Data from the web

The free Quickstart sources that Depiction provides are just the tip of the geo-data iceberg that exists on the Internet.

Data trends

The trend is clear: data about our world is becoming increasingly accessible. Each week, more and more local, state and federal agencies, along with non-profit groups and corporations, are posting new geographic-based information on the web. Want to know about hazardous material storage sites in your county? What about potential new businesses in your neighborhood that have applied for building permits? Or the 911 dispatch calls in your city? The data is out there for you to depict almost anything you can imagine. You may also find our Depiction 101: Finding Data session helpful.

Maps and imagery

What’s the difference? A map is an artist’s rendering of an area (e.g. the folded street map in your glove compartment), whereas imagery is captured by a camera (or some other type of sensor, such as infrared) mounted on a satellite or airplane. Depiction’s Quickstart provides you with many free sources of both maps and imagery from around the world. In addition, there are many popular web sites that let you view both maps and imagery – such as MapQuest, Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Local government sites – check out your city or county - can often provide timelier and higher detailed versions, using either a custom web viewer or on a DVD.

There are a couple of ways to bring maps and imagery into Depiction. You can simply load any image file of a map or satellite/aerial photo into your depiction (Add > File) and use the geo-align feature to quickly form-fit the picture against other images in your depiction.

If the map or image is not saved in a file but just on your screen (like when you view many specialized map web viewers), then simply grab a screenshot of what you see on your computer and save the image as a .jpg (jpeg) or .bmp (bitmap) image before importing into depiction. There is even a specialized picture file format that contains geographic information built-into it: GeoTIFF. With these file types, you skip the geo-aligning step and simply load it – Depiction automatically aligns it in the right place in your world.


Elevation Data

Depiction uses elevation data to run many of its simulations--floods, line of sight, runoff and more. It provides Quickstart data for the US at a resolution of 30 meters, but Depiction can use elevation data from many sources. More detailed data for the US can be found at the USGS Seamless server, and 30-meter worldwide data can be obtained from ASTER-GDEM, a project of the Japanese government and NASA. NOAA also has a portal for coastal elevation data (including ocean floor) for areas at risk for tsunamis, here. Read this blog entry or view our Elevation Data Retrieval tutorial video for tips on using this data.

Government portals

Recognizing how confusing it can be for citizens to go to scores of different agency websites, there are now many “one-stop shopping” clearinghouses to help you find geographic-based information about your community. Check your own city or county or state web sites (look for the “Geographic Information Systems” or GIS department). Here are a few examples:

University portals

Like the government portals above, many universities around the world provide a collection of files or links to geographic information for their region and the world. Here are a few examples:

Private commercial sources

Many non-profits and companies provide data or links to data for free – or for a fee – depending on their business model. Here are a few examples:

Publicly contributed data

You may also find that people in your area (or who have traveled through) share data they have collected. Often, these folks are GPS users. Particularly useful are point of interest (POI) files (in CSV format) and GPX files (paths people have saved). Here are a couple of good sites:

Data Page
Your Data
Free data from Depiction


©2012 Depiction, Inc. All rights reserved. - [contact us]

Use of this website signifies your agreement to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.