View Full Version : 3DS Max Terrain Plugin

10 October 2012, 09:06 PM

The Terrain plugin for 3DS Max allows you to generate landscapes from real world elevation data in a couple of clicks. The plugin makes use of DEM data that is available freely on-line but instead of you having to locate the right DEM file for your needs, patching them together and importing the data manually our plugin allows you to directly set a latitude and longitude coordinate and the plugin will automatically locate the right data and import it into 3DS Max and generate a mesh to your desired level of detail. You are free to drag the location around and zoom in or out and the plugin will fetch any new data it needs and rebuild the mesh automatically. The data will be stored on your system so future alterations will not require data to be re downloaded. The elevation data is sampled at 90m intervals and also for the US you can select 30m interval data for even more accurate terrains.

The plugin allows you to color your mesh based on height with a user customizable color table. The sea level can be changed and you have the option to cap the mesh. At any time you can change the mesh density and you can select to use a given vertex budget or set the distance to use between vertices etc.

Another major feature of the plugin is the ability to use Google Earth to generate textures for your terrains (you should have Google Earth Pro if you plan on using the images for commercial use). You can tell the plugin the resolution of the texture you want to apply to your terrain mesh and it will automatically produce the texture for you.

The Terrain plugin is available for Max 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 bot 32 and 64 bit version. Support for Max 2013 is coming soon. Please note you require an internet connection for this plugin to work as it streams the data it needs directly from the internet. More information as well as a limited functionality demo is available at
Some examples of meshes built in a couple of minutes using the plugin including texture generation, Click the image to play the video. (
And a Quick Start to the basics of the Plugin again click the Image to play the video. (
Quick modelling tour of Italy ( (

10 October 2012, 06:57 AM
hm yes i can see hwo this could be usefull

10 October 2012, 09:47 AM
I'd be very interested in testing/getting this, but imo you need to support 64 bits.

10 October 2012, 10:20 AM
That looks pretty cool. Any plans for supporting 3D software other than Max?

10 October 2012, 11:35 AM
Firstly there was an issue with the first upload of the trail version meaning no height data was being displayed, this has been fixed now.

We can do 64 bit versions but since Google Earth is 32 bit we can not communicate with it to get the texture data. If you do not need the texture data then as it says on the website please do contact us and we will provide a 64 bit version with the Google Earth component removed.

I will upload get 64 bit versions of the demo version uploaded today.


10 October 2012, 01:04 PM
There are 64 bit versions of the limited functionality demo of the plugin up on the website now with versions for 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. We are adding support for 2013 at the moment.

10 October 2012, 02:17 PM
Great! So there's really no way of getting the 64b plugin get data from a 32b app?

Thanks anyways, sounds really useful ;)

10 October 2012, 02:39 PM
Too bad the 64bit can't get the texture data...
Have stopped using 32bit Max since the birth of the 64bit version...
Great plugin though...

10 October 2012, 03:17 PM
Just added another little video showing how easy it is to model large regions and move around and zoom in without having to locate the right DEM files, stitching them together, filling in gaps etc. (

10 October 2012, 05:20 PM
This is really cool and well done.

Congrats on the plugin!

10 October 2012, 07:26 PM
very cool.... can you animate between different zoom levels?

10 October 2012, 07:44 PM
You can animate all the values in the system so you can easily do a fly around of the world zooming in and out on locations as you go. You can see an example of that in this older video

10 October 2012, 05:42 AM
This looks like just the right tool I need at my company. terrain building has always been such a hard task especially when we have to model mines and such. I think this tool might solve a lot of my troubles. The Google pro thing looks awesome too, I will have to try the demo for sure.

10 October 2012, 09:35 AM
That looks really useful, does it allow you to deal with the curvature of the earth? I'm imagining link the scale to 2 bend modifiers you could make it fairly accurate.

10 October 2012, 10:55 AM
Yeah the earth curvature is important for big sets.

10 October 2012, 12:33 PM
We have been busy overnight creating a custom link system between 64 bit versions of Max and Google Earth so we will be able to make available later today 64 bit versions of the trail and full plugin which will allow texture creation as well.

As for Earth curvature that is certainly something we could add in, we have been using the system for much smaller areas so we hadn't needed that level of accuracy but it could be added. The curvature of the earth is taken into account for generating the right size of terrain though, so if you modelled a 50kmx50km region on the equator you would get a square terrain mesh, but if you did the same over Mt St Helens then the terrain mesh would be narrower. You can turn that on and off by checking the Flat Projection box.

10 October 2012, 01:40 PM
We have been busy overnight creating a custom link system between 64 bit versions of Max and Google Earth so we will be able to make available later today 64 bit versions of the trail and full plugin which will allow texture creation as well.

That's just awesome!

10 October 2012, 03:38 PM
That's just awesome!

QFA, hope to test it soon. If it's as good as it looks I could use it on a project. Perfect timing ;)

10 October 2012, 11:40 AM
It looks really great!!
Are you planning to make a version for maya as well? It would be so usefull!
Once again, really great job!


10 October 2012, 06:11 PM
Errr wow, this will save a huge amount time, impressive stuff.

10 October 2012, 10:02 PM
I have had a couple of emails asking about what we do about missing data in DEM files. The answer is we plug it up with a custom algorithm, below you can see a sample of terrain taken from a region in the Alps, you can clearly see that the DEM region is missing some elevation data, when the plugin detects such missing data it will fill it in and you can see the result of that in the second picture which has 'Plug Holes' turned on. Luckily most DEM files don't have this problem.

10 October 2012, 10:09 PM
I like the Integrity of product and information and development through thread.

10 October 2012, 03:35 PM
I have just uploaded a little video showing the modelling and texturing of Meteor Crater using the Plugin. (

10 October 2012, 04:04 PM
What about support for DEM files of planets besides Earth? If the software pulls from Google Earth, then there is also a Google Mars...

10 October 2012, 04:24 PM
The elevation DEM data is not pulled from Google Earth it comes from another source, we did at one point have support for Mars and the Moon as can be seen in the video below. We have been asked by an interesting source if we can add that support back in so it is something we are investigating. Click the image below to download the AVI file. (

10 October 2012, 05:46 PM
Any plans to port this to Maya x64 and hopefully to Linux? I would buy this in a heart beat.
Dealing with DEM data and their corresponding texture maps is usually a painfully slow process.

10 October 2012, 08:40 AM
Very neat. Reminds me of SimCity 4.

10 October 2012, 01:02 PM
We have added in a KML importer to the Terrain Plugin so you can easily define a region to model in Google Earth by placing markers or drawing lines, shapes etc then import that into Max and have the Terrain plugin automatically build the terrain for you. A little video showing this is below, click the image to play. (

10 October 2012, 02:01 PM
A new version of the Terrain plugin is now available, if you have purchased the system just go to the store page and fill in the form to get the new version. After installing the latest version you will be asked to enter your license Key again. We have improved the licensing system to make it more flexible, easy to use and not have the problems some users were experiencing with having to keep entering keys etc. Other changes to this update sees the inclusion of the KML importer to allow you to easily match up your terrains to locations you have exported from Google Earth, there is a video showing this new feature above. There are some bug fixes namely when loading a saved terrain the material was changed, this has been fixed, also loading and saving of location files has been fixed to.

11 November 2012, 09:06 PM
We had a request from a User of the system to see about exporting the data generated by the Plugin to the Unity 3D game engine to be used as terrains, so we had a quick little play and it seemed to work well. More info on our Blog Page (

11 November 2012, 07:50 PM
We have added support for the Unity engine to our Terrain plugin, you can export the data from Max to a custom file and then using our MegaTerrain Unity scripts you can import that data and the texture and build a proper Unity terrain object. The system allows you to easily scale the data, zoom in on areas, scroll around and change the detail settings. A video of the system can be found by clicking the image below. (

12 December 2012, 12:48 PM
Have the Unity scripts been released yet?

12 December 2012, 04:36 PM
They are not out yet but will be included in the next update which will be the addition of the 2013 version which should be ready soon, keep an eye on this thread for news of that when it is released.

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