Terrain experiments using Instant Terra Pro

General / 04 June 2019

*Full disclosure, the following is strictly my opinion on my short time with Instant Terra Pro. No one is compensating me or nudged me into doing this post.*

I recently had the opportunity to take Instant Terra Pro https://www.wysilab.com/  for a test run so I figured I'd share some of my experience as well as post some of my experiments here for anyone interested.

Instant Terra Pro uses a node-based system to generate and conform your terrain's topography.

In order to get a decent base starting point I went to this site https://terrain.party/ and looked up Mount Rainier. I honed in on section with interesting elevation and then exported out this height map:

For the purposes of these experiments I ONLY wanted to use the above height map as my masked source. Instant Terra Pro allows you to paint your own height map in the software itself, obviously the painting tools aren't as robust as your Photoshop options however they are suitable enough to get a decent starting base going.

My typical node graph looked something like the image below. Amidst further experimentation I got a little more complex but it's mostly just blending previous nodes with new ones. If you're familiar with Substance Designer or Unreal Engine's material editor you should be pretty familiar with this workflow.

Here is what I would call your "standard" example with some hydraulic and mountain erosion:

Here is an example of something a bit more stylized, heavy on the mountain erosion node:

On this sample I'm using a curve on the mask to flatten away the edges and create an interesting layered effect:

This is an example with exagerrated cellular noise forming peaks and valleys:

Here is a more subtle sample mixing all three available erosion types:

This is a delicious oatmeal cookie? using a half-sphere slope to control the elevation perimeter:

Here is a sample blended using a Difference node which essentially flattened all my elvation:

Lastly here is a sample where I inverted my mask and made things look like a stylized crater:

Once you have something you're happy with you can export the mesh, mask (height map), normal and color texture if you desire, that way you can either implement exactly as is in your game engine or import your height map info to properly tesselate in your desired engine's terrain tools.

Among some minor gripes, such as not being able to control light direction in real-time and lack of proper 0-1 UV unwrap on meshes, my biggest gripe would probably be with the color map output. It is essentially an altitude based gradient color. There are some handy presets for different themes (arctic, desert, etc.) that you can customize. Still it would be handy to be able to generate a mask at the very least from the 3 available erosion nodes, (hydraulic, rock and mountain) to give you a bit of a start when creating a material or painting the mesh. 

Fortunately they have an official forum where they are open to suggestions so if you decide to try it out and have some gripes feel free to let them know so they can make the best possible product!

...and here's me quickly throwing a mesh into Unreal Engine with a LUT for a beauty shot:

If you have a free moment and want to play around with Instant Terra (they have a one month free trial) check them out here:


They also have an educational version for schools/students and feature very easy to follow videos and documentation for total noobs to it like myself and a responsive forum in case you have burning questions.

Thanks for reading if you've made it this far! Keep making art!

-Alexander Alza-

Bonus content:  

The Making of Jezero

General / 15 August 2018

I recently wrapped up work on a personal project I titled, Jezero. If you don't care about the behind-the-scene stuff and just want the visuals check out my official post here: https://www.artstation.com/artwork/d1vee

This small scene was a fun way to test myself using primarily only Quixel Megascan textures and Marmoset Toolbag 3.04 to render.

I've always been fascinated with space exploration. Mars-related discoveries have been in the news as of late and I stumbled on the concept image below:

As with most of my personal work, concepts are a good starting point but I tend to iterate, stare at the image forever, think of a deeper purpose to the scene, until ideas pop into my head and suddenly a minimalistic, clean concept turns into something a bit more detailed and hopefully provocative.

My goal at the start was to keep this scene quite small and have my final output be on a square aspect ratio. However as interesting details kept popping up I felt like the square ratio was forcing me to shoehorn in certain details that may best be left to the peripheral edges of the composition, translation: I needed more horizontal room to let the image breathe.

Modeling this scene was quite liberating as I was mostly just using my imagination to create interesting shapes to compliment the core composition - that being the circular window with the mother and child near vanishing point. Other than a couple of items like the stroller and portable generator/pump looking machine I didn't really seek out reference. I absolutely used and abused Marius Silaghi's Quad Chamfer Modifier in 3dsMax to achieve smooth results on my hard surface corners. I used Zbrush to clean up some geo and stamp some details and I used Marvelous Designer for literally one single mesh.

Textures were mostly sourced from Quixel Megascans. I only used a handful of materials and changed their color or gloss a bit in Photoshop to give me a small selection of materials that still felt congruent. This project was about getting great results with great speed and Megascans delivered what I was looking for here.

The giant Mars texture was projected on a sphere and the thin atmosphere of Mars was simply an additive alpha halo plane wrapping around the circumference of the planet and turned to billboard depending on the angle of my beauty shot.

What this scene boils down to is composition (interesting shots) and mood (lighting). I don't fancy myself a lighting expert but with Toolbag's easy to use lighting and post process options I experimented with a few lighting schemes to the point where I got different enough results. Toolbag's global illumination and reflections are not only beautiful but instantly gratifying to visualize. Post process in Toolbag was fun to play with as well. I typically used an existing preset and then adjusted curves and values to my delight. I adjusted bloom, barrel/pincushion, fog, depth of field and vignette values on a per-shot basis. After getting good results I decided to experiment with of all things the stock filters that come with your iPhone's image editor to give things an extra pop. Lastly I brought those results into Photoshop where I would add lens flares and watermarks.

My made up backstory for those that care...

With goals of establish long-term colonies on Mars, privately funded vessels carry pre-screened men, women and children to ensure the most varied gene pool possible on select locations of the red planet.

This particular travel vessel, the Sipiran of the Simbal class features modules with artificial gravity mimicking that of Earth and Mars. The Sipiran vessel also features numerous hydroponics and chemical lab research modules. The final destination of the Sipiran is the newly-established colony site at the Jezero crater in the Syrtis Major quadrangle.

Again my official ArtStaion post of Jezero can be found here: https://www.artstation.com/artwork/d1vee

If you've made it this far, thank you for reading my blog entry on The Making of Jezero and keep making dat art!!

Mom and child characters courtesy of https://secure.axyz-design.com

Signs and labels mostly internet image search, all other textures sourced from Quixel Megascans