Google Earth 5 Tour Roundup

Google Earth 5’s most powerful new features is the new Tour capability. At its most basic level Record Tour provides a fast and easy way for people to share with others a demonstration of some aspect of Google Earth and KML content, and the ability to add voice narration. (See a tutorial by Richard Treeves on creating basic tours). But, with a little KML coding, the Tour function allows much more powerful scripting of Google Earth demonstrations, 3D animations, movie-like camera action, and the ability to add professional audio overlays.
Here is a brief review of some of the early examples of Tours done with GE 5:

  • Jimmy Buffet – This demonstration, created by Google for the GE 5 announcement event, was significant. Certainly the first with a music audio track with the approval of the artist. The demo includes a tour of Hawaii and the ocean while highlighting the locations of Jimmy Buffet’s concert tour there. It uses a colorful image overlay for a title of the tour, and points out significant locations as it flies along. A great demonstration of the potential.

  • Flight 1549 – This tour by Jeral Poskey is really amazing. It re-enacts the flight of 1549 using GE 5 tour functions. The first thing you’ll notice is that he’s included several audio overlays from the FAA of the controllers and pilots speaking on the radios during the event. The moments after they realize the emergency shows a flurry of 8 simultaneous streams of urgent discussions. You can also here how calmly Solly (the pilot) reacts to the situation. Not only that, but the author has added a model of the Intrepid aircraft carrier which is near where the plane crash landed in the river. And, he’s simulated the motion of the plane in the river after it landed and the currents drifted it down the river. Turn on the 3D Buildings layer while its playing to get more realism. Read Jeral’s post for more details.

  • San Francisco Tour – Brian Flood, author of the popular GIS tool called Arc2Earth, is working on a tool to make sophisticated tours for GE 5. He has already created a couple of demonstrations showing cinematography-like camera movements. See this tour of San Francisco. He also did one for New York . These are really cool tours which show how the Tour function can show Google Earth’s 3D features like a movie while only requiring a relatively small download. Add music and other annotations and you could have a flying documentary.

  • Oil Rig Tour – Gerardo Paz has created a model of a 3D oil rig. He created a Tour to not only show the rig, but also demonstrate some geologic features under the rig, and a 3D animation of a helicopter taking off from the rig. This tour is an excellent demonstration of GE 5’s ability to do some fancy 3D animation.

  • More 3D Animations – James Stafford, who has created many examples of powerful Google Earth features over the last couple of years, has created several examples illustrating some of the animation capabilities with GE 5’s touring. First an animation of a 3D jet flying , next a shape transformation animation changing France into Spain, and finally a trip illustration using the new GE 5 techniques.

  • Glider Tour – Another interesting example of the Tour function showing how you can take old GPS tracks and turn them into powerful tours. Read the post for more details.

(By the way, don’t forget you can use the tour control panel (in the lower left) to control the playback – including fast forwarding, backwards, and pausing.)
These are all early examples just illustrating the potential. As GE 5 matures out of beta, and as these, and other developers, learn more about the capabilities. I expect there will be some amazing GE 5 tours in our future. Kudos to these early adopters of the technology!

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.


  1. Great roundup post Frank! Looking forward to more of these! A great way to stay up to date on great tours people are making! 🙂

  2. Just sit right back & you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip. That started from this tropic port aboard this tiny ship. The mate was a mighty sailing man, The skipper brave & sure. Five passengers set sail that day for a three hour tour, A three hour tour.

  3. Matthew Chambers says

    I am somewhat of a kml newbie… can anyone tell me the parts of the buffet kml that makes the screen overlays fade in and out rather than abruptly appearing and disappearing?

  4. Sanfranciso and NewYork tours crashed on my Intel Mac? I have seen this behaviour before on some KML’s we did..

  5. Love this new feature of Google Earth. It’s easy to get a clear overview of the different concert tours and it’s also easy to share with other friends.

  6. I just love tour. I visited over 13 countries & my dream is to visit the whole world……… I think i have the ability…….

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.