Terrain rendering

I’ve always been fascinated with CG landscapes. My ultimate goal is to use GIS data to create a photorealistic rendering of the mountains near my home (Salt Lake City), or other unique real places. Blender is not a very good tool for that. USGS data gets as accurate as 10feet/pixel, and for an area 10 miles square would take 27 billion verticies to represent all that in one mesh. This is tough to work with in blender (I’m not saying that it’s not possible) and ther are better tools for the job.

I’ve worked with Terragen 2 and classic and been able to get great results. I’ve also seen some pretty awesome terrains rendered from mojoworld, or other proprietary programs. So my main question is, what makes these non-open source programs so much better for landscapes? I would imagine there are a lot of things like memory management, raytracing difference, how materials are used, atmospheric effects, etc.

I’d like to research this more. Any good links to research papers, open source software using similar technology, forums, etc. are appreciated.

+1 interested.

You should take a look at the Virtual Terrain Project. They have a section called “Rendering”. Though most of techniques discuss Rasterization, some are based on Raytracing.

Thanks c++user, found a lot of great technical information at the VTP. Not the prettiest site, but very informative.