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Using REAL (USGS) Terrain In Bryce

Using REAL Terrain In Bryce

Author: TalonDesigns Printable Version
Step 1: Visit
Step 2: United States or International
Step 3: Wait Patiently... (I said the site was slow)
Step 4: Selecting Your Area
Step 5: Selecting Your Data To Download
Step 6: Modifying Data Request
Step 7: Finalizing Your Download
Step 8: Examining The Download
Step 9: Download & Install 3DEM
Step 10: Using 3DEM To Prep Your Terrain
Step 11: Download & Install GEOTIFF4
Step 12: Using GEOTIFF4 To Convert Your Terrain
Step 13: Ready For Bryce?
Step 14: In Bryce
Tools Needed
* Bryce 6.0
* 3DEM
* GeoTIFF4
* Internet Explorer

Support Files


Step 1 - Visit
This is the best place I have found to gather the information needed to generate unseamed terrain for use in your renders. There are other locations to get free data, and they require less steps to be able to use them in Bryce, but for this tutorial, I wanted to use the new feature of Bryce that allows an import of an image to create your terrain.
Step 2 - United States or International
Select the geographical location of the terrain that you wish to use for your render. 

I will be using United States for this example.
Step 3 - Wait Patiently... (I said the site was slow)
Step 4 - Selecting Your Area
Once that page loads, you are now ready to start selecting the area what you actually want. You can change the way that the maps are viewed, but I will not go into that with this tutorial. They have provided a nice tutorial on their site that will explain how to use their mapping system if you wish to read it. I read some of it, and the information found here is what i deemed as important to relay.

Using the navigation system on the left..

Window Zoom and create a window for the area to zoom into.. Get as close as you can to the area that you wish to capture. You can zoom to a point (by using longitude, lattitude) by clicking on the little XY button under the ZOOM section. A simple and quick Google search with the right query will get you the information that you need. IE: "Mount Rainer Coordinates"

It is HIGHLY suggested that you go in as far as possible. downloading the state of Colorado ended up being just shy of 1GB. ;)

Step 5 - Selecting Your Data To Download
Once you have zoomed in close enough, there is a section in the navigation area called "downloads".

I suggest using the first option (pick download area).

After clicking the download area option, you will then be able to select the exact area that you will be downloading. select the area by clicking the top left corner of the area, then drag to the bottom left corner.


Another window will come up with a summary of the area that you will be downloading.

Step 6 - Modifying Data Request
From here you can change the format of the data that you wish to download. I will hold no responsibility from any "VEERING" from my directions :)

Find the section that is checked off on the left.

"National Elevation Dataset (NED) 1 Arc Second)"

It is my understanding that the 1 Arc Second is the resolution or the detail involved with the files we are about to retrieve. Below the option checked you will see 1/3 Arc Second and 1/9 Arc Second. all I have downloaded were the 1 Arc Second files, and I have found them to be plenty sufficient for my projects. Again - I hold no responsibility for "VEERING".

The data format type that you will want to select is GeoTIFF. GeoTIFF is the only way I have found without having the higherend sofware packages, to perform this process for free. Leave the rest unless you want to deal with tar/gz files. I use ZIP for my retrieval process.

Once you have made the changes (data format to GeoTIFF) scroll to the bottom and click the button "Save Changes & Return to Summary".

NOTE: If you have selected a larger area (Like the state of Colorado for example) you may wish to change the Maximum size (MB) per piece. But if you zoomed in closely like i suggested, your file size is fine by default.
Step 7 - Finalizing Your Download
You should now be back to the summary page.

Notice the change in output format.

Click Download & a new window will pop up.

Wait... it is doing something, trust me.

Eventually (depending on the file size) you will get a windows safe file dialog.

Save your file, and extract it. No tutorial for this part. :) If you dont know, RTM. ;)
Step 8 - Examining The Download
Within my archive is a file called "NED_32902575.tif". yours will be named differently as the server generates random numbers to give you. But the intial "NED_" and the file extension will be the same. This file will be the focus for the next parts of the tutorial.

You can close the USGS site now, it will just sit there and continue to gobble up resources if you dont.
Step 9 - Download & Install 3DEM
Visit - and download the software called "3DEM". The version I have is 19.2. I dont forsee an update to the software soon, so you should be using the same software that I am.

Install & Launch 3DEM. (Again no tutorial - RTM)
Step 10 - Using 3DEM To Prep Your Terrain
From 3DEM - click File - Load Terrain Model.

Select GeoTIFF DEM (Top Right option) Then click ok. Select the tif file mentioned earlier.

This will give you an overhead view of the map you saved.

Click on "Operation" - "Change Projection" - "Convert to UTM Projection". I wont go into detail as to why - Its a LOOOOONG STORY. But trust me on this one. 

Set it to NAD83. Again - I wont go into detail as to why - Its a LOOOOONG STORY. But trust me on this one.

This will change the proportions of the DEM you downloaded from the USGS website.

Click "File" - "Save GeoTIFF DEM" - Click OK on the warning message. We know what we are doing :)

Type the name of the file & Click save. I would not reccommend overwriting the original file. You may need it just in case. DO NOT CLOSE 3DEM! We still need it open.

Click On "Operation" - "Show DEM Specs"

This information is needed to complete the process. If you choose to write it down somewhere, feel free. I find it was just easier with a dual monitor setup to keep it open and refer back to it later.
Step 11 - Download & Install GEOTIFF4
Visit -

You will need an application called "GEOTIFF4".

It is freely available by clicking on the link toward the top of the page. This is a nice site with a wealth of information if you are interested.

Install & Launch GEOTIFF4.
Step 12 - Using GEOTIFF4 To Convert Your Terrain
Once the application is started you will see this screen.

Make sure "Generate ASTER Image" is checked. It is by default.

Click on "File" - "Open". Select the new file you created with 3DEM. Click OK on the information screen. You will see the file is now loaded.

the information on the screen from 3DEM is what you will need in the boxes at the bottom of GEOTIFF4.

Elevation Posting (m) = Leave this alone

SW Corner Longitude (UTM (m)) = the first number in the East Coordinates.

SW Corner Latitude (UTM (m)) = the first number in the North Coordinates.

UTM Zone = The Coordinate Type (Number Only)

That is all you need to move forward.

Populate the information. (ill wait for ya)

Ok - im moving on.. you should be done by now.

Click "Run" - "Run GEOTIFF4"

Kinda odd.. i know.. but im not complaining. He made this process possible.

Wait Patiently... There is a progress bar at the right to let you know its working.

A large greyscale image will pop up once this process is complete. Along with another dialog box. I ignore the dialog box it, because i dont need the information. I just need the generated "ASTER" image.

Click ok on the dialog box, and close the "ASTER Image" display window.

Click "File" - "Save Image" - "Save ASTER Image"

Change The filetype to Windows Bitmap Files.

Save your file.
Step 13 - Ready For Bryce?
You can now close GEOTIFF4 & 3DEM.

Fire Up Bryce...

Create A New Terrain...

Modify Your Terrain...

Under your editing tools there is a button that is labeled "Picture".

Click that button and load the bitmap that you just created.

Notice your terrain?

Apply your changes.
Step 14 - In Bryce
If you have done everything correctly, you should see a 3D version of the terrain you found at the USGS website.

I know its a lot of utilities needed to do this, but it is the BEST way that I have found.