Cutting Edge > Data, Simulations and Models > Tools for Teaching with Data and Simulations > Fledermaus and iView3D

Fledermaus and iView3D

submitted by Erin Heffron, IVS 3D
Fledermaus is an interactive 3D data visualization system that is used for a variety of applications including environmental impact assessment, mining, geology, oceanography, and research. iView3D is a free viewer for files in the Fledermaus file format. This program contains the basic viewing capabilities of Fledermaus but is freely downloadable.
Jump down to Audience and Setting : Educational Examples : How to Get this Software : How to Use the Software : Other Examples

General description

Fledermaus scene showing bathymetry, sub-bottom seismic data, sensor locations, and water column data from the East Pacific Rise; scene created at the SIO Visualization Center by Debi Kilb, Graham Kent and Katie Phillips, as part of the Ridges 2000 project. Click to enlarge


Fledermaus is a 3D visualization and analysis software used for topographic and bathymetric data. This software suite allows you to create and interact with full-resolution terrain and bathymetric surface models, and then integrate those surfaces with a variety of other data types to make a "scene." Users can add images, vertical imagery, ASCII points and lines, Electronic Nautical Charts (ENCs), 3D models, ESRI shapefiles to build a really nice, easy to use visualization of all types of interrelated data. You can also use Fledermaus to run profiles along a surface, do slope calculations, create fly-throughs (flight paths), and more. Users can interact with the data using a standard 3-button mouse or a 3D navigation device (3DConnexion Space Navigator) in normal viewing mode or stereo (split-screen or full stereo). In the near future, Fledermaus will support the integration and display of time-stamped data-so you can show things like earthquakes, sediment migration, and wave propagation over time.

Fledermaus scene of earthquake locations under Japan, displayed in the free viewer iVIew3D. Created at the SIO Visualization Center by David Shelly and Satoshi Ide. Click to enlarge


iView3D is a free viewer for Fledermaus format files, known as SD or SCENE files (.sd or .scene). SD files consist of a single surface-usually a high-resolution detailed piece of topography or bathymetry, possibly with imagery draped over it. Scene files are collections of related SDs and other datasets for an area, saved together into one interactive "scene." Users can download, view, and interact with already-created SDs and scenes that others have posted; flight paths created in Fledermaus can also be played back in iView3D. Fledermaus is used by many people, both academic and commercial, in ocean exploration, mapping, and development related fields, as well as other geospatial/geoscience research and industry. Some users will post Fledermaus files on their sites for download, or will include them in reports; many of these free scenes have the potential to be great supporting tools for education. iView differs from the full Fledermaus software in that you can't create SDs or SCENEs from your own data and you can't do things like profiling and calculations. It is strictly a viewing tool.

Audience and Setting


Fledermaus is a good tool for educators working at all levels, and for students themselves at upper levels. Educators who would like to show a collection of related geospatial datasets in 3D and be able to do things like profile on the surface, create fly-throughs, etc. would benefit from having the software, though finding data and building scenes of their own can be time consuming. Upper-level students taking GIS classes or other classes with a GIS component, or classes based on data collection methods, etc. would benefit from having the software to use.


iView3D and associated scene files would be good for educational purposes at many levels. For introductory level classes, scenes can be used as part of lectures of all sizes. The viewer can be loaded onto lecture hall computers or a lecturer's laptop; scenes can be open and running in the background, then accessed during the appropriate part of the lecture. In smaller classroom or computer lab settings, students can be allowed to control the mouse or 3D device to enhance their learning.

Examples of Educational use

Exploring Geology

Steve Reynolds, Julie Johnson, Michael Kelly, Paul Morin and Charles Carter's recently published introductory level textbook, Exploring Geology, uses and provides Fledermaus scene files for educators to use in their lectures.

Teaching Idea:

Creating an integrated dataset for Long Island Sound using USGS data and the Fledermaus iView3D free viewer
(Developed at the 2008 workshop on Teaching with New Geoscience Tools)

How to Get the Software


The Fledermaus software can be purchased by contacting IVS 3D sales information staff. It is a commercial software so there is cost involved though there are significant discounts for academic and educational purposes. The software is available for Mac, Linux, and Windows systems (more information about platforms).

The current minimum machine configuration to run Fledermaus (hardware requirements)

CPU: Pentium 4 2.4GHz/AMD Athlon 64 3000+
Memory: 1GB
Graphics Card: NVidia GeForce 4/ATI x800
Monitor: 1280x1024
Mouse: 2 button with scroll wheel or 3 button
The current recommended configuration:
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4Ghz+ / AMD Athlon 64 X2 5200+
Memory: 2GB
Graphics Card: NVidia GeForce 8xxx or Quadro 1500+ / ATI x1900 or HD 2900XT+
Monitor: 1600x1200 or greater
Mouse: 2 button with scroll wheel or 3 button

To run in full stereo, you need to have a Nvidia Quadro series or 3D Labs Wildcat card. Passive or split-screen stereo will run on any video card that has dual outs, such as the cards mentioned above.

All of that said, Fledermaus can run on pretty much any recent machine, from laptop to full-blown workstation, though a better-then-average video card will likely be required.


iView4D is freely downloadable from the IVS 4D website. It is available for Mac, Linux, and Windows and has passive stereo capability. There is no minimum hardware requirement though a fairly recent video card is recommended; for passive stereo, you will need a card that has dual-outs such as a Nvidia GeForce card (4 and higher).

How to Use this Software


Already-created SDs and SCENE files can be opened in Fledermaus by going to File>Open Data Object (SD) or Open Scene.

Creating your own surface SDs and SCENES does take a little more work. The modules used in official IVS classroom-based training as well as the associated datasets are available on the IVS 4D website, under Support>Self-Guided Training. The software reference manual and user forum are also available online.

Other folks have posted information and tutorials for Fledermaus on their sites. Those I know of:

Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) Visualization Center: Library> Tutorials

Arizona State University:
How to Make a Fledermaus Scene and Movie
How to Import ArcGIS Maps into Fledermaus


Once you have downloaded iView3D and some sample files, launch the software. Go to File>Open SD or Open Scene. SD files have the extension .sd, and are represented by an icon that looks like a blue squiggle on a grey background. Scene files have the extension .scene, and a blue squiggle on a white background. You can also double click on either icon to launch the viewer.

Once files are loaded and visible, you can use your 3-button mouse or 3D navigation device to explore the scene. Navigation devices such as the 3DConnexion Space Navigator provide a short tutorial on their use. To explore using a mouse, follow the directions under Help>Navigating the scene. Some basics to get you started:

Other Examples of use

Scripps Institution of Oceanography Visualization Center:
The folks as SIO Viz create really nice Fledermaus scenes and movies and post them on the site for download. The "Library" tab takes you to the area for visualization download, while the "Projects" tab will tell you a little more about some of the projects these visualizations were created for.

They also co-sponsor and host Annual Earthquake Education Workshops and use iView 3D as one of their resources. The workshop agenda and resources page are linked on the page above.

Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping-Joint Hydrographic Center Law of the Sea Study
Information about the Law of the Sea and the data being collected in support of a potential US claim to an extended continental shelf under Article 76 of the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). All of the recently collected data for portions of the US continental shelf is posted here in several formats, including Fledermaus SDs.

Shallow Survey 2008
Shallow Survey is a conference held every few years which focuses on the collection and analysis of a common bathymetric dataset. Shallow Survey 2008 was held in Portsmouth, NH in October 2008.

USGS: Several USGS Open File Reports contain Fledermaus scene files with supporting imagery and bathymetry.

USGS Open File Report 2004-1400 Project PROBE Leg II - Final Report and Archive of Swath Bathymetric Sonar, CTD/XBT and GPS Navigation Data Collected During USGS Cruise 03008 (NOAA Cruise RB0303) Puerto Rico Trench 18 February - 7 March, 2003

USGS Open-File Report 03-150 Geophysical Surveys of Bear Lake, Utah-Idaho, September, 2002

USGS Open-File Report 2005-1089 GIS Compilation of Data Collected from the Pulley Ridge Deep Coral Reef Region

USGS Open-File Report 2004-1082 The Gulf of the Farallones: Sidescan-Sonar Imagery

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