Video Tutorials: Terragen for VFX

Started by Kevin Kipper, March 30, 2021, 09:21:32 pm

Previous topic - Next topic

Kevin Kipper

Hi Everyone!

Ever since I was introduced to Terragen in 2011 I've been enchanted with its production capabilities and possibilities.  It's been a joy working with Matt to create this video tutorial series "Terragen for VFX" and we're happy to announce that the first videos have been posted under the new Learn > Video Tutorials section on the Planetside website.

In this series we'll take a step by step approach to show how Terragen can be used in a visual effects production pipeline in order to create a final shot that might appear in a Hollywood blockbuster movie or in a high production value television series.

The first videos in this series explore the challenges in taking a pre-visualised scene, created in the 3D software package of your choice, and bringing it into Terragen, where the low resolution geometry acting as placeholders can be modified with many of Terragen's tools and feature sets.  In the end, we'll have created a naturalistic looking terrain that preserves the important features of the pre-visualised data and is ready to serve as the foundation for the rest of the environment, including the atmosphere, sky, clouds, forest populations and texturing.  We'll start to explore these topics in the next installment of the series.

Coming soon:
Terragen for VFX: Clouds
Terragen for VFX: Populations
Terragen for VFX: Texturing
Terragen for VFX: Rendering

We hope you enjoy these videos and learn something new!



March 30, 2021, 09:32:11 pm #1 Last Edit: March 30, 2021, 09:54:19 pm by Kadri

Hi Kevin,

I already had heard about this series in Facebook and have watched it. Very nicely done videos. Keep it up.


Interesting, and I will certainly take a look!


Ariel DK

Hi & thanks Kevin! Following the series! Very amazing results, i can't wait for more  :)
Hmmm, what version of Terragen does God use?


Hi Kevin, thanks for the series, it is really interesting to follow this step by step, and yes I did learn something new!

Kevin Kipper

Hi Everyone!

The second group of videos in the "Terragen for VFX" series are now available on our website and YouTube channel.

In these six videos we focus on the sky, atmosphere, clouds, and lighting used in our example shot, which can be seen here:

In each video title listed below, we take you step by step through the visual effects production pipeline as we developed the dynamic sky environment in Terragen.

Introduction to Skies, Forests, and Textures
Part 10 - Clouds Hide Aircraft
Part 11 - Thunder Clouds
Part 12 - Distant Clouds
Part 13 - Volcano (animated) clouds
Part 14 - Wispy clouds
Part 15 - Atmosphere and Lighting

We hope you enjoy these videos, learn something new, and look forward to hearing your comments.



Cool videos again. Very well put together and clear for all, I'd say. One thing I miss in the videos is the vapor trail how-to for those who want to know. Or perhaps I missed it. I'd say a moving-with-aircraft simple shape combi (or camera steered mask, or blue-node setup) would do, catching the cloud as it passes through it. But it might be a nice addition to the series.


Kipper is legit.

Worked with him at Foundation Imaging and years later at a different facility.
Listen to the man.

Glad you're on board at Planetside!

Kevin Kipper

Hi Dune,

Great question about the vapor trails.  We ended up rendering those in Lightwave 3D as a separate volumetric render element, and based on a particle simulation.  

We simply ended up running out of time to do this in Terragen and get the shot done, but it would be an interesting challenge to try and recreate it there.


Why was there a time-constraint?

I'd love to see something like this done in TG with perlin manipulation and functions. It would get into more of the technical customizing side of things.

Kevin Kipper


I apologize if that wasn't clear.  It was a self imposed time constraint to complete the video tutorials, not a time constraint based on Terragen's capabilities.

One of the challenges in the shot is the speed at which the aircraft and camera are traveling.  With the method used for the shot, at about Mach 2 or 680 meters per second, you've pretty much left the particle source of the vapor trail behind in a few frames.  That's why I think it would be an interesting challenge to try and replicate, or create vapor trails in general, in Terragen.

Kevin Kipper

Hi Everyone!

Wow, it seems like the second installment in our video series "Terragen for VFX" just went up and already the next group of videos have been released! 

The first two videos in this group provide an overview of Terragen's populator feature and various techniques to create masks which are used to control where the forest populations can exist in the terrain.  The remaining videos focus on the specific approach to creating the evergreen and deciduous forest that make up the Pacific Northwest environment in our shot.

Part 16 - Populator Overview
Part 17 - Creating Masks
Part 18 - Evergreen Forest Populations
Part 19 - Deciduous Forest and Shrub Populations

We hope you enjoy these videos and learn something new!



Thanks Kevin. The basis for a vapor trail is very simple; camera(s) at the location of the engine(s), pointed backwards, attached to a simple image map of a soft white circle in black. Restraint the distance over which the vapor should extend in a distance shader from that same camera. Multiply. That masks any cloud that's around. To increase its density multply by a factor (constant scalar).
The hardest thing is to move the cams with the aircraft, so they stay in place at the engines'.

Kevin Kipper

Hey Dune, great suggestion.  I'll give it a try as soon as I can!