Terragen, Geocontrol, Vue, World Machine + Blender?

I’m looking at a way to create extremely realistic landscape images but I don’t want to spend $200-$300 for features I might as well be doing in Blender.

So I’ve been reading up on some landscape modeling programs to see which ones will integrate the best with Blender. I will be using their terrain generating capabilities to create the main features and programs like Abaro for trees etc. One of the few things I am worried about are clouds. I would like to know if someone has some good video tutorials on utilizing Blenders cloud generator or any suggestions for creating. I need to be able to create cumulus, cirrus strato etc. formations. Quite a assortment and I need reasonable control to direct the overall composition.

I would like to be able to manipulate or direct the cloud formations as I see fit so 2D backdrops will not quite cut it.

Finally. Has anyone worked with some of these programs? Do you use Terragen 2 for instance only for the terrain generating capabilities and Blender for Render effects?

How much of the capabilities of say Terragen 2 is impossible in Blender. I’m not looking for animation effects. These are still images.

Thank you for your time!

Haha! my passion!

If you compare Blender with dedicated landscape renderers you find that there are a few features that are missing or awkward to use.

1 - A dedicated terrain primitive.

Vue/Bryce/Terragen/Carrara/POV-Ray have terrains that are uniform matricies of heights. This data structure means that you only have to give a single number to indicate height for each cell; storage requirement is much lower than a mesh (1 float vs. 3 xyz float + all the non needed adjacency info which are implied). This means that a 1024x1024 terrain is trivial with such programs, in Blender it is a 1 million quads mesh. In addition, when you have such representation, there are optimized algorithms for tracing/hit test and so on (see POV-Ray heightfield primitive).

2 - Ecosystems (Vue) / Populations (TG) / Replicators (Carrara).

You can somewhat simulate them with particles, but they are much more easy and controllable in the above mentioned programs.

3 - Atmospherics.

Mist, haze, clouds, etc. etc. etc. See Vue/Terragen tutorials to appreciate the level of completeness and realism you reach in those environments.

GeoControl and World Machine are for creating highly detailed terrains and are therefore needed provided that you can see the terrain. I explain better: if your super detailed terrain is then covered with a lush Pandora-like forest 95% of the details vanish and you only see the terrain general struture so a low res model is more than adequate (and you can fully handle the thing with a sculped mesh).

W.r.t. to plants Arbaro/ngPlant are probably enough; if you want utmost quality XFrog is apparently the best thing in town. Vue has a thing called Solid Growth plants which is a totally proprietary technology to create a variety of instances. I have the feeling that you can simulate infinite variety with a few instaces randomly rotated, slightly randomly scaled and randomly inclined (this is a thing I will check infuture and report to this board because, if what I think is true, it is immediately applicable to Blender).

As far as the pipeline is involved, my current approach is to render panoramas in Vue using Blender as a tool to create content for the scene plus GC/WM/my programs for terrain generation. I think that for internal scenes/limited external ones Blender is more than adequate for rendering purposes (especially with stuff like Cycles coming) but for wide scenery the lack/lack for ease of use of the above features is currently crippling.

I personally want to try to see how much I can free myself from Vue and I will duly report my results to this community.

Bye!!! and if anybody has ladscaping question, please pester me.

Thank you!

Its great to have the input from someone who sounds passionate about this stuff! :slight_smile:

I am sure that with enough dedication and effort I should be able to get quite a realistic set-up? Using Blenders nodes for post processing and incorporating renders like yafray. Rendering times might not be optimal but still, you should be able to get something to that effect… right?

I found this tutorial. It uses particles to emit a variety of objects via brush strokes. Pretty cool. Maybe not as advanced as the options in other programs but still.

Do you think I should rather look at Vue? The thing is that Vue and Terragen’s etc. renderings are incredible but a lot of the top gallery work seem to lack small detail enhancements. I believe that in situations like these I could get my hands dirty (so to speak) and tune those areas until they make ‘sense’. I’m a landscape photographer via passion so I quickly note the variance between realism and CG as well as where the image went wrong. Or I’m just full of $ht!

Please do! This is all a bit new to me but I’m going to see what is the best/cheapest workflow and process I can develop toward this goal.

I would subdivide the problem into two parts:

  1. internal renders/renders of small external areas like a building with some surroundings and…
  2. …vast panoramas.

I think that item 1 is perfectly within today Blender capabilities and, probably, with tools like Lux or YafAray, Vue has already been overtaken; surely, with Cycles, Vue will have to hide somewhere in shame :D.

W.r.t. item 2, there are still items missing from the checklist so, if you need to make a panorama render tomorrow (e.g. for a client) you still need Vue or Terragen2. I have set as personal mission to provide Blender community with studies and information on how to bridge the remaining gaps but, as you can understand, it is not a weeks (or months) project.

Going back to Vue/TG2, you can try both with unlimited time trials. Vue has the Personal Learning Edition, a Infinite based cripple-ware and TG2 has a free edition fully functional but for render size and antialias setting limitations, if I remember well.

Your being a photographer is surely a huge asset for a 3D activity, because you already have high standards and know-how for composition and lighting (and it shows because you immediately notice “funny stuff” in renders).

The not-so-good renders are the result of the attitude I call the “Poser School”: thinking that a render can be done in a hour or so, by just throwing some content in an image, using some precanned texture/pose/lightings and press the Render button. Other applications are not immune to this attitude: e.g. I see lot of Vue renders which are nothing more than a bunch of Cornucopia3D items set in a scene with stock or easily identifiable materials and atmospheres.


P.S.: I forgot a link that I find most promising: Andrew Price (hi guys!) The Nature Academy. E.g. the rocks field is better than what you usually make in Vue and is almost TG2 quality.

Thanks again!!! That Nature Academy tutorial series looks VERY promising. :slight_smile:

I will get back to you as soon as I have settled on some solution…