Object Symbol Layer Orientation

The orientation of an Object symbol layer can be controlled using the 3 rotation axes heading, tilt, and roll. Those degrees of freedom are available both in the symbol layer itself (via respectively named properties), and in rotation visual variables (via the axis property).

By convention, the resources referenced by Object symbol layers (WOSR) should initially be oriented s.t.

  • the Y-axis points into the same direction as the forward direction of the model,
  • the Z-axis points into the same direction as the up direction of the model,
  • the X-axis points to the right of the model.

Given this orientation, and given that the scene is using an ENU coordinate system, the rotation axes have the following effect:

  • A positive heading value rotates the model in clockwise sense. At 0°, the model points North. At 90°, the model points East.
  • A positive tilt value lifts the "nose" (front part) and lowers the "tail" of the model. At 0°, the model points forward. At 90°, the model points upward.
  • A positive roll value lifts the left side and lowers the right side of the model. At 0°, the model is level. At 90°, the "left wing" of the model points upward.


The heading, tilt, and roll properties correspond to intrinsic rotation angles around the z, x, and y axis (respectively). The same orientation can be achieved using y-x-z extrinsic rotation (where y = roll, x = tilt, z = heading).

In the canonical way for defining 3D rotations, a rotation appears counter-clockwise when the rotation axis faces the observer. Therefore, the heading angle typically needs to be negated to fulfill the orientation requirements of the previous section.

In summary, the desired orientation can be established by first rotating around the Y-axis by roll, then around the X-axis by tilt, and finally around the Z-axis by -heading.

Visual Variables

Visual variables of type rotationInfo have an optional axis property which can take the values "heading" (default), "tilt", and "roll". A renderer can contain multiple such visual variables to drive all rotation axes with a different attribute.

Rotation from visual variables is applied to the entire symbol in a separate transformation. This transformation takes place after all symbol layer transformations (including the symbol layer orientation properties). Other than that, it follows the same rules as the symbol layer orientation. A symbol layer with orientation values (heading, tilt, roll) = (r1, r2, r3) and no rotationInfo visual variables on the renderer should receive the same orientation as a symbol layer with (heading, tilt, roll) = (0, 0, 0) and rotationInfo visual variables that resolve to the values (r1, r2, r3) for heading, tilt, and roll.

Note that non-zero values in the symbol layer orientation properties rotate the coordinate frame for the subsequent visual variable transformation. If a model is initially oriented as described in the first section, but then re-oriented in the symbol layer by heading = 90, a rotationInfo with axis = "tilt" does not effectively change the tilt of the model, as it still causes a rotation around the X-axis (which now corresponds to the model's roll axis).

The rotationType property of rotationInfo visual variables only has as effect for the heading axis. If axis = "heading" and rotationType = "arithmetic", the output of the visual variable should be 90° - fieldValue. Otherwise, rotationType should not have any effect.

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