MapCast 2020 [VIDEO]

Mapping as a Service


Take a tour of the latest features [VIDEO 26:20]



Video Transcript:

First Base Solutions: Geospatial Experts

MapCast: Imagery on demand

Over the last 10 years, MapCast has been the preferred web map service for Ontario industries, delivering aerial imagery and elevation mapping from our servers directly to your desktop. Our first major re-release introduces a suite of administrator tools, new subscription options and of course, more data.

About MapCast:

MapCast lets land information professionals access a vast collection of aerial imagery and vector mapping through an online connection. Subscribing to MapCast is the most efficient and cost effective way for teams of any size to access large data sets without the need to store or manage large files. Data is served directly into the desktop mapping software you already use; just add data to your mapping project and choose a connection to MapCast instead of files saved locally. Additionally, MapCast can be added to your public or internal web map application.

MapCast satisfies your need for site specific details without the hassle and expense of sourcing geographic data on a site by site basis. If your mapping projects routinely require you to spend time hunting for reliable geographic data for multiple locations, MapCast will fit seamlessly into your workflow. The benefits of MapCast have attracted some of our biggest clients including:
  • Government of Alberta
  • Beacon Environmental
  • exp
  • IBI Group
  • J.D. Barnes
  • Morrison Hershfield
  • Ontario One Call
  • Rogers
  • SNC-Lavalin
  • Stantec
  • Teranet
  • wsp



MapCast Technology:

MapCast connects to most GIS and CAD software packages including AutoCAD Civil and Map 3D®, ArcGIS, QGIS, Leaflet, MapInfo, MicroStation, Google Earth™ and more using the WMS, WMTS, KML, or TMS protocol. If your company’s internal web portal or public facing websites include interactive mapping, MapCast can easily be added there too. There's virtually no learning curve to use MapCast once connected. Format compatibility, georeferencing, projections and data maintenance are handled automatically for you.
MapCast is added to your mapping project as a data layer through a unique URL you’ll get when you subscribe. Using desktop GIS and CAD programs allows you to view the MapCast imagery in combination with your own geodata layers and use the software's built in tools. MapCast is treated in a similar way to any other layer. It can be turned on and off, transparency can be adjusted and the drawing order can be changed relative to other layers. 

About Subscriptions

MapCast subscriptions can be scaled to meet your company's data demands from small teams to enterprise level solutions. Building your subscription is easy, just select your plan based on the number of users and then select from aerial and satellite imagery products that match your area of interest. You can then select from free and premium vector overlays to add to your subscription. Subscriptions can be upgraded or additional data added during the term of your subscription for a pro-rated cost. If you cannot find a subscription that meets your needs, contact our sales team, we’d be happy to work with you.


You'll also get a manager’s dashboard with tools to monitor your team's usage in real time, create custom reports, manage renewals, transactions, and pay subscription fees online. You can also assign roles to your team for operators using the service and administrators to the company’s account.

MapCast is flexible. The plan you subscribe to gives your team ample bandwidth based on average use per person, but anyone you give your subscription details to can share access to the data, up to the monthly bandwidth allotment. In months where your team's combined bandwidth usage is above the monthly limit, you'll be topped up automatically so you'll never run out in the middle of an important project. Bandwidth overages, when they occur, are billed on a month by month basis.

For Account Administrators


Begin by visiting the MapCast home page ( If you're a brand new user, click on 'Pricing' to start building your subscription.

How Many?

Annual subscriptions are built around your team with options for 1, 2, and 5 users. Each named user in your subscription will get unique login credentials that allows you to track their activity.

New users may enjoy a 500 MB trial subscription to preview the service in your own software. Data coverage will be limited to a sample area.  Use this trial subscription to estimate how many team members would benefit from access to MapCast and how often each would use it. Average use is generally 1GB per user per month, with all users sharing a common pool of bandwidth. If the team's collective bandwidth usage goes over the monthly limit, a 500MB top up will be applied automatically and billed at the first of the month. Click on 'Learn More' to compare bandwidth overage costs for each plan.

If the size of your team is in between the recommended team sizes of the four paid plans, you can subscribe to a larger plan than you need if you predict you'll use the service a lot, or to a smaller plan with light and occasional users swapping in and out of one of your data user slots.  You are free to upgrade your subscription plan at any time for a prorated amount. For very large groups, or to add MapCast to your public or internal website, please contact us for a customized subscription.

Where Do You Work?

The next step to build a subscription is choosing your primary data sets. Our aerial and satellite imagery covers high demand areas of Ontario and Alberta. Click on 'Learn More' to preview the coverage areas, image specifications and metadata for each layer in the data set. The Ontario Aerial Imagery layer, for example, contains imagery for various regional municipalities. The boundary, year, and photo resolution for each location are listed in separate tabs. Select as many areas of interest as you need, and you can always add more data later for a pro-rated charge.

Now here's where things get interesting. A new feature in MapCast 2.0 is open data. Changes to how government data is licensed allow us to now offer well vetted map layers from public sources. Click 'Learn More' to see the layers and source information included in each data package. These vector overlays can be added to your subscription for a nominal fee, kept up to date and styled for you. Vector data is an optional add-on that gives some context to the imagery layers.

Please note, the pricing and promotions for all data sets are tied to the user plan you selected. If you upgrade your plan to add more users, the data prices and availability will change as well.

Once you've made your selections, review the summary at the bottom of the page to see pricing for your user plan and data packages, then click 'Next: User Profile'. If you've made a purchase from MapWarehouse or have had a VuMAP subscription in the past, you can use that login now.

About You

Fill in your user information for the account administrator. The user name and password you choose here will be your login information going forward. Make sure your email address is correct since you'll need to click a link in an email we send you to activate your account. It's important that your email hasn't been used in any First Base Solutions' account in the past. If your email is already in use, please contact customer service for support. When your user profile is complete, click through to review your order.

Confirm Your Selections

Review your user profile information and subscription choices. You'll see the name of the plan you picked based on the number of users. Subscriptions always begin on the first of the month. If you're starting your subscription mid-month, you'll see a pro-rated discount in the summary grid below.  Any price reductions for time limited special offers and sales will be listed in the 'Promotion' column. If you have a coupon code for further discounts, enter it below in the 'Order Review' section.

The last step before payment is to choose a name for your subscription. Your company name and plan are entered by default.  The 'order reference' is to enter notes that will appear on your invoice or receipt. If you have a PO number or job number, you can enter it here.

Now enter your payment information, either by credit card or corporate account if one has been previously set up, and submit your order. You'll see a success message once payment has gone through. Now you can log in as a subscriber and access your MapCast connection URLs and administrator's dashboard.

Administrator Tour


You should now be subscribed and logged in. The first page you'll see is the dashboard. At the top of the page, the left hand panel shows your team's total bandwidth usage for the current month and days remaining until the bandwidth refreshes. The right hand side shows a summary of your plan and the days remaining on your subscription for the year. The button in the plan summary panel to 'upgrade' can be used to add more users and/or more data to your active subscription at any time. The 'renew now' button will extend the end date of your active subscription by one year, allowing you to prepay for the following year to ensure there is no service interruption. You'll be notified when your subscription is nearing the expiry date.

The lower half of the page lists the WMS and WMTS connection options that you'll use for most CAD and GIS software. The Tile Mapping Service and Virtual Earth Quadkey can be used with Google Maps in a standard web browser. Copy the connection URL for the service type you'll be using and paste it into your mapping software as the data source of a new WMS or WMTS layer. If you're connecting through Google Earth or Microstation, navigate to the 'Downloads' tab on the left. Select a projection from the drop down menu, find the layers you want to work with, then download either a kml for Google Earth or dgn file for Microstation. Consult the help files for your specific software to locate the WMS options since the steps may be different from my examples.


Administrators will see tabs on the left side of the page to manage the company's account. 'Profile' shows your contact information. This is where you can change your password if needed. 'My Subscription' lets you review your current plan and data packages, estimate the cost to upgrade, and renew your annual plan.

The 'Subscription Users' tab is where you can enter details about your team members. The user role for 'Subscription Admin' will be assigned to the user who created the subscription. The administrator can see both the 'data access' portions of the service, and the 'orders and billing' portions. The administrator counts towards one of the named users on your plan. To add your other team members, click on 'new' to enter their name and email information. The new user's email will be their username and a randomized password will be created for them. Users assigned a 'Data Access' role will get a unique URL to track their usage and email notifications about approaching bandwidth limits. The number of data access users is limited by your plan type. Users assigned an 'Orders and Billings' role will have access to order and payment history, but will not get a URL to access data. There is no limit on the number of Orders and Billings users you can assign. Roles can be changed quickly from a drop down menu by clicking in the grid, then click 'save' at the top.

The 'Order History' shows pending and paid transactions for all past subscriptions, upgrades, renewals, and overages. Click the pdf icon to download a copy of your receipt or invoice. A new feature in MapCast is the option to store credit card information if you'd like to automate your payments. Please contact customer service to set up a billing agreement.

Clicking the 'FAQ' tab will open a new page of searchable frequently asked questions about MapCast and it's data layers with links to tutorials and troubleshooting resources. We welcome your questions if you can't find what you need on this page.

Finally, the 'Reports' tab. The usage reports are available for the subscription as a whole, broken down for each team member's usage, and for each data layer. At the top of the page, the time interval and chart type you choose will be applied to the three report types below. Each report can be downloaded as an editable table with the CSV option, a chart and table image with the PDF option, or as a detailed daily summary table. Take some time to explore.

Using MapCast In CAD and GIS

MapCast in ArcMAP Tutorial

Add data to your new project and navigate to your 'Add WMS' option. When prompted to add a URL, paste the URL that you copied from your MapCast dashboard. Choose version 1.1.1 in most cases, and load the available layers. Now that your unique URL is set up, add the FBSWMS to your list of WMS sources, then add it as the first data layer in your project. Click to turn the layer visibility on and you'll see part of the imagery draw on your screen.

Set Up

In my ArcMap example, I'll add in a world countries layer to give some context to the MapCast imagery.

Expand the MapCast layer and you'll see the imagery that's available arranged in a hierarchy of three levels, grouped geographically by province, then by county, then by year if the county has multiple imagery sets available. Check all imagery sets you'd like to be visible, and don't forget to also turn on the county and province groups the imagery is grouped under. Contour elevations can be found at the top of the list for Ontario.

Initially the map is displayed with a plain old geographic projection, but since I'm going to be working in the Toronto area, I'm going to change the coordinate system for the MapCast layer to NAD83 UTM, zone 17N, which is the most common projection for working in South Central Ontario. You can see the effect this has the shape of Western Canada since the map is now focused on Ontario.

Open the properties for all layers and you'll see the coordinate system change has been applied there as well. Zoom in on Ontario and you'll see the shape of the region looks familiar and undistorted using this projection. 


The properties dialogue shows the same types of properties you'd see in any other type of layer. Here you can rename the layer and set the scale range. The data source is the URL you copied and pasted earlier.

To streamline the tree structure in the table of contents, you can choose only the layers you're actively working with under the layers tab. Only the layers listed on the right will be available until you change the setting. This is good practice to help save bandwidth since you'll be temporarily unable to draw layers outside your area of interest.

The visibility, zoom, and pan options work the same as with any other layer. Here I'm only interested in Peel region, so I'll turn the other layers off to save bandwidth. 


Another way to save bandwidth is to use image caching. The cached image will be temporarily saved so doesn't need to be reloaded until you zoom, pan, or make a new image layer visible. This feature will increase the speed and performance if your work tends to keep you in the same area of the map for a long time.


There are two types of contours available for Ontario: FBS, which is from First Base Solutions in 1m intervals, and OBM, which is from the Ministry of Natural Resources Ontario Base Maps in 5m and 10m intervals.

Since the FBS contours are so detailed, they will only draw when you're zoomed in closer than 1:37,500 by default. In the table of contents, the visibility is checked on, but greyed out until I zoom in close enough.

Zooming in even closer allows you to interpret topography at the neighbourhood level, for instance, following the points in this V shaped pattern, I can identify the bottom of a valley where there is likely to be a small stream with the V's pointing up hill away from this pond. 


In addition to analyzing topography, you can take advantage of many of the tools built in to your CAD or GIS software. Let's take a really close look at the imagery. Most of our imagery is between 10 and 20 cm resolution, meaning each pixel covers 10x10 or 20x20 cm on the ground.

Because the imagery is orthorectified, meaning it's been geometrically corrected for the movement of the aircraft, it can be used to accurately measure area of features on the ground, and distance and direction between objects seen in the photo, just like a map.

At this zoom level, it's easy to see roof top objects, road markings, and even individual people. Since we're using a UTM projection, we can measure in square meters with ArcMap's measure tools and find the area of this minivan. 

Your Data In Context

I've gone to MapCast's sister service, MapWarehouse, to purchase and download some parcel mapping data which I've added to my mapping project. As you can see, the property boundaries line up perfectly with the MapCast imagery. Without the imagery below to show the location of structures and the types of land use, the parcels don't have much meaning on their own.

I've also used the imagery as a base layer to create my own highly detailed vector base map by tracing objects on the ground. Building footprints, fence lines, curbs and sidewalks, tree canopies, street lights and other details of the busy urban environment are much faster and easier to survey from the imagery than by undertaking a ground level study of the area.

Historical Conditions

MapCast lets you explore past conditions at your site with historical imagery. I'll zoom in to an area near the airport where I know there's been some development. For this area, I have already loaded the imagery for Mississauga 2008 and 2014, and Peel Region 2015 which contains Mississauga. By switching the visibility of the 2008 and 2014 imagery off and on, I can see the new UP express tracks leading in to the terminal.

The 2015 imagery shows even more changes to the parking lots and roads surrounding the Up express project. Let's zoom in for a closer look. Now look back at 2008 and see what the area looked like under construction.

Using landmarks you see in the historical imagery that existed in the past is an easy way to position your historical vector mapping data. Once you turn on the current year, updating portions of your legacy files can be done quickly and efficiently by digitizing over the changes you see in the image. Here you can see changes to the woodlot where the 407 extension was built. 


Most areas in Ontario have multiple image sets listed by year as you can see in tree structure. The data ranges in age from 2002 up to the current or previous calendar year, but not all areas are updated every year.

As with most mapping software, the data draws in the order you see listed in the table of contents, starting from the bottom and working up. When working with two imagery layers from different years that cover the same geographical area, the top most visible layer in the drawing order is the only one that you'll see because the imagery is opaque. All layers below, even though set as visible, will be covered until the top drawing layer is turned off.

You can adjust the drawing order of the layers under the Layers properties by using the up and down arrows on the right. Keeping the layers in chronological order will be helpful to managing the data in your project more intuitively. All imagery is taken in early Spring, unless otherwise noted as Fall imagery, this is done so ground features will always be visible without being obscured by foliage.

In situations where you want to simultaneously view two images at once, the transparency can be adjusted. Transparency must be applied to the entire MapCast layer, but not for or between individual layers.

If you need to see two layers at the same time, duplicate your MapCast connection in the table of contents and adjust the transparency properties separately. This is a helpful workflow if you need to assess major land use changes where the before and after images may be so different there are no landmarks left on the ground to orient what you're seeing. 

Working With Repeat Coverage 

If you need to research historical conditions to support a legal action, to assess property values or changes to the environment, for example, MapCast imagery provides objective, date stamped documentation of past conditions that makes it easy to visualize changes to the landscape over time and communicate the information with others.

Here I'm creating a simple layout to share with a co-worker, noting the new swimming pool on this property. Changes requiring permits such as this are simple to see in the imagery, but would be difficult to assess from the road. The imagery also makes it easy to confirm bylaw compliance, such as proper fencing and setbacks from property lines using the measurement tools we looked at earlier.

You've now completed the MapCast tutorial.

If you need imagery updated or for a specific location, you can contact First Base Solutions about a quote for custom aerial imagery acquisition services, topographic mapping, or any type of custom map compilation.

For more information and to subscribe to MapCast, please visit, 



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