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Creating Terrains with Satellite Data, Volume 2

Maya Based Workflow with Alex Alvarez

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In this second DVD of a two-part series, Alex Alvarez continues his demonstration of utilizing satellite data to develop terrains. Where Volume One developed the skills necessary for high-altitude cameras, Volume Two focuses on techniques that allow the artist to effectively 'up-rez' regions of the terrain. Adding ZBrush to the workflow, Alex identifies areas that would benefit from digital sculpting. New geometry is created from the initial satellite DEM file (Digital Elevation Model) that is topologized, UV'd, then sculpted using ZBrush's HD Geometry. The procedural rock textures generated in Volume One are now used as ZBrush Alphas to quickly sculpt rock and cliff details. In addition to HD ZBrush workflows, Alex also shows an alternate approach that allows us to utilize DEMs directly in ZBrush, as well as how to use Decimation Master and XNormal to generate high-quality results. Once the ZBrush phase is complete, new satellite photos are then acquired using Google Earth Pro to generate 8k and 16k textures. Alex demonstrates how to align and project these new textures onto the new terrain geometry in Maya as well as how to cleanup textures using Mari, which supports 16k texture workflows, in a manner suitable for artists with no Mari experience. With models and textures complete, Alex shares his alternate lighting strategies. While Physical Sun/Sky offers convenience, an HDR workflow, combined with direct lighting, offers far more creative control. Alex then moves on to his techniques for creating Atmospheric effects, such as air and fog. Volume Primitives are thoroughly explained including how to texture their density for patchy fog effects. Lastly, rendering the various passes is discussed and the lecture concludes with a demonstration of how to combine the various passes in Photoshop to tune the final look of the image. For artists interested in creating natural environments with Maya, this DVD provides a variety of powerful techniques to create worlds both real and imagined.

  • Replacing DEM Regions with High-Res Geo
  • Using ZBrush to isolate, retopo
  • Sculpting with HD Geometry
  • HD Normal Map Workflow
  • Decimation Master / XNormal Workflow
  • Downloading Data from Google Earth Pro
  • Texture Cleanup with Mari
  • Physical Sun/Sky versus HDR Lighting
  • Atmospheric Effects
  • Render Passes / Compositing
  1. Introduction
  2. Replacing Foreground Geo
  3. Foreground retopo uvs
  4. Foreground Integration part1
  5. Foreground Integration part2
  6. GoogleEarth textures part1
  7. GoogleEarth textures part2
  8. 16k projection workflow
  9. Foreground texture Final
  10. ZBrush Sculpting HD Geometry
  11. UpRezing whole Terrain 16k maps
  12. DEMs in ZBrush Xnormal
  13. Texture Cleanup with Mari
  14. PhysicalSunSky Limitations
  15. HDR lighting with Spot lights
  16. Fly Through
  17. Atmospheric Effects
  18. Trees and architecture
  19. Photoshop Comp

  • Product Code: AAL29
  • ISBN: 1-59762-722-4
  • UPC: 805366018429
  • Duration: 357 minutes
  • Formats: DVD-ROM, Digital Download

DVD-ROM Requirements:

  • 1GHz or faster processor
  • 512 MB RAM
  • 64 MB Video RAM
  • DVD-ROM Drive
  • 5 GB of hard disk space
  • 1280 x 1024 display

DVD-ROM and Digital Download Requirements:

Minimum Operating System:

  • Microsoft® Windows® Vista®
  • Microsoft® Windows® XP Professional
  • Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional
  • Apple® Mac® OS X 10.2


  • QuickTime Movie Player (Version 7.0 or higher)
  • Acrobat Reader (Version 5.0 or higher)

For more information on DVD and Digital Download policies click here here.

  • Software Used:

  • Autodesk

  • Pixologic

  • Adobe

  • The Foundry

Alex Alvarez

Founder, Director The Gnomon Workshop
Gnomon School of Visual Effects

Alex Alvarez is the founder and president of the Gnomon School of Visual Effects in Hollywood, the Gnomon Workshop, Gnomon Gallery, SketchTheatre and Gnomon Studios. Having dedicated the past fifteen years to educating students and professionals around the world, Alex has helped change the face of computer graphics and design education. He has been published in industry magazines, websites and books, plus he has taught workshops at several major trade conferences. He continues to work on personal and professional projects, recently as a creature development artist on Avatar, Star Trek, Green Lantern and Prometheus. Prior to Gnomon, Alex worked for Alias|Wavefront as a consultant and trainer for studios in the Los Angeles area. Alex is an alumnus of the Art Center College of Design and the University of Pennsylvania.

"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 DVDs, 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 DVD's encapsulate what I gush about. Crazy and creative character design coupled with empowering technical know how."

- Neville Page
Character/Concept Designer

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