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I have a high-resolution (42,678 x 21,340 pixel) digital elevation map (DEM) of Mars. My goal is to create an accurate image of Mars after terraforming (significant amounts of water introduced to form oceans).

I created a Sphere, added a Displace modifier, and used the high-resolution elevation map as the Bitmap parameter for Displace.

Mars settings

Displacement settings

Then, I added a blue sphere at the same coordinates, the radius of which indicates the amount of flooding (ocean formation).

The resulting render is extremely blocky. The impression I have is that the Displace modifier created a fairly small number of polygons from the original sphere.

Mars with ocean

Is there a better approach? If not, how can I make this one work?

  • have you tried changing the radius of the sphere? – Luciano Jun 26 at 8:58
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It's been a minute since I was using 3DS a lot - I can give my reactions based on my overall 3D generalist knowledge (which these days orbits pretty solidly around modo-based workflows) and hope that you can get the gist of what I mean versus getting hung up on specifics of per-app nomenclature.

First I'd ask how much you had subdivided the sphere, then I'd ask how you were handling micropoly displacements, then I'd ask whether you were applying the heightmap with or without aliasing - that last point may in fact resolve your issue instantly.

If I'm remembering my 3DS correctly, you could apply a turbosmooth modifier to subdivide the sphere prior to adding the displacement modifier, and that would give you much more geometry to hold the displacement data.

After those were addressed, I'd also ask why, if starting with a heightmap, you're not continuing to use a heightmap based workflow: one in which a procedural texture is assigned based on total displacement level which gradates from slight snow on bare rock to sand and gravel to water at the lowest... or failing that, if you want to go with a fully modeled approach, why not bake your geometry cache from the initial heightmap displacement into actual geo, and thus be able to sculpt and smooth any unwanted features?

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