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Creating Terrains with Satellite Data, Volume 1

Maya Based Workflow with Alex Alvarez

Description

In this first title of a two-part series, Alex Alvarez shares his techniques for developing terrains using satellite data. In Volume One, the skills necessary to create terrains with a high-altitude camera are explored. We start by location scouting with Google Earth, settling on a region of the Grand Canyon to develop. The National Map, a free service from the USGS, is then used to download the corresponding elevation data (DEM) and satellite photos. As the data is delivered in tiles, we then use GlobalMapper to stitch, and re-tile, the data into a format that can be used in Maya. After removing shadows in Photoshop, Alex thoroughly explains how to setup displacements in Maya and Mental Ray, rendering with the Physical Sun/Sky system. He also delves into how to utilize multiple UV regions with multiple tiled textures on a single plane, allowing for the creation of vast terrains, often needed for fly-through animations. Creating the various textures, such as bump, reflection and gloss using the mia_material are demonstrated, as well as the use of the layered texture node. Filter Forge, a powerful Photoshop Plug-in, is also used to develop tileable procedural bump maps to improve the high-frequency detail of the terrain. Anyone interested in creating natural environments in a Maya based workflow will benefit from this thorough lecture and demonstration, whether it is to recreate real-world locations, or use them as a starting point for imagined environments.


Duration: 477 minutes

Format: HD 1280x720

Alex Alvarez

Founder / Director The Gnomon Workshop and Gnomon School of Visual Effects

Alex Alvarez is the founder and president of Gnomon, which includes the acclaimed Gnomon School in Hollywood, California, as well as The Gnomon Workshop, which provides professional online training for artists. He has been described by Fast Company Magazine as a visionary who has helped change the face of computer graphics education, having dedicated the past twenty years to educating students and professional artists around the world. Alex has been published in industry magazines, websites, and books and has lectured at many international conferences. While his career these days is focused on education, he has worked as a creature development artist on such projects as James Cameron’s Avatar, JJ Abram’s Star Trek, Super 8, Ridley Scott's Prometheus. He is an alumni of the University of Pennsylvania and the Art Center College of Design. 

  • " Whenever I need to breathe life into my characters, Alex Alvarez is where I go. Whether it be to collaborate on concepts with him directly or to watch his tutorials, I am always confident in accessibility to great information. Not only has his technical prowess pulled me out of many holes, but his character sense has given rise to some wonderful moments on some major motion pictures (Avatar and Star Trek). These new tutorials encapsulate what I gush about. Crazy and creative character design coupled with empowering technical know how. "

    - Neville Page
    Character / Concept Designer