that the raster catalog does not draw when it is added to the document. Add the raster catalog and create the time layer animation track. Click the Time View tab of the Animation Manager and click in the Time View display to choose only one raster time slice in the catalog. Uncheck Restore state after preview so that the selection is maintained in the display after the Animation Manager is closed. This means that only one time slice of the entire raster catalog will display once the layer is visible. Make the layer visible in the table of contents, then play the animation. Also, check the option to use a homogeneous cell size on the Raster tab of the Options dialog box. The cell size of the first raster in the catalog will be applied to the rest of the rasters. Checking this option is only recommended if the cell size of all the rasters in the catalog is the same.
  • If a definition query is set on a layer before creating a time layer track, this definition query will be used in the animation. For example, with a definition query set for a layer (on the Definition Query tab of the Layer Properties dialog box) of "FIRE" = 'Emerald', each time slice displayed will retain this definition query, and the time component will be added, such as ("FIRE" = 'Emerald' AND ("DATE_" < date '1988-09-09'). When the Animation Manager is closed, the original definition query ("FIRE" = 'Emerald') will be restored.


Step 2: Manage track and keyframe properties

Once a time layer track has been created, the time or date field (or fields) to use to animate by must be specified, as well as the time range, the time interval, and the units to use.

  1. Click the Animation drop-down arrow and click Animation Manager.

  2. The Animation Manager

  3. Click the Tracks tab, click the track you created, and click Properties.
  4. The Track Properties dialog box opens.
  5. Click the Time Track Properties tab.
  6. Specify the start time field (and the end time field if necessary) to animate by in the animation.
  7. Only a start time field is required. The Field dropdown list for the end time can be left blank. However, if you have irregularly spaced time stamps in your data, it is recommended that you set an end time field also. The end time field can be calculated using the Calculate End Date tool. First, add a new field to the attribute table, then run this tool. The end date of any row will be calculated to be the same as the start date of the next row.
    When you use a start time field only, all features where the start time field value is greater than or equal to the current display time and less than the display time of the next time slice to be displayed will display. The next time slice that will display is based on the keyframe interval and units that will be set on the Keyframes tab of the Animation Manager. For example, you can show the active fire perimeter for each day.
    If a start time field and an end time field is set, all features where the start time field value is less than or equal to the current display time and the end time field value is greater than the current display time will draw.

    Time Layer Track Properties dialog box

  8. Click the Format drop-down arrow and specify the field format if the values (string, integer, or double) in the start time field (and end time field if used) are time or date values.
  9. For date-formatted fields, you do not have to set the format (the Format drop-down list is unavailable). If a string, integer or double field used contains numeric values, use the blank option in the Format drop-down list. For instance, you might have an integer field with values ranging from 1 to 8, and you want to animate features sequentially through this range.
  10. Check Animate fields cumulatively to draw data in the display that has a start time field value less than or equal to the current display time for each time slice. The field set for the End Time Field is ignored if this option is set. Use this option if, for example, you have data displaying the fire perimeter burned each day. The accumulation in the extent of the fire can be displayed by checking this option.
  11. Click Calculate Times to calculate a time value for each keyframe in the track.
  12. The minimum and maximum values from within the start time field set will be populated for the start and end keyframes on the Keyframes tab of the Animation Manager. If there are multiple keyframes, times are distributed evenly.
    For string, integer, or double fields containing numeric values (not time or date values), you can set the units to unknown and manually enter the time values for each keyframe on the Keyframes tab of the Animation Manager later.
  13. Check Show time in the display if you want the time to be displayed as the animation is playing. The time text will display using default symbology. If you are working in ArcMap, you can alter the default symbology used and the position of the text in the display.
  14. Learn more about altering the default time text symbology and its position in the display
  15. Check Show track name in the display if you want the name of the track to also appear next to the time. This is useful if you are animating more than one track and the time range for each track is different. It is also useful if you want to display information before the time text in the display. For instance, the text might be something like "Population in:". The text in the display would be "Population in: 1990" for instance.
  16. Click OK.
  17. Click the Keyframes tab.
  18. The Time column displays the range of time values calculated by clicking Calculate Times. You may want to alter the time range that will be animated. The Interval column shows the interval that will be used when animating. The Units column shows the interval units that will be used when animating. The keyframe interval and units specified determine the next time slice that will be displayed. These options must be set appropriately. If the time stamps in your data are hourly intervals, you could set the interval to 1 and the units to Hours. Alternatively, set the interval to 10 and the units to Hours to only show time slices of data for every 10 hours.
  19. Click in the Time column to alter the time values.
  20. Click in the Interval column to alter the interval that will be used for each keyframe.
  21. Click in the Units column to set the units to use.

  22. Keyframes tab of the Animation Manager

  23. Click Close on the Animation Manager.

Tips

  • To find out the format of a certain field, right-click the layer or table in the table of contents and click Properties. Click the Fields tab and examine the particular field's type.
  • If you have a raster catalog (for example, with 180 images) layer set as the source object for a track and you don't have a time/date field, you can use the ObjectID field to animate through. Set the units to unknown and the interval set for each keyframe to 1. Set the time values in the Time column. In the example above, the time value set for the first keyframe is 1, and the last keyframe is 180, since there are 180 images in the raster catalog.
  • To remove the time text from the display of ArcMap, click the text using the Select Elements tool from the Tools toolbar and click Delete.
  • In all applications (ArcMap, ArcScene, and ArcGlobe), the text will be removed after playing the animation if Restore state after playing is checked on the Animation Controls dialog box.
  • You can type any text for the track name on the Tracks tab of the Animation Manager, so you can add a label to the time text that is added to the display, such as "Population Growth - Year:". By checking Show track name in the display on the Time Track Properties tab of the Track Properties dialog box, when the time text is displayed, you would see something like "Population Growth - Year: 01/01/2000".
  • Save animations to animation files often since there is no undo capability in the Animation Manager.


Step 3: Play the animation

    There are two ways to play the animation:
  1. Play the animation automatically using the Animation Controls dialog box
  2. Play the animation manually using the Time View slider

Tips

  • Any feature selections will be cleared before the animation is played.
  • To remove the time text from the ArcMap display, click the text using the Select Elements tool Select Elements from the Tools toolbar and click Delete.
  • In all applications (ArcMap, ArcScene, and ArcGlobe), the time text will be removed after playing the animation if Restore state after playing is checked on the Animation Controls dialog box. After previewing a time slice through the Time View tab of the Animation Manager, the time text will be removed after closing the Animation Manager if Restore state after preview is checked.
  • By default, after playing or previewing an animation containing a time layer track, the definition query that is applied to the layer or layers will be cleared. If a definition query was applied before the animation was created, this will be restored. If you don't want to restore the state of the layer properties after the animation is played or previewed, uncheck Restore state on the Animation Controls dialog box or Restore state after preview on the Time View tab of the Animation Manager. The last frame of the animation to play or be previewed will remain in the display after the animation has played or been previewed on the Time View tab of the Animation Manager.
  • The default symbology of the time text that is added to the display of ArcMap when the animation is played (through the Animation Controls dialog box) or previewed (through the Time View tab of the Animation Manager) can be altered and the time text can be moved to a new position in the display.
  • Learn more about altering the time text symbology and position in the display

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