Google Earth
Jul 1 · 3 min read

By Michael DeWitt, Software Engineer, Google Earth Engine

Every day, thousands of scientists, researchers, journalists and policymakers use the Earth Engine Code Editor to generate knowledge from massive geospatial datasets. Earth Engine’s ability to quickly produce previews of compute- and data-intensive outputs is one of the features that distinguishes the platform from other geospatial analysis tools. Because it’s simple to experiment with algorithms and datasets in the EE Code Editor, you can quickly ask questions, iteratively test hypotheses, and get answers.

To that end, we’ve added new methods for generating on-the-fly visualizations of image collections from within the Code Editor: ee.ImageCollection.getVideoThumbURL() and ee.ImageCollection.getFilmstripThumbURL(). Using these functions allows you to quickly visualize the contents of image collections and makes it even easier to experiment with new techniques and data interactively.

Temperature over the course of a day from NOAA/NCEP/EMC’s GFS: Global Forecast System 384-Hour Predicted Atmosphere Data

Image Collection Animations

The ee.ImageCollection.getVideoThumbURL() function stitches together images to create an animated result. Because collections can contain arbitrary data, this means that you can craft animations of any data in the Earth Engine platform, even if it’s a synthetic, computed result that you’ve created as part of an Earth Engine script. Today, we support writing animated GIFs, but keep an eye out for more file formats in the future. The GIF format, while limited, is supported by basically everything, which means that you’ll be able to put your Earth Engine animations in Slides, Docs, memes and more.

An on-the-fly wind speed animation using NOAA/NWS’ RTMA: Real-Time Mesoscale Analysis

Once you’ve developed a visualization that you’re happy with, it’s easy to pipe your results into the Earth Engine batch-processing framework to generate substantially larger and more complex outputs (like HD video).

Why bother with animation? The human brain has custom hardware for extracting information from motion, which means that videos can be used to make change detection, time-series analysis, etc. visually intuitive.

Image Collection Filmstrip Images

Sometimes, you may find that you want to preview the contents of a collection spatially rather than temporally. For this use-case, we’ve added an ee.ImageCollection.getFilmstripThumbURL() function which displays the images in a grid. This “filmstrip” result can power inspector tools, thumbnail galleries, and more — let us know if you build something cool!

Three sections of the filmstrip image from NOAA/NCEP/EMC’s GFS: Global Forecast System 384-Hour Predicted Atmosphere Data animation above

We hope this new functionality makes it a little easier for you to understand the images that make up a collection as part of your development iterations. Happy coding!

Google Earth and Earth Engine

For developers, scientists, explorers and storytellers

Google Earth

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Google Earth and Earth Engine

For developers, scientists, explorers and storytellers

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