• Paolo Camerin


Use displacement and height maps to create awesome tiny landscapes.

A section , a fragment, a glimpse of what might or might not be a reality.

These are examples of an exercise I like to do every now and then using one of my favourite software, Cinema 4D.

The concept is simple. Procedural displacement and some nice colours. But the effect is, to me at least, stunning and fascinating.

Nostalgia as inspiration

They are cool enough just using some random noise texture map, play around with their layering and eventually using the texture as input for the displacement.

However, during the COVID-19 break out, that kept me like so many other people, from going back to their home, made me develop a strong sense of nostalgia. That is why I decided to take this concept and take it up a notch and started this small series of slices based on real landscapes and maps.

I wont too much into the making details, just because I am too lazy to go back and create the necessary documentation to illustrate the process. However I will go through the main steps. Initially inspired by this post, found on @ifuckinglovemaps, one of my favourite instagram

pages, I started to look around on the internet and see if I could find any height map generator or similar. In fact, I found out there are at least two pretty good solutions. the first one is called terrain.party and second one, which I prefer for it's stability and image quality, is Tangram Heightmapper.

Simply enough I searched the location I wanted and downloaded the height map of it. This looks like a boring, grayscale image, but it has all the necessary data that we need in order to create the desired displacement. The cool thing about Tangram Heightmapper is that it also allows you to export a height map with reference lines. That will help later on when we will have to create also the image texture for our map.

For the image texture, what I did, as many times I tend to do, was kind of an hack.

I went straight into google maps, satellite view, and turned off all labels. Then I took screenshot of different sections of the area I was interested to. I did this to a higher zoom level, so that I could get more details. Basically I took many image tiles of the area, brought them into photoshop, use the automatic layers alignment (that works perfectly for this kind of stuff) and create the collage of all my images.

I then took the height map, the height map with the guidelines, and the texture image. I aligned all together, cropped to the same size and exported the final height map (without the guides) and the image texture.

From here on it was basically downhill, since cinema 4D has such a nice control over the texture mapping I just needed to create a material with the height map on the displacement channel, the image texture in the diffuse channel, tweak the reflectance a bit and that kind of stuff and I was basically done.

I created a plane with a decent amount of faces and surface subdivider. Added a displacer modifier linked to the material displacement channel. I tweaked a bit the parameters and I was done. I am not gonna go into details about the render setting either... that is up to everyone's preferences.

Here are some other renders I could do after this whole process.

Cool ah?? :D

Oh, by the way... I live between those two tiny lakes you can see in the valley.

Miss that place so much! :/

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