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Working with DEMs in Terragen

There are many programs that will convert DEMs into a format suitable for Terragen. This page describes how I use 3DEM to create my terrains from DEMs including joining multiple files together.

Single DEMs

3DEM provides a Terragen export under the file menu but the size of the terrain  is usually smaller than what you can squeeze out of the data. Instead, I save a BW version of the map image and import it into Terragen via the Firmament BMP import. To create the BW map in 3DEM requires a few small modifications.

Lighting Properties

The first modification is to get rid of any shading. This is easily done in the lighting parameters (Color Scale > Shaded Relief).

This places the sun directly above the terrain resulting in no shadows.

Terrain Colours

The next modification is to change the Terrain Colours (Color Scale > Modify Scale).

  1. Edit the colours for each step starting from R0, G0, B0, incrementing each step by 19.  Save the file so that it can be reloaded in future (or borrow mine)
  2. It may be necessary to increase the altitude range to avoid flattening out the highest points of the terrain.

Multiple DEMs

There is a world wide conspiracy of map makers that results in many places of interest being mapped to the corners of maps, requiring you to buy 4 maps. The same seems to apply for DEMs.

Unfortunately 3DEM only displays single DEMs. It is possible with a bit of work to join multiple DEMs in another image editing program. This is relatively straightforward if all of the images have the same altitude to pixels value settings. Firstly, load each section into 3DEM and take a note of the altitude range displayed in the Terrain Colors dialogue box. Take a note of the minimum and maximum altitudes of all of the images you want to join, round them to the nearest 100 metres (round down for minimum, round up for maximum) and use these to modify the Terrain Colours of each DEM and save each map image.

It's then a relatively straightforward to join process of joining the sections together, editing any minor glitches that may occur (e.g. small gaps). In this way it's possible.

e.g. Yosemite (1500x1850, 740kb zipped)

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This page, its contents and style, are the responsibility of the author and do not represent the views, policies or opinions of The University of Melbourne. All photographs Ben Kreunen 2000

Ben Kreunen <bernardk@unimelb.edu.au>
Department of Pathology
Last modified: 22-Feb-2004