Topography Creation

Digitizing Contours | Land, Sea, Air

Digitizing Contours

The first step in the creation of the topography of Constantinople was to transfer the contour lines from the paper map we used, into the SoftDesk module DTM, the software which actually built the surface that became the land. This task would normally be accomplished through use of a digitizing tablet. Due to our lack of a such a tablet, however, we had to resort to more primitive means. The map was first scanned into Photoshop and touched up to remove all extraneous features. Then the entire map was broken up into small rectangular sections, each of which was printed out onto a separate transparency. Finally, we taped these transparencies to the computer screen, and essentially traced the relevant contour lines with the mouse.

Paper Contours..........Digital Contours

Once the contours were "digitized", we used the DTM module of the SoftDesk software package to generate a surface based on the position and elevation of the contours. The software provides options for exaggerating the vertical scale of the topography. With the vertical exaggeration set at 25, for example, one can clearly discern the seven hills of Constantinople.

Land, Sea, Air

The surface generated in the DTM module was imported to 3dStudio in the same manner as the building models. At this point, the landscape was merely a solid green mass against a black background. Using the methods described in the Building Creation and Rendering document, we prepared grass, ocean, and sky materials from photos taken on site. The grass texture was applied directly to the land object. For the ocean and sky, objects had to be created to carry the maps, a slab for the ocean and a cylinder for the sky. These created very convincing effects, and all that remained was to add a road network and trees.

Adding the roads was somewhat tricky. There was no way to build actual roads out of objects in AutoCAD because there would have been no way to force them to conform to the shape of the land. We decided that the best method would be to apply the roads to the landscape as a map. In other words, to simply "paste" a picture of the road network onto the existing grass covered landscape. Because 3dStudio will only allow one pattern per object, we had to create a copy of the entire landscape, and elevate it a minute amount above the original land. This object then had the roads applied to it, with everything that was not a roadway or plaza being transparent to the underlying grass. Trees were added to the landscape merely by affixing an image of a tree to a box, with the areas between the branches made transparent.

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