Bilkent University
Department of Computer Engineering


Representation, Editing and Real-Time Visualization of Complex 3D Terrains


Çetin Koca
MSc Student
Computer Engineering Department
Bilkent University

Terrain rendering is a crucial part of many real-time computer graphics applications such as video games and visual simulations. It provides the main frame-of-reference for the observer and constitutes the basis of an imaginary or simulated world that encases the observer. Storing and rendering terrain models in real-time applications usually require a specialized approach due to the sheer magnitude of data available and the level of detail demanded. The easiest way to process and visualize such large amounts of data in real-time is to constrain the terrain model in several ways. This process of regularization decreases the amount of data to be processed and also the amount of processing power needed at the cost of expressivity and the ability to create interesting terrains.

The most popular terrain representation, by far, used by modern real-time graphics applications is a regular 2D grid where the vertices are displaced in a third dimension by a displacement map, conventionally called a height map. It is the simplest and fastest possible terrain representation, but it is not possible to represent complex terrain models that include interesting terrain features such as caves, overhangs, clis and arches using a simple 2D grid and a height map. We propose a novel terrain representation combining the voxel and height map approaches that is expressive enough to allow creating complex terrains with caves, overhangs, clis and arches, and efficient enough to allow terrain editing, deformations and rendering in real-time. We also explore how to apply lighting, texturing, shadowing and level-of-detail to the proposed terrain representation.


DATE: 05 September, 2012, Wednesday @ 09:00