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Story telling with Cesium

By Dmitry Kiselev · Monday, March 7, 2016

Tags: angular, cesium, javascript, kamelopard, maps

Let me tell you about my own town

I was born in Yekaterinburg. It's a middle-sized town in Russia.

Most likely you don't know where it is. So let me show you:

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en">
    <title>Hello World!</title>
    <script src="/cesium/Build/Cesium/Cesium.js"></script>
    <link rel="stylesheet" href="layout.css"></link>
  <div id="cesiumContainer"></div>
    var viewer = new Cesium.Viewer('cesiumContainer');
        var ekb = viewer.entities.add({
          name : 'Yekaterinburg',
          // Lon, Lat coordinates
          position : Cesium.Cartesian3.fromDegrees(60.6054, 56.8389),
          // Styled geometry
          point : {
            pixelSize : 5,
          color : Cesium.Color.RED
          // Labeling
          label : {
            text : 'Yekaterinburg',
            font : '16pt monospace',
            style: Cesium.LabelStyle.FILL_AND_OUTLINE,
            outlineWidth : 2,
            verticalOrigin : Cesium.VerticalOrigin.BOTTOM,
            pixelOffset : new Cesium.Cartesian2(0, -9)

        // How to place camera around point
        var heading = Cesium.Math.toRadians(0);
        var pitch = Cesium.Math.toRadians(-30);
        viewer.zoomTo(ekb, new Cesium.HeadingPitchRange(heading, pitch, 10000));

Now, I would like to tell you about the history of my town. In the beginning it was a fortified metallurgical plant with a few residential blocks and some public buildings. It was relatively small.

I could say that its size was about the size of a modern city-center, but that description is too vague. I think the best way to tell you something about the city is with a map.

I'll show you two maps.

  1. A map from 1750, early in the town's history when it was just a factory: http://www.retromap.ru/m.php#r=1417506
  2. A map from 1924 at about the start of Soviet industrialization, just before Yekaterinburg became the industrial center of the Urals: http://www.retromap.ru/m.php#r=1419241

Thanks for these beautiful maps to http://www.retromap.ru.

The map from 1750 is a small image, so I've added it via SingleTileImageryProvider. Just specifying the src and coordinates:

function setupImagery() {
    var layers = viewer.scene.imageryLayers;

    var s = 56.8321929;
    var n = 56.8442609;
    var w = 60.5878970;
    var e = 60.6187892;
    var l1750 = layers.addImageryProvider(new Cesium.SingleTileImageryProvider({
        url : 'assets/1750.png',
        rectangle : Cesium.Rectangle.fromDegrees(w,s,e,n)
    l1750.alpha = 0.75;

Now you can see how small my town was initially.

The second image is larger, so I've split it up into tiles. If you use gdal2tiles.py for generating tiles, it creates all the metadata necessary for TMS and you are able connect the imagery set via TileMapServiceImageryProvider. Otherwise, you can use UrlTemplateImageryProvider.

var l1924 = layers.addImageryProvider(new Cesium.TileMapServiceImageryProvider({
    url: 'assets/1924t',
    minimumLevel: 8,
    maximumLevel: 16,
    credit: 'retromap.ru'

l1924.alpha = 0.75;

I've used QGIS for geo referencing. Here is a good tutorial.

User interface and Angular.js

And below here you see how I've added some controls for visibility and opacity of the overlays. Later we will bind them with an Angular-driven GUI:

// APP is global

var layersHash = {
    'l1750': l1750,
    'l1924': l1924

APP.setAlpha = function(layer, alpha) {
    if(layersHash[layer] && layersHash[layer].alpha !== undefined) {
        layersHash[layer].alpha = alpha;

APP.show = function(layer) {
    if(layersHash[layer] && layers.indexOf(layersHash[layer]) < 0) {

Why not keep our views in a namespace and access them directly from an Angular controller? Using this approach will give us a lot of flexibility:

  • You can split up the GUI and Cesium modules and use something else instead of Cesium or Angular.
  • You are able to make a proxy for APP and add business logic to the calls made to it.
  • It just feels right not to meld all parts of the application into one unmanageble mish-mash of code.

For the GUI I've added a big slider for the timeline, small sliders for layer opacity, checkboxes for visibility, and call APP methods via Angular's $watch.

$scope.$watch('slider.value', function() {
    var v = $scope.slider.options.stepsArray[$scope.slider.value];
    if (v >= 1723 && v <= 1830) {
        $scope.menu.layers[0].active = true;
        $scope.menu.layers[1].active = false;
    if (v > 1830 && v < 1980) {
        $scope.menu.layers[0].active = false;
        $scope.menu.layers[1].active = true;
    if(v >= 1980) {
        $scope.menu.layers[0].active = false;
        $scope.menu.layers[1].active = false;


$scope.updateLayers = function() {
    for (var i = 0; i < $scope.menu.layers.length; i++) {
        if ($scope.menu.layers[i].active ) {
            APP.show && APP.show($scope.menu.layers[i].name);
        else {
            APP.hide && APP.hide($scope.menu.layers[i].name);

Back to the history:

Yekaterinburg was founded on November 7, 1723. This is the date of the first test-run of the forging hammers in the new factory. The original factory design by Tatishew had 40 forging hammers and 4 blast furnaces. That may well have made it the best equipped and most productive factory of its time.

Now I want to add text to the application. Also, I have some cool pictures of the hammers and furnaces. Adding an overlay for text and binding its content is a matter of CSS and ng-include/ng-bind knowledge and it's a bit out of scope for this post, but let's push on and add some pictures and link them to the timeline. Cesium has KmlDataSource for KML loading and parsing. This is how my application loads and accesses these attributes:

var entityByName = {};
var promise = Cesium.KmlDataSource.load('assets/foto.kml');
promise.then(function(dataSource) {

    //KML entities
    var entities = dataSource.entities.values;
    for (var i = 0; i < entities.length; i++) {
        var entity = entities[i];
        // <Data> attributes, parsed into js object
        var ed = entity.kml.extendedData;

        entityByName[entity.id] = {
            'entity': entity,
            since: parseInt(ed.since.value),
            to: parseInt(ed.to.value)

Add bindings for Angular:

APP.filterEtityByY = function(y) {
    for (var k in entityByName) {
        if(entityByName.hasOwnProperty(k)) {
            var s = entityByName[k].since;
            var t = entityByName[k].to;
            entityByName[k].entity.show = (y >= s && y <= t);

var heading = Cesium.Math.toRadians(0);
var pitch = Cesium.Math.toRadians(-30);
var distanceMeters = 500;
var enityHeading = new Cesium.HeadingPitchRange(heading, pitch, distanceMeters);

APP.zoomToEntity = function(name) {
    if(name && entityByName[name]) {
        viewer.zoomTo(entityByName[name].entity, enityHeading);

I've added object timespans via extended data. If you want to use the Cesium/GE default timeline, you should do it via a TimeSpan section in the KML's entries:


Another interesting fact about my town is that between 1924 and 1991 it had a different name: Sverdlovsk (Свердловск). So I've added town name changing via APP and connected it to the timeline.

Using APP.filterEtityByY and APP.zoomToEntity it's relatively easy to connect a page hash like example.com/#!/feature/smth with features from KML. One point to note is that I use my own hash's path part parser instead of ngRoute's approach.

You can see how all these elements work together at https://dmitry.endpoint.com/cesium/ekb, the sources are on Github at https://github.com/kiselev-dv/EkbHistory/tree/master.