Project Islands - Lessons Learned



What was supposed to have take a month took more than twice as long and there are still a few things left to do. The reasons are many and all my fault, from underestimating the complexity of this undertaking to my stubbornness to see it through to completion. 

This project was to "fully" visualize a set of islands 60 x 60 miles at the resolution of 10ft per pixel. This meant all the images created would be 32K, which is 32,768 x 32,768 pixels. My most detailed project to date, detailed enough to include roads and individual buildings. I' had done some tests with World Machine with this scale so I new it would work.

It did work, kinda of, what I had failed to test was to render an area the size of this project at this resolution. To render the entire islands took over four days. When you are using tiles its wisest to render all tiles in one go to get a perfect match. Textures can be easily patched up afterwards, but heightmaps are a bit more difficult. For still image renderings you can always paint over the ugly bits afterwards, but with video this gets even more difficult. With this project I wanted to see if I could make everything work. I'm proud to say I did get the results I was aiming for but at a price of glacial progress.

The next major undertaking was Photoshop editing, images 32,768 pixels are a bit too to much to handle effectively at 16bit color depth every time you have to save, and save often! Even using a SSD drive it took 10 minutes or so to save  when the file size reached around 90GB. Then there is the simple truth that a 32K project is FOUR times larger than a 16K project, I will never ever forget that after spending almost a month in Photoshop!

The last bit was to get it all setup in Vue for the scenic 3D views. This was the first time I used more advanced features like custom maps to drive Displacement, Bump and Reflections. The results are downright fantastic with vegetation and rocks that looks photo-real from a distance. 

One major part of this project are still not finished, "How To" content. It is not easy to do especially not when most of the things you want to convey are "How not to do"! But now that I have managed to get it done it will be easier to focus on what worked and tell you how to do it. I still have a hard time talking to myself in front of my computer, but I will keep trying.

I have some ideas on changing my Patreon as well, more on that in a separate post soon.