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  • Terragen
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  • Terragen v0.8 - Photorealistic Rendering Software

    From the Terragen Website - Terragen is a work-in-progress scenery generator for Windows 95/98/NT/2000. At this stage of its development, Terragen is free for personal non-commercial use
    Terragen is a freely downloadable 3D rendering program capable of producing very impressive landscape rendering and 3D landscape imagery. Terragen can render sequences of frames which can later be compiled into animations. This is accomplished by using third-party software developed for this purpose.

    Terragen is designed to run on Windows 95, 98, 2000 & NT (Intel & compatibles). The developer explains that performance should be acceptable on a Pentium-based system with 32Mb of RAM, however, a Pentium II or better with at least 64Mb is recommended. At the time of writing this article Terragen is free for personal non-commercial use - registration for $79 is recommended and provides users with additional capabilities and support. Educational users can register at a reduced cost.

    Online support for the product appears to be excellent, mostly due to an apparently very helpful user community. Online resources include an FAQ, a discussion list, suggestion list, and a Developer's corner. Terragen stores DEM data in a proprietary format; specifications are provided in the Terragen Terrain file specs page. the product also apparently supports a proprietary scripting language

    An offical user guide is maintained online at and the file is available as a free download as well. International users will be pleased to find the user guide published in French, German, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, and Dutch. Users looking for more introductory material will appreciate a detailed Terragen tutorial hosted atCarol Brooksbank's website

    So what can it do? The following is a brief list of some of the major functions users can accomplish with the product:
    • random fractal terrain
    • high detail foreground texturing
    • terrain sculpting tools
    • terrain modification tools
    • combination of terrains
    • terrain import/export
    • hierarchical surface colour map
    • water
    • cloud layer
    • multi-haze atmospheric model
    • volumetric lighting
    • realistic sunlight penetration system
    • anisotropic lighting of atmosphere
    • 'soft' shadows

    "Clear Dawn" produced with Terragen
    Image 2001 M.P.Fairclough and Planetside

    The author apparently has some plans for the future of the product. Enhancements slated to come include the following:
    • support for trees
    • grass and small-scale vegetation
    • stones
    • but shingle, pebbles and boulders which sit on the landscape.
    • comprehensive water system
    • Rivers / lakes (reflective, rough/choppy etc.).
    • Rain, waterfalls (plus spray).
    • improved cloud layer system
    • shadow-casting clouds
    • Sun effects such as lens-flare
    • Realistic radiosity/environment lighting, i.e. landscape etc. is correctly lit by sky, landscape etc. moons / planets in the sky
    • The ability to render arbitrary objects, such as people, houses, cars...
    • import / export capability including USGS DEM/SDTS. VistaPro DEM. PoV-Ray heightfields (TGA). Export Terrain polygon mesh (LWO, DXF, ...). Export surface textures. Camera and lighting data (Lightwave, 3DS Max, ...). Export ZBuffer.
    Currently, we don't know much about this product, however, judging by the impressive collection of images displayed in a recent Terragen user contest, the capabilities of this product are very impressive and the resulting 3D renderings are very realistic. Given that there were 75 entries in their March 2001 contest, the product is used by a very deidcated user community. Additional information about Terragen can be obtained from

    Download Terragen

    Have you used Terragen or some other 3D rendering software? Tell SpatialNews about it. Maybe we'll feature your story!

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