Creating terrain heightmaps

  • For those looking for the tutorial, this link will jump you to it: Click Me



    I have figured out how to refine the AeroFly mesh for the U.S. quite easily using USGS NED data (publicly available). It's a pretty serious improvement on the default AeroFly mesh, especially for valleys in mountainous terrain. This data is available for the entire contiguous U.S.


    For those who are interested, I'll be posting a how-to here in the next couple days. You'll need another program called QGIS (open source, many of you already have this if you're geoconverting already). It's easier than converting aerial imagery, and can be reversed by simply deleting the files you create from your Documents folder.

    I was asked to put a disclaimer so I'm saying it now, and will repeat it again when I post the tutorial: do this at your own risk, and if you edit the terrain meshes for some of the default airports, it might break certain things about them. I haven't tested already-developed areas enough yet to know if this is likely to happen. In my opinion I think this is very safe and is just as easily reversed, but know how to do the reversing before you begin!

  • Sorry to be a tease, but I just had to share some example shots from some of the scenery I've converted. The quality with -1 resolution orthophotos combined with a high res topo mesh is mind-blowing. Yes, really, mind-blowing. It's at least as good as Google Earth now. Imagine that, flying a plane in Google Earth... amazing! Here are some before/afters. They may not look like it, but they are showing the same locations (angles are slightly different):






    And lastly, just a shot of some mountain texture. Having the bumps in the mesh under the shadows and boulders just looks amazing when you're flying around it!:


  • I'll try to get that tutorial up by tomorrow night so those who want to try it will have the weekend to test. I haven't been so excited about this sim since the first time I tried flying in VR. The realism with a detailed mesh and good quality photoscenery is just amazing. And like we've come to expect from AeroFly, it doesn't seem to have any effect on the performance that I can see. I'm still running this in VR on a 3GB GTX1060. :thumbup::thumbup:

  • The zillion-dollar question for me, will be how this affects existing scenery. In particular, I would like to see how it affects existing buildings in flattened areas.

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  • Love it! The UK has free elevation data too, but I don't know how easily contours are converted to heightmaps. I bet arnog could do it !


    https://www.ordnancesurvey.co.…load/products.html#terr50

  • We have to insure that the changes in heightmaps don't cause airports, scenery objects, and cultivation to float above or get eaten by the changes to the maps not read directly by the sim engine. I'm very concerned with this and haven't had a chance to test its effects yet.

    Those that try this please proceed with caution for now.

    IPACS Development Team Member

    I'm just a cook, I don't own the restaurant.
    On behalf of Torsten, Marc, and the rest of the IPACS team, we would all like to thank you for your continued support.


    Regards,


    Jeff

  • We have to insure that the changes in heightmaps don't cause airports, scenery objects, and cultivation to float above or get eaten by the changes to the maps not read directly by the sim engine. I'm very concerned with this and haven't had a chance to test its effects yet.

    Those that try this please proceed with caution for now.

    I did some testing in the San Francisco Bay area to see if this is a problem or not. All of the trees, buildings, etc. seemed to be unaffected by the new mesh and auto-adapted to the height. SFO also looked good including the freeway overpasses anchored to the ground correctly.

    The only issue I did find was that in certain places, this USGS data actually includes terrain underneath water. Because of this, the SF Bay was shaped like the ground underneath, including the underwater pilings to the Golden Gate Bridge (cool to look at but obviously not 'correct'!). I think the regions where they have this underwater data is limited, and it's also possible they had a different data file available that doesn't include the underwater topography. I'll have to go back and check. The rest of the coastline along the ocean looked correct.


    The zillion-dollar question for me, will be how this affects existing scenery. In particular, I would like to see how it affects existing buildings in flattened areas.

    As far as I can tell, it has no effect on that. Existing objects appear to auto-adjust to the new elevation heights just fine.


    Here's a before/after of some cliffs on the California coastline with the default AeroFly imagery. Cliffs actually are cliffs now instead of steep slopes. With some higher-res orthophotos here I think this would look really amazing like my mountain scenery:


  • I think Jeff was talking about the borders of your newly defined terrain heightmaps. At the border it could have conflicts.

    Gotcha, I will check that.



    Also, the underwater topo mentioned above was my fault -- the data from USGS has some that are labeled "topobathy" which (obviously) include underwater terrain. They have others for the same regions that don't include the water.

  • I did some checking for issues along the borders of the refined mesh areas, and there is indeed a small discontinuity/short invisible wall varying in height exactly at the border of the refined mesh areas. You can see where this is with the floating line of trees in the image below. In this case, the highest point I could find in the invisible boundary was ~650ft above ground level. On either side of this boundary line, it is unaffected. What this means is if you're flying very low to the ground and cross this line, you might suddenly crash.

    So, if you do decide to try this, be aware that you may create short, invisible collision walls at the boundaries of your refined region.

    Fortunately, each section of the USGS data covers a very large area, and it doesn't take long to convert, so it's not difficult to just convert a large enough area so that any issues like this only appear out the in the middle of nowhere or away from airports.

    Disclaimer, please read:
    I'm assuming that anyone here who wants to do this already knows they are tinkering with the nuts and bolts of the sim, so please, just be smart about it, and if you encounter issues due to this, don't go complaining to the IPACS team. They are already pretty reluctant about letting me share this, and not only do I not want a headache for them, but I also don't want to be the guilty party if they take issue with me telling people how to do this in the future. It's very easy to reverse this if you have issues, and I will make sure you know how to do so in the tutorial.





    Ok, with that out of the way... I'll be working on the tutorial this evening and should hopefully have it posted up here in 6 hours or less!

  • Good!. Waiting for it!.

    Cheers, Ed

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  • Here is the tutorial for how to do this, finally.


    Prerequisites you'll need:

    - geoconvert from AeroFly SDK

    - QGIS (get it from here: https://www.qgis.org/en/site/forusers/download.html)

    - These files: mesh convert files.zip


    If you follow the video exactly, you shouldn't have any issues. Sorry for how long it is and my incredibly boring delivery, but there's always double-speed button in YouTube if you can't handle my rambling 8o


    Outline of what you'll be doing (this is all covered in detail in the video):

    (1) Read the disclaimer in this post here first! : Creating terrain heightmaps


    (2) Go to USGS site and get your terrain data files


    (3) Open the terrain data files in QGIS and re-save them as geotif files

    (4) Create a .tfw file for each of your geotifs (you'll do this at the same time as step 3)


    (5) Edit the .tmc file that geoconvert uses

    (6) Move the input files into the geoconvert folders and start the conversion


    (7) Move the output files into your \Documents\Aerofly FS 2\scenery\elevation folder


    How to reverse this if it breaks something in the sim:

    All you have to do is move or delete the converted files back out of the \Documents\Aerofly FS 2\scenery\elevation folder.

    Tutorial video is here:


    Good luck!

  • This is fantastic, just need Spit40 to work out how to do the UK, come on Phil you can do it and then its ......either


    A long legged blonde or the Mach loop in all its glory......at my age they are both virtual so Mach loop here we come ;(

  • great ! thank you qwerty42 !


    I've done a quick test with LIDAR data converted to geotiff but with no success at that time :( .tth files are generated by geoconverter but I don't see any difference in sim...

    Have you an idea of what type of Geotiff are supported by geoconvert: 16 bit or 32 bit Geotiff ? Raster Geotiff ? Elevation Grid Geotiff ?


    here a screen of .png file generated with .ttc files:[Blocked Image: https://tof.cx/images/2018/03/…5223b3daf8878c1833d0e.jpg]