Multi-Application Workflows

Started by Asterlil, July 07, 2019, 02:34:41 am

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Asterlil

While I have been rehabilitating a model in Blender, to make it right for inclusion in Terragen, I've been following the topics, and there is a kind of meta-topic that is confusing me. I see references to so many other applications -- World Machine, Houdini, Unreal, and others -- that I begin to worry if I will ever be able to create anything worthwhile if I need to obtain and learn all those other apps in addition to Terragen.

But obviously you're not all using the same tools, so I wonder if I might get y'all to tell us what applications you use to bring about what you think is a successful Terragen scene, and how or what you feel they contribute to your workflow. This will help me; not necessarily because one app is better than another, we might never agree on that, but because it will help me to sort out what all these different packages can bring to the mix.

Dune

You can create something worthwhile with TG alone! Plenty of tools available, as well as some internal grass for far plains of grass. But when it comes to importing better greenery, my choice would be (and is) Speedtree.
I use Lightwave to build houses, and bridges, and other hard-edged stuff, ZBrush and DAZ for people and clothing, and some soft stuff, like rocks or so.

WAS

Quote from: Dune on July 07, 2019, 04:18:02 am
You can create something worthwhile with TG alone! Plenty of tools available, as well as some internal grass for far plains of grass. But when it comes to importing better greenery, my choice would be (and is) Speedtree.
I use Lightwave to build houses, and bridges, and other hard-edged stuff, ZBrush and DAZ for people and clothing, and some soft stuff, like rocks or so.


I'd have to agree with Ulco. Terragen is plenty capable of powerful landscape scenery and complete highly detail scenes full of objects and populations. A lot of those other programs are mentioned because these people are already familiar with other software and using elements from Terragen in those applications. Such as terrain exporting, and cloud exporting, and skymaps. Lately there has been (maybe too much) attention on cloud exporting for other software which has brought in a lot of people on that basis alone.
Check out the Terragen Community on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/Terragen.Galleries/

Asterlil

I completely agree that one can create some knockout stuff with Terragen alone. I have done my object modelling in Blender and, at the moment, I'm trending toward exploiting TG's scenery for archviz, architectural visualizations. My method of learning seems to be deciding that I want to do something like, say, create a road that will carve into terrain where needed, and then exploring the documentation and the forum for clues as to how to do that. (Is there a tutorial for that?)

Which is where I run into suggestions for using other software. I realize no single software app can be all things to all paracosmologists and artists -- I'm just trying to map the applications that orbit Terragen, so that I can figure out what not to ask TG to do.

WAS

Quote from: Asterlil on July 07, 2019, 01:49:25 pm
I completely agree that one can create some knockout stuff with Terragen alone. I have done my object modelling in Blender and, at the moment, I'm trending toward exploiting TG's scenery for archviz, architectural visualizations. My method of learning seems to be deciding that I want to do something like, say, create a road that will carve into terrain where needed, and then exploring the documentation and the forum for clues as to how to do that. (Is there a tutorial for that?)

Which is where I run into suggestions for using other software. I realize no single software app can be all things to all paracosmologists and artists -- I'm just trying to map the applications that orbit Terragen, so that I can figure out what not to ask TG to do.


It's ironic you mention that as Ulco here has a couple example scenes on this very topic to learn from. I'm on my phone so I'll try to get them, if not I am sure Danny or Ulco will link you.
Check out the Terragen Community on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/Terragen.Galleries/

Oshyan

July 07, 2019, 02:08:01 pm #5 Last Edit: July 07, 2019, 02:10:43 pm by Oshyan
This is an important question and the answer(s) are both simple and complex. ;) Simple because Terragen is pretty clear in what it fundamentally can and can't do, but complex in that some of the finer or more specific details of what you might want to do *within* the realm of what Terragen can do might still be easier or more flexible in another companion program. I'll try to keep this brief and simple for now and can elaborate later as-needed.

Terragen is at its heart a procedural generation system - which is most useful for creating terrain, shading/textures, and clouds - and a renderer purpose-built for rendering large environments (up to planet-sized). But it doesn't create plants and other objects beyond very simple shapes, i.e. it's not a modeler, so anything beyond terrain, sky, and water you pretty much need to bring into it. So it is something of an "end point", an application into which you import all your assets from other programs and sources, setup a scene with terrain, sky, etc., and then render within Terragen.

Unreal, Unity, and most game engines are also *end points*. People working with Unreal want to get Terragen content *into* Unreal. This is either because they're trying to create a real time game (which Terragen doesn't do), or they want to otherwise explore their terrains in real time. The sacrifice is less realistic atmosphere, rendering, lighting, etc., and less powerful displacement capability. If you like what Terragen can do as far as atmosphere, terrain, and rendering, then no need to worry about Unreal or Unity.

In general you basically want to pick your rendering application, which is normally going to be your "end point", the program you import all your other stuff into for creating your final images. Other examples of such tools include 3DS Max and Maya, Clarisse, Vue, Blender, etc., along with the game engines I mentioned above. So pick your "end point" first, if you ask me.

Then there are all the many other applications that can create content which you can use with any "end point" software. Terrain generators (e.g. World Machine), texture generators (e.g. Substance Designer), plant generators (e.g. Speedtree), object modelers and sculpting tools (e.g. ZBrush), etc. Your need for any of these depends directly on what you want to do with your scene. In many cases it's obvious: if you need a tree model, you need to either find an existing one you can download/buy, or you need software like Speedtree that can help you model it. In other cases it's less clear, like when do you want to use a 3rd party terrain generator vs. Terragen's built in functions.

My suggestion in general would be to try to accomplish what you want to do in Terragen first. Do as you were, look for tutorials, etc., but if you find that A: there isn't much info/discussion, or B: the discussion that exists makes it sound more difficult to do in Terragen, then you'd investigate other tools that might work well in that area. And at any point along that path you should feel free to post here asking for advice and input, from initial search for info, i.e. "can Terragen do this, and how?", to asking for recommendations on tools.

So for example Terragen includes good built-in terrain generation systems, but its capabilities for explicitly modeling and sculpting very specific terrain features such as roads are more limited. If you want to create very specific terrain features in specific places, you might be better off with a terrain modeling tool like World Machine, World Creator, or Gaea.

In general I would say that external objects, either pre-made, or using modeling software, are probably the single most common type of asset/software used with Terragen. Terrain generators are probably the second most commonly used. Beyond that most of these other tools (e.g. Zbrush, Substance Designer) are not needed. They *can* be used for specific reasons, but most often they are used because a given artist is already familiar with that tool and knows how to use it to achieve a goal more quickly and easily than they know how to do so in Terragen.

I hope that helps! Feel free to ask for more clarification as-needed.

- Oshyan


Asterlil

Oshyan, that is a helpful and comprehensive reply, good enough to go in a FAQ sheet.  :)

WASasquatch, thank you for digging up those links -- info and product advisory much appreciated.

Dune

Mind you, the road system I found out can only be used for a single road, no crossroads, and whatever.

Asterlil