Visualizing your mountain backyardThere is a great set of resources out there for building a virtual flyover of a real-life terrain you are interested in (see a sample picture of McMillan Cirque on the right). Combining free elevation data (DEM files) from the USGS with Terragen can create amazing and functional images. It is the next best thing to being able to fly over the terrain in a small plane.
I'll outline the procedure I followed to make the 5 minute film "Virtual Flight: The Picket Range." Click here to see it.
To avoid choppy playback, download the WMV file to your machine. Sorry, no QuickTime for my Mac friends!
First I had to get all the DEM files for the region. These files are:
|This table was built from this link|
I loaded all those files at once into the handy (free) program 3dem, which has a unique capability to output the combined set as a Terragen terrain file. Now this large and high resolution region can be manipulated in Terragen to get a look that suits the season, time of day, and local vegetation. Frankly, I didn't spend much time on this. I was very impressed by the snow cover, sky, cloud and haze abilities. I wasn't patient enough to construct a good ground cover, so some of the greenery looks a little bright, and other areas are a barren brown.
Next, the Terranim program was used to construct virtual flights. The result is a batch file that Terragen consumes during the render step. I rendered images for television quality (720x480 pixels), and making this 5 minute movie probably consumed 2 weeks of my computer's time! Terragen spits out a series of numbered bitmaps (.BMP files). Now the Bink program is used to convert those bitmaps into a movie file (.AVI). (The uploaded movie is not so high resolution, but of adequate quality).
Finally, I imported the movies into Adobe Premiere, added some music and titles, and that is the end.
|Free DEM files for Washington State||http://gis.ess.washington.edu/data/raster/tenmeter/byquad/index.html|
|Bink software (download the RAD Video Tools)||http://www.radgametools.com/bnkdown.htm|
|Adobe Premiere (commercial, expensive)||www.adobe.com/products/premiere/main.html|
Update: It looks like the current version of Terragen requires registration to render from large terrain files. Alas - when I made the movie a year ago, I didn't have to do this. Registration is $99.00.