Terrain in Conventional 3D Modeling Software
Most conventional, traditional 3D modeling software tools (3D Studio MAX,
Blender, Maya, Softimage, etc.) have very poor support for terrain. Most
significantly, as of 2006, none of those package has an entity to efficient
store a heightfield. The only way to represent a terrain is with a very
large number of small triangles, which must all be stored (and drawn during
editing) as a brute-force polygon soup. Support for geographic metadata
and cartographic coordinate systems is virtually non-existent.
Importing terrain data
- $200 plugin for 3DS MAX. It pulls SRTM (90m or 30m) directly from the
internet and automatically stitches it into a desired area inside 3DS MAX,
with easy control of panning around.
- The terrain can then be textured and exported (to Terragen .ter,
BT, or Unity .utr); the
Unity game engine seems to be the
- It can also pull texture imagery directly from Google - sounds very
- Flight Studio
- not a terrain visualization tool per se, but a converter between OpenFlight
and 3DS MAX, part of the tool chain used by some in the Vis-sim field to
produce terrain datasets
- Was $1500 from Bluerock.
In March 2008, it was licensed by Autodesk for inclusion in 3dsmax 2009
- a typical user would do this: 1. Pre-process raw terrain files into
basic OpenFlight mesh files. 2. Bring those 3dsmax using Flight Studio,
further processing is done. This can include creating LODs, adding terrain
features such as roads, trees, water, etc. 3. Output is again into OpenFlight,
for use in a 3D runtime.
- It's possible to import a few elevation formats (such as USGS DEM) into
3DS MAX with Okino PolyTrans-for-MAX,
however the result is unwieldy with even small terrain grids
- One free utility is DEM2MAX,
a plugin which claims to import USGS DEM, VistaPro DEM and GTOPO30 files, and
create an "elevation object". However, 3DS MAX does not actually
have an "elevation" object; it has only a generic polygon mesh object.
If you know of other ways to import terrain data into popular 3D modeling software,
please let us know.