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Terrain Plugin for 3ds Max: A Review

Terrain Plugin for 3ds Max: A Review

If you are looking for a way to create realistic and detailed landscapes in 3ds Max, you might want to check out the Terrain plugin by Chris West. This plugin allows you to download and convert online DEM (Digital Elevation Model) data into 3D meshes that represent any part of the Earth's surface (except the poles). You can also color and texture the terrain using Google Earth data, and import some 3D features from Google Earth as well. In this article, we will take a look at some of the features and benefits of this plugin, as well as some of the drawbacks and limitations.

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Features and Benefits

The Terrain plugin has several features that make it easy and convenient to create realistic landscapes in 3ds Max. Some of them are:

  • You can specify any latitude and longitude coordinates, and the plugin will automatically fetch the corresponding DEM data and build the mesh for you. You can also drag or zoom the viewport to adjust the area of interest.

  • You can adjust various parameters of the terrain, such as vertical scale, sea level, resolution, and smoothing. All of these parameters are animatable, so you can create dynamic effects such as rising water or changing seasons.

  • You can color the terrain using vertex colors based on elevation, or using photographic textures from Google Earth data. You can also import some 3D features from Google Earth, such as points, lines, and polygons, in .kml format.

  • The plugin has some tools for creating roads, curbs, stairs, handrails, pavements, and other elements on the terrain. You can also use other plugins or scripts to add more details, such as trees, rocks, buildings, etc.

  • The plugin supports 3ds Max 2015 and above, and requires the latest Visual Studio runtimes installed.

Drawbacks and Limitations

While the Terrain plugin is a powerful and useful tool for creating landscapes in 3ds Max, it also has some drawbacks and limitations that you should be aware of. Some of them are:

  • The plugin relies on online DEM data sources, which may not be always available or accurate. The resolution of the data may vary depending on the location, and some areas may have missing or corrupted data. The plugin tries to interpolate the missing data, but this may not always produce satisfactory results.

  • The plugin does not generate any displacement or normal maps for the terrain, which may affect the realism and detail of the final render. You may need to use other tools or methods to generate these maps yourself.