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View Full Version : How to import a greyscale height map into Fractal Terrains?



EDG
10-01-2010, 12:27 AM
I've got a greyscale planetary height map that I want to import into Fractal Terrains Pro, but I can't figure out how to do it. I've got as far as determining that I can import the map into Wilbur as a PNG, and then export that as something that can be read into FTPro, but I'm not sure how to do that.

This is the image I'd like to import: http://evildrganymede.net/art/planets/maps/venus-topo.gif - it's a global heightmap of Venus made from Magellan radar data (white is highest terrain, black is lowest terrain). The highest point is 10,800 m above mean surface level, lowest point is 2900m below mean surface level.

Anyone know if this is possible to do?

MadCartographer
10-01-2010, 08:17 AM
You can ask waldronate, he wrote FTPro, if anyone knows, it will be him.

Greason Wolfe
10-01-2010, 09:58 AM
Took a quick look at the image.

The first thing you'll probably want to do is set it up to a true equirectangular ratio (i.e. 1024 by 512)

Then you can open it in Wilbur. You'll probably have to play with some selections and scaling to get your land and sea elevations where you want them.

From there, Save As>>MDR Surface (don't change any of the save settings in the dialogue that pops up)

When you go to open it in FTPro, you'll want to use the New World>>Binary World option. Set the file type to All Files and then select your saved MDR file. Again, it's best not to change any of the settings in the dialogue that pops up as Wilbur will have saved the MDR file with all the header information you'll need. The only thing to be wary of is that your world might be flipped, which is easy enough to solve.

I've done this a few times myself. The only drawback that I've found is that editing the world in FTPro after this process can be a bit of a pain. Hopefully Waldronate will correct me if I'm wrong, here, but Wilbur does not pass a roughness channel through to FTPro, so when you go to edit, the results will be fairly smooth.

I would personally recommend that you use a larger version of the image, if you can. I've gone as high as 8192 by 4096 for the sake of detail in FTPro, but it's all dependent on your desire for the map.

Waldronate does have a tutorial dealing specifically with transfering MDR files between FTPro and Wilbur, and you might find it very helpful in this instance.

http://www.ridgenet.net/~jslayton/ThereandBackAgain/index.html

GW

EDG
10-01-2010, 02:07 PM
Great. I imported it into Wilbur, tried to look up the help file, and was told it didn't exist. :(

FTPro is rapidly becoming an exercise in frustration for me. The interface is straight out of Windows 95, you need another program to import things into it (and the help file for that isn't there), the maps it produces aren't remotely realistic, it's slow as hell, and importing maps is a pain...

waldronate
10-01-2010, 04:15 PM
First thing you'll need to do it so convert files into a straight uncompressed binary format. The simplest way to do this is to use Wilbur, as Greason Wolfe suggested. Open Wilbur, then use File>>Open and select your GIF. Use Surface>>Map Info and set the Top to 90, Left to -180, Right to 180, Bottom to -90. Now use Surface>>Rotate>>Flip Vertically to flip the world data vertically. Then use Filter>>Mathematical>>Span with a Low value of 0 and a High value of 11000 to rescale the terrain to approximately real values from its original 0..255 grayscale values. Finally, use File>>Save, select MDR Surface as the file type, enter a file name, and click Save. Click OK on the "Enter MDR File Save Parameters" dialog. Exit Wilbur.

Now you will have an MDR file full of values ranging from 0 to 11000 meters and flipped vertically to compensate for a difference of opinion between Wilbur and FT regarding how data should be represented in the file. Using an MDR file and the extra work done in Wilbur will ensure that the data is described well enough that FT can easily ingest it.

Open FT, and use File>>New. On the Type page of the new world wizard, select Binary File and click Next. On the Binary Data page, click the Choose Elevation File button to bring up the Binary Data dialog. Now enter the name of the MDR file you saved from Wilbur (the ... button will let you pick it - you will need to change "Files of Type" on the Open dialog to "All Files"). Click OK on the Binary Data dialog, then click Next then click Finish. Your terrain data will appear in FT. The file you indicated above is relatively low resolution and only has 255 gray levels, which will make its reproduction in FT a bit low resolution.

See also http://www.google.com/#q=import+binary+file+into+Fractal+Terrains&hl=en for more information on this topic.

If you intend to modify this data in FT I do recommend upping the world editing resolution using Map>>World Settings and setting a custom editing size of 2048 in the Editing tab. Follow this up with Tools>>Actions>>Burn Into Surface and then you'll have data in FT without any external dependencies.

As far as the speed and user interface of FT goes, yep, they are slow and elderly. FT was conceived in 1997 as an offshoot of Wilbur focused on making FCW files for ProFantasy's CC2 product with first product delivery in 2000. At the time of its development, a P2-450 with 256MB of RAM running Windows 98 was the hot thing. It has no hardware acceleration for any of its graphics and its algorithms are not optimized for a modern processor architecture. I do understand your frustration with the sometimes arcane way of doing things, especially by today's standards.

Greason Wolfe
10-01-2010, 05:24 PM
Whew! Sure am glad you have my back on that Waldronate. I should learn not to post when I haven't had much sleep. I missed a slew of steps in the process that I knew had to be there. I shall now hang my head in shame and go back to my little hidey-hole.

GW

EDG
10-01-2010, 07:57 PM
Thanks Waldronate... I tried that, and the stuff in Wilbur worked fine, but I followed your instructions and when I imported it into FT I just get a blank pale blue map (if I do view properties it says altitude is 0m everywhere). I'm not sure what I did wrong - the only difference is that I imported into wilbur from a PNG, not a GIF - but I could see the terrain fine in Wilbur.

I'm feeling rather ripped off by FT now - I certainly think it's massively overpriced for what it is (I'd pay at most $10 for it, but $40 is ridiculous for a program that's so outdated IMO. I guess it's my fault for not trying the demo first). I've sent off for a refund anyway because it looks more and more like FT is no use to me so I'll see what happens with that.

Wilbur on the other hand could be useful. Any idea where the help file for Wilbur is, BTW? I looked in the Wilbur directory in program files and there's just the executable there.

waldronate
10-01-2010, 10:20 PM
Getting a pale blue map indicates that FT has problems with the extents (most likely the top and bottom - FT wants top to be 90 and bottom to be -90 for a whole-world import). To make things easier when importing into FT I flipped the map and extents in Wilbur before saving the MDR.

I'm sorry that FT isn't doing what you had hoped it would. What were you hoping it would do for you, btw?

I never got around to writing a help file for Wilbur because there's really no particular benefit for me in doing so. The program documentation is a little dated, but it can be found at the same place that you downloaded the program.

EDG
10-01-2010, 10:52 PM
Getting a pale blue map indicates that FT has problems with the extents (most likely the top and bottom - FT wants top to be 90 and bottom to be -90 for a whole-world import). To make things easier when importing into FT I flipped the map and extents in Wilbur before saving the MDR.

Not sure what's going on then. I'm sure I did exactly as you said in the instructions. I could try it again and see if the same problem shows up.



I'm sorry that FT isn't doing what you had hoped it would. What were you hoping it would do for you, btw?

Well, I was more hoping it wouldn't do everything I was complaining about in my earlier post ;). Its terrible sluggishness, the early 90s interface, limited options, the number of fiddly steps (and the requirement to use another program which isn't even included with it) I have to do just to import a heightmap, the documentation (I have three PDF files that claim to be manuals - one of which appears to have been stored with the installer files but not actually installed - and no idea which one is the most up to date)... I'm sure that was great in the mid-90s, but 15 years later I kinda expect to see something much better than that, especially for an asking price of $40. It needs to be completely rewritten and modernised to be worth that much IMO.

To import this map, I expected to be able to open up FTPro, hit an "import imagemap" button, select my gif or PNG or whatever, have a dialogue box appear in which I define the bounding latitude/longitude and the atltitude range, and that's it. It should be a simple, basic, straightforward task - having to use another program, do this 'flip' thing, export as MDR format, reimport, and so on is just unnecessary IMO.

I've applied for a refund for it anyway. Haven't heard back yet, but if I've not heard back after a few days I'll give them another poke. Hopefully I'll get my money back and chalk it up as a learning experience.


I never got around to writing a help file for Wilbur because there's really no particular benefit for me in doing so. The program documentation is a little dated, but it can be found at the same place that you downloaded the program.

Ok, I'll have a look for that then.

waldronate
10-01-2010, 11:17 PM
I vaguely recall that there was an FT version that had some problems with the binary import. Have you downloaded the update from the ProFantasy web site?

EDG
10-02-2010, 12:31 AM
Yep. It's on version 2.3.

Tried it again, followed your instructions exactly (apart from the span part - the range is from -2900m to 10800m, so I entered 0 for the low and 13700 for the high), still get a blank map in FT.

EDG
10-02-2010, 12:33 AM
Aha! Wait. When importing into FT, there's a bit in the binary file dialogue that says top = -90 and bottom = 90. I changed those to 90 and -90 and now I have an image in FT. Hooray! Man, what a palava.