Tips And Tricks For Using 3rd Party Height Maps In The Editor

I'm going to try and keep this short and sweet. Since there's really only a few things you NEED to know to get started.

  1. The file format is DDS R16F. Which is a compression-less 2D image/surface format(compression-less, 16-bit floating-point surface format, 16 bits for the red channel). The height map you will be trying to use will most likely not start out in that format. So what? Exactly. Do you really need to use some expensive photo editing software(ie. Photoshop) to save it as DDS R16F before using it in the editor? No. You most certainly DO NOT. I suggest you use paint dot net to save it as DDS R8G8B8(compression-less, 24-bit RGB pixel format, 8 bits per channel). Then have the editor convert that to DDS R16F for you. Which it will as soon as you make even the tiniest geometry edit, rebuild terrain, and save. BAM! DDS R16F conversion complete. PHOTOSHOP NOT REQUIRED!

  2. The size of the height map in pixels². downloads of the 8km x 8km size will be 1081x1081 pixels. That works fine in the editor, and doesn't need resized. I don't know what size is "too big" or "too small". I do know that the height maps generated by the editor are 961x961 pixels(if a squared size was used to create it, as in the length and width were the same value).

  3. And this is the kicker...the Height Map Max Value. YOU DO NOT NEED TO MESS WITH THE BRIGHTNESS OR CONTRAST OF THE HEIGHT MAP IMAGE TO ACHIEVE MORE REALISTIC HEIGHT DIFFERENTIALS! You can. But it's not the best way to do it IMO. If you want a more realistic height differential scenario(greater elevation, and greater changes in elevation) just use SpintiresMod with the editor. When you do you will have the option of changing the Height Map Max Value. The reason your imported height map looks so because the Height Map Max Value is in the editor is WAY TOO LOW by default! It's 64m by default. Meaning the difference in height between the lowest point on the map and the heighest point on the map can only be 64m. Weak sauce! I can jump that high(not really...but you get my point). Anyway, using STM you can set the Height Map Max Value in incremental values ranging from 64m(default) all the way up to 4096m. And the results you'll see from doing so can be spectacular. You will probably get some "stepping" in the elevation changes(you'll see what I mean by that). But these can easily be fixed using the geometry height tool/brush in flatten mode. The Height Map Max Values for maps made using STM are stored in an XML file named _mod in the map's prebuild folder. You can change the value there and save it, or from within the editor.

_mod.xml example:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>

From within the editor:


And that's the basic gist of it. Pretty simple and easy stuff really. I'll add more tips and tricks if/when I find them.

last edited by MudHappy

@joridiculous said in Tips And Tricks For Using 3rd Party Height Maps In The Editor:

Doesn't have to be a red-channel Works perfectly fine with images as a 16 bit channel grey scale. (only one channel to worry about)

Doesn't have to be anything. As soon as you make any kind of geometry edit, and save it, the editor converts it to R16F.

last edited by MudHappy

Think I'll give the ST Mod another shot. I was only using the Red Channel and adjust brightness/contrast because I told it was helpful, I feel like the bolded bits are a jab at me when I mentioned it in some sites..

If not, I apologize. I just read things wrong and take it the wrong way a lot.

from 64m high to 4096m?? Good grief.

last edited by Digital X

For some reason using the edited max height value running the ST Mod, my terrain is in wireframe mode. Also going funky and missing ground when applying or trying to, do height.

OK tried again, the raised terrain is above the empty hole, once I rebuild the terrain I can see it as normal and it comes back to ground level, so sculpting terrain the fly is gonna be a real pain.

last edited by Digital X

@joridiculous said in Tips And Tricks For Using 3rd Party Height Maps In The Editor:
You dont have to mess with channels at all. Just paste it in a layer and flatten.

I don't know what you mean by "mess" with channels. But no, you don't. It just needs to be in a DDS format. Doesn't matter which. I don't suggest you use anything less than R8G8B8(more bits = higher detail), or anything that is compressed(like any of the DXT types). The original height map images you get from are 16-bit PNG format. You could also go with X8R8G8B8(32-bit RGB pixel format, 8 bits for each color). But it's even more of a waste of bits than R8G8B8. Anything with an alpha layer is also a waste. Alpha is not used in this instance.

And I'm not talking about greyscale either. Because then, AFAIK, I'd have to be using something besides paint dot net. Which I don't like to do if I don't have to. Unless you can do greyscale with paint dot net and I just don't know how. I know you can with Gimp. But Gimp is a PITA to use. And I'm not going to pay for image editing software that I don't absolutely have a real need for(of which I haven't found any so far).

@joridiculous said in Tips And Tricks For Using 3rd Party Height Maps In The Editor:
Also, editor keeps the format the _height.dss is saved in. It doesn't "convert" to R16F

You're right. And you're wrong. It doesn't convert it until you edit it and save it. Once you've edited it and saved it, it will be converted to R16F. If all you're doing is loading it in the editor, the editor will load it in whatever DDS format it's saved in. The editor doesn't convert it the instant it loads it. And I never said that it did. I clearly stated, multiple times, that after editing and saving it gets converted to R16F. Don't believe me? Try it. You'll see.

last edited by MudHappy

Thanks for the tip man!