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Generating a realistic surface

"Generating a realistic surface with Terragen and Maya" by Berthold Grünhagen
Are you searching for a method to generate a realistic surface or landscape maybe for a background in your Maya scene? Of course you can generate an object-file using 3DEM (Digital Elevation Model) files with millions of polygons. I will introduce you to a more simple way. recommendation:

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You need 3 cg-tools to realize it:
Autodesk's Maya,
3DEM (
Terragen (
Maybe you will need Photoshop or GIMP to resize the maps.
Before we can start you have to install a plug-in for Terragen called "For Export Only".
You can find it on
An installation guide is also there.
You can generate a 3D terrain in Terragen for yourself, but I prefer want to get a realistic surface. In the internet you can find many terrain-files for Terragen.
If you want to get real terrain got to some of the sites you see here:
You have to spend a little time for searching the right one, but you will get astonishing results!
I downloaded a terrain of Mt. St. Helens .
You can download my ressources here.
In the next step open it in 3DEM with this setting.

You can also use a multi-load by selecting the files you need if you have a greater area splitted in many peaces.

I want to get the full terrain. Herefore I have to set the Lat-Lon Gid in Geo Coordinates off.
For texturing go to File - Save Map Image (here sthelens.bmp).
For the height-information goto File - Save Terragen Terrain and here I choose Entire Terrain (our file is StHelens.ter).
Start Terragen and load it via the button Open and choose StHelens.ter .

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One comment

  1. Hana /

    Thank you so much for the tutorial! This is very helpful as I’m trying to create terrain for my animation, although it might be a bit too high poly =)
    Can we used this method on a slightly lower poly mesh?

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