3D: A NEW DIMENSION IN PHOTO SIMS


We first discussed how our Wireless Services team uses photo simulations (commonly referred to as photo sims) in a 2016 blog post. We explained how photo sims depict what a proposed site will look like upon completion, helping local jurisdictions and property owners visualize a site’s design before construction approval. The exciting thing about technology, particularly in the Wireless industry, is that it’s always changing. Three years ago, we provided examples from our projects using 2D photo sims. Now we’re offering an updated look at how we’re using 3D technology to produce simulations with more accuracy than ever before.


Prior to our current 3D techniques, creating photo sims involved finding pictures of equipment that most resembled the proposed equipment and superimposing them onto pictures of the existing site. The final visual was accurate enough to aid in the design’s approval, but there were some limitations. What if a client needs to see the proposed design from multiple perspectives? Where do you get a 2D picture of equipment that doesn’t exist yet? What if the view needs to show the compound as well as the tower and ground equipment? There is only so much you can control working in 2D. That’s where 3D technology goes a step further in being able to customize a photo sim for enhanced accuracy.

Using AutoCAD, our team can now “build” the exact equipment and materials that are being proposed in the site design to scale. We can even render the fencing and ground equipment. Next, the equipment, tower, and compound are lit according to average lighting conditions in the photos and angled accordingly to provide perspective. We then superimpose these replications onto site walk photos using Photoshop. The result is as an accurate and realistic simulation of the proposed design.

Using AutoCAD, our team can now “build” the exact equipment and materials that are being proposed in the site design to scale. We can even render the fencing and ground equipment. Next, the equipment, tower, and compound are lit according to average lighting conditions in the photos and angled accordingly to provide perspective. We then superimpose these replications onto site walk photos using Photoshop. The result is as an accurate and realistic simulation of the proposed design.

3D rendering of equipment Equipment rendering on site walk photo


An additional benefit of rendering the equipment in CAD is the ability to create short 3D animations with 2D/3D geolocation overlays. While it’s usually enough to see a photo sim from a few head-on perspectives, it can be helpful to have a fly-through type visual (see below). Seeing a top-down view provides the most accurate sense of location and scale of a site in relation to surrounding topography and landmarks.



Our goal is always to provide the most accurate and realistic photo simulations. As we continue to track and adopt emerging technology, it will be interesting to see if we can provide another update in the future on how our process may be able to improve in ways we can’t yet predict.

About Foresite Group


Foresite Group is a multidisciplinary engineering, planning, and consulting firm providing services to public and private sector clients nationwide. Our team’s collaborative process results in creative products and services that help our clients achieve their goals. Our team takes pride in enhancing and developing the cities and communities where we live, work, and raise our families.