Terrain Party: Real-world height map generator

#1
Terrain Party: Real-world height map generator

http://terrain.party/

[Disclaimer: This tutorial describes a simple process, but with detailed steps]

Photoshop and Cheetah 3D suffice for 99% of my creative graphics. Since the Bryce era I've wanted to make terrain reliefs using real-world grayscale height maps, but online sources of satellite data were frustrating. Various techniques using Google Earth, SketchUp, QGIS, etc. are kludgey, complex, and yield inferior results.

Terrain Party works great: easy, fast, and fun. And FREE. Its primary purpose is to create real-world custom landscapes for a PC-only game, Cities: Skylines, but it's a valuable resource by itself. Choose any location in the world, (type the name or scroll the map on screen), zoom in or out, specify the "resolution" of the selection grid — increments from 8 to 60 square kilometers — and it instantly downloads four versions of 16-bit 1081 X 1081 grayscale PNGs, plus a ReadMe file explaining the satellite data sources and the technical aspects of how the height map represents scale. Some versions have 10-meter resolution, one is very coarse 400-meter, but 30-meter is typical. (16-bit means no 8-bit banding.)

Like C3D it packs its power behind an interface that anyone can figure out in minutes. It's incredible; push-button access to a planet-load of fine-grained 3D contiguous satellite imagery. The function is complementary to the C3D Relief object, if you want a specific location or topography.

Take a few minutes, try it out. Add the Earth to your menu of Polygon Objects.

Semi-pro tips:

Refer to the attached Relief object settings.

Make a screen grab of the map with the selection grid overlay as a reference.

U.S. locations include OpenStreetMap, USGS shaded relief, and USGS topographic imagery. Outside the U.S. just OpenStreetMap is used.

If the downloaded Zip files don't unzip by the usual double clicking ("error 1 - Operation not permitted.")(?), click the Spotlight icon in the Finder menu bar, type Terminal, in the Terminal window type "unzip [space]" and drag & drop the zip file after the space, then hit the enter key. The unzipped files appear in your personal folder (the one with Library, Downloads, etc.).

When opened in TextEdit the ReadMe.txt was in Chinese characters (?), but was OK in another word processor.

Of the four versions, the "Merged" one is usually best (finest detail).

The "terraced" version uses a modified 16-bit grayscale height map that was posterized in Photoshop.

Skylight plus Falcon for the color render, Cheetah plus Ambient Occlusion for the white ones.

How I made the visual-spectrum satellite picture for the C3D Image node material:

In Photoshop I cropped out all but the selection grid area of the map screen grab (e.g. 500 X 500), and rescaled it to 1081 X 1081. Google Image provided a high-res satellite picture which I pasted on the 1081 X 1081 map and scaled by eyeball to exactly overlay the map (using the Difference filter in Layers). Once the layers aligned, I changed Difference back to Normal and flattened the layers, retaining the 1081 X 1081 dimensions. This was used in the C3D material Image node. The 1081 X 1081 pixels image exactly fit the 1081 X 1081 polygons relief.
 

Attachments

#4
THANKS for this tip - this Terrain Party is perfect for that occasion where you need good (yet basic) topographical data - free - and simply zoom in on a map - wow - awesome tip
:icon_thumbup::icon_thumbup:
 

podperson

Active member
#5
That is a seriously cool web app. Thanks for sharing.

It would be interesting to know what the exact height mapping is — I've always wanted to be able to project the impact of global warming sea level rise onto arbitrary locations.

Also it would be nice if the thing provided satellite color maps for the exact same area.
 
Last edited:
#6
Joel,

I just came across your tutorial today and tested it out.
Very cool.

Attached is part of the Shenandoah Valley at Luray, Virginia.
The height map is from Terrain Party; the color map is from Google earth.
The challenge is lining up the 2 images accurately.
 

Attachments

#7
An updated render:
  • Cheetah renderer
  • Improved matching shadows of relief map to the shadows in the Google Maps satellite photo
  • Improved fog/haze density and color
  • Added reflection to river
With some high-resolution images, it'd be possible to add some convincing detail.
 

Attachments

Swizl

Active member
#8
Wow, that looks really good jdmac! Nice render. My brother lived near Pulaski, VA for a long time when he was younger.

I tried to get data for where I live, but it didn't have any. Which is weird, because I live in the Atlanta Metro area.
 
#10
The river looks weird - like a blue painted riverbed.:p
I´d add a plane with a bumpy surface water texture.
Yeah, a plane would be good to try.
I could also try making the reflection plate from the height map, instead of the Google map.
The Google map has a bunch of shadows and artifacts.
 

uncle808us

Well-known member
#11
Wow, that looks really good jdmac! Nice render. My brother lived near Pulaski, VA for a long time when he was younger.

I tried to get data for where I live, but it didn't have any. Which is weird, because I live in the Atlanta Metro area.
I lived in N.Va. for Twenty odd(very odd) years and back packed all over the Luray area. Off Skyline drive. Etc.
 

Swizl

Active member
#12
I lived in N.Va. for Twenty odd(very odd) years and back packed all over the Luray area. Off Skyline drive. Etc.
Ah very cool! My brother has been living in Winchester, VA for nearly 20 years. My dad was there also, but he moved to Florida about 2 years ago.

We made a family trip to the Luray Caverns on one of my trips up there. We also got stuck in a snow storm on our way back one other time. NOT something I'm use to, being from Georgia.

:)
 
Top