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Importing ECWs with world files


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Good afternoon folks,


I'm banging my head against the computer here trying to get ECW files from my local municipality (Winnipeg, Manitoba) to import, scale and position properly in a geofenced file. 


I've setup a clean (new) file and geolocated it according to the system the city uses ( NDA83 / UTM zone 14N) which I pulled from the ECW files in QGIS. The Geoimage tool in VW works great but the city ECW files are far superior. 


The ECW images import through the Import Image route but they're not recognized as images (I have to choose all files under options) and they show up at the wrong scale and not located properly. If I import two of them they stack one on the other. The ECW files have a world file (.EWW). I've made sure the document units match the units in the ECW file.


Does anyone have any idea what's going on?


If you're curious where to find the City of Winnipeg ECW files, they can be found HERE.


Thanks for any help / advice.


- Dylan

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  • Vectorworks, Inc Employee

Just to confirm, are you trying to import the image in VW2021 as your forum signature indicates or do you have the current version (2022) of Vectorworks?


I had not heard of the ECW file format before. It is an interesting one... It appears to be a propriety format developed by a company called Hexagon Geospatial. (More info here.) It does appear to have the ability to contain very high resolution images. (For what it's worth, in my experience it's not unusual that aerial images commissioned by cities do sometimes have higher resolutions than images that cover the entire planet – It is in the best interest of the jurisdiction to pay the considerable cost for such local a imaging service as it helps examine and document the area they govern.)


Thank you for providing the source that you're working with. I downloaded one fo the ECW files and gave it a try in Vectorworks 2022. When I open a brand new file and I don't geolocate the Vectorworks file first, then I import the ECW file, the imported image appears to geolocate well for me. (Incidentally I did not need to use the "All types" option for the file. VW2022 recognized ECW as an image file.) The image import options I used are below. (Note the Georeferencing settings.)




The ECW image arrived and, based on what I see in Vectorworks' rulers, it seemed to be geolocated. To check this, I activated the Geoimage tool. Right away the geoimage tool produced a base geoimage for me for me to select my target area. The ECW file is the square image in the centre, everything else is the preview Geoimage. This looks nicely geolocated to me. 

ECW file plus geoimage preview.png


Because I didn't manually geolocate the file myself, this indicates to me that the image's own coordinate system was successfully used fo the geolocation process. The ECW file appears to be at the correct scale too.


I then created a geoimage of an area larger than the ECW square so that I could see how the resolutions compared...

ECW square on Geoimage.png



Zooming WAY in (to compare the resolution of the these two aerial images, I see the image below. I didn't expect that the geoimage would get close to the ECW file but I was pleasantly surprised. The ECW resolution is higher, of course, but I could certainly work with the geoimage if the ECW wasn't available.

Geoimage compared to ECW.png


I hope that hearing what I did and seeing the results helps.


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Hi Neil,


Thanks for that response! The project I'm working on is in 2021 not 2022 (it was started in early 2019). I'll try and replicate your process in of pulling in the ECW file without geolocating the file in 2021 and see how that works. I have 2022 installed on the computer so I can play around with the process there as well.


ECW is an odd format. I've been importing them into QGIS and then exporting JPGs or PDFs to then bring into VW or Sketchup as the project requires. I never thought I could import them directly into VW until I did some forum searching and digging into the help files.


The city of Winnipeg just updated their aerial imagery wicth is really nice. For quickly modelling in the surrounding buildings it's really nice to have! 


I'll let you know how it turns out!


Thanks again Neil!


- Dylan

Edited by Dylan
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  • 1 month later...

Hi @Neil Barman,


I finally got time in the office to work on this again. This time I'm using VW 2022.


It's weird, I try importing the .ecw files directly into VW but they're still grayed out and not recognized as image files. When I do get them imported, I use the same setting as you posted but they definitely don't geolocate the file properly so same issues as before. To see where the file is located, I drop in a geo-image and it centres me on Rideau Hall in Ottawa (the default).


I have tried this in a non geo-located working file and a new blank file. Doesn't make a difference.


I don't know what's going on and why your VW recognizes .ecw's as image files but mine doesn't. I have a feeling that's at the root of the problem here. If it doesn't recognize the file as an image, it's probably not looking for or doesn't know where the location data is.


If you have any ideas, I'm certainly open to them!


Thanks Neil and have a great day,


- Dylan

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  • 3 weeks later...

It seems to be an issue with origins


My workflow

import into a new blank file (iff you have an m1 Mac use vw 2021)

check using the geoimage tool (seems to work for me)

Do not ever do anything with any of the origins in this file

reference into the working file (Auto update off, save cache data on). Don’t set geographic settings

again check with the geoimage tool (accept the default geo settings).

if you do anything to the origins in the working file do NOT update the reference


you can now change geographic settings (I use EPGS 26914 in Winnipeg) and use the geolocation tool to set user origin somewhere closer to home (eg the 0,0 point and rotation everyone else is using)


I’m sure there are other workflows that are working and more elegant but after spending too much time playing around with this I decided I can live with it.

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  • 2 years later...

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