top of page

featured projects

Current work and some past projects of interest

Detailed mountain terrains created from GIS data.

This was a project to develop a system for creating detailed terrains for Unreal Engine 4 from real-world places. Though there are some very intelligent systems out there I had the core elements of a system of my own but it needed some refinement. These 4 terrains are well known mountains, Mount Adams, Mt. Sneffels, Capitol Peak, and Mt. Fuji, all easily identifiable if you've been there. Each terrain is made up of 64 seamless tiles (8 x 8). Each tile is approximately 1 sq. mile at approximately 1 meter resolution (this varies depending on the available data sources). This level of detail is not really possible with Unreal's Landscape system and single height map limited to 8K resolution. Each tile has a seamless aerial from freely available sources at 4K resolution. In addition, the system has 4 LOD's for each tile with Normal maps created from the aerial. I have used GIS software to download the terrain and aerial data. Using a custom Maxscript the data is then imported into 3ds max at scale. The script then offers options for creating multiple LOD's and exporting the grouped LOD's as FBX files for Unreal. In Photoshop, an additional complex batch operation is run on the aerial imagery to generate an appropriate, seamless normal map for each tile. When I had this system refined I could create any one of these terrains in about a day. Obviously this level of detail is not nearly enough to walk around on at ground level but I feel it's still impressive and certainly a testament to the amazing quality of the satellite imagery we have available to us in the general public. Combined with some careful mesh painting (see the Capital Peak project below) this level of detail can be used for ground level visualization work.

Included here is my detailed process for creating these large terrains using Global Mapper, 3ds Max and Unreal Engine. An important part of the process are 2 maxscripts also included below. The terrain process and the help file for the Global Mapper Maxscript are both integral to the terrain creation workflow.

The other Maxscript I use in this process is Anders K. Nielsen's "Mass Export FBX to UE4" macroscript.  Check out this post for details but usage is included in the documentation above.

Here's a link to Anders site which includes several other maxscripts of interest:

I have created a version of Ander's macro that is a regular .ms maxscript file so you don't need to go through the macroscript setup if you don't want to. It's available here.

Thanks Anders!

The following captures from UE4.27 represent preliminary draft views of the Capital Peak terrain created with the above method. Mesh and foliage painting fill out the terrain aerial at a specific location for ground level work.

bottom of page