Best terrain modeling software?

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  10 October 2013
Best terrain modeling software?

Hi folks!
Not exactly sure if this is the right place to ask this, but I would like to hear your suggestions on the best available terrain/landscape modeling software? Free/open source or commercial.

I am working on creating large parks and golf courses and what I want to do is use existing landscape topography maps, transform them into a 3D topographic model and then be able to easily do modifications to the landscape, like creating hills or similar. I also would like to be able to add trees, shrubs, roads and other 3D landscaping objects.

I know I can do this in pretty much any 3D modeling software, like sketchup, rhino etc., but I am wondering if there is a good software optimized for golf course design or landscape and terrain design?

I'd prefer personal experience but other input is welcome too.

Thanks a bunch!!
  10 October 2013
To get from a 2d map to a 3d file you will need a program like a
raster to vector type of program.

The other way is to start from a DEM file and convert it to a 3d file format using a program like Global mapper.

The problem with Dem files are the highest resolution you can get for free is a 10 meter DEM. Meaning the data points are 10 meters from each other. Ok for large landscapes but flatter more gradual landscapes the data gets lost.

As far as rendering goes I've seen a lot of archviz type work done in 3ds Max.
using Vray and the carbon scatter plugin for planting the trees.

Another option is Vue, it has some tools for modifying the terrain.

I would suggest terragen but it doesn't really have tools for modifying the terrain.

I just saw that Daylon graphics has a golf program, Landshaper Golf

You may check over on the Cg architect forum also.
  10 October 2013
Gotta mention Worldmachine and GeoControl in a thread about terrain!
  10 October 2013
I have used UDK for topographic map representation. That was by converting the maps to height maps and if you can do that then any software should do for what you want.

I don't see any file formats in your post so if that doesn't matter then Vue by E-on is the best terrain software available (from research not experience). Terragon is free. These two are the only ones I have used though.
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  10 October 2013
Thanks for the input!! I will be checking the recommendations out!

If I'm lucky I get some sort of CAD files or similar to work with, but probably need to do good old fashioned tracing over some PDF topographic maps with a CAD software. Then I can take that file into a terrain software and go from there.
  10 October 2013
My favorite is Vue as it integrates well with other software like Maya, Max and a few others. Of course its is not free but well worth it. I have tried a few others like Terragen by Planet Side which has a free version. The difficutly is that the learning curve on it is pretty steep and I have not had the time to figure it out so I have never actually used it in a production environment.
  10 October 2013

I'll toss in another recommendation for Vue, it's pretty easy to bash out decent terrain even in the less expensive versions.. but if all you want is terrain it's overkill. Great if you intend to get into more complex environmental work.

Free - DAZ Bryce. Weird interface, slow rendering, but decent results and you can't beat the price.
  10 October 2013
Cinema4D has a powerful (paid) plugin called "DEM Earth".

Thread here:


If you are short on money, you can try good old Bryce 7:

Hope this helps...
  10 October 2013
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