With the Blender-OSM Addon we can pick an area on a map and import landscapes. While you can also import buildings, GPX-tracks, Rivers, Lakes, vegetation and forests, I tell a bit more about importing terrains and a satellite image overlay. For all other features, I suggest to check the documentation of the addon on Gumroad where you find the free version or the paid version.
What I like about this addon is the convenience of importing landscapes. That means that you click Select in the addon and that brings you to a map online. You can then select an area of interest and copy the coordinates. Back in Blender you past the coordinates and if you select terrain you can import the terrain. So that is pretty handy I would say. And since I have the paid version, I can also download a satellite image as texture. But there are a few caveats which I tell you more about.
How the Blender-OSM Addon works
So the steps to use the addon, so far, is pretty straight forward. In short: click Select, select an area of intererst, copy the coordinates, paste the coordinates in Blender and import. You import first the terrain and then, if you have the paid version, the satelite image. But most likely there is a problem once the terrain is imported: you don’t see it. If that is the case, then the terrain is so big, that it’s outside of the view of the camera because of the settings for clipping.
There are two places where you have settings for clipping: a) the viewport and b) the camera. Also, if you switch to another workspace, it might have it’s own settings for clipping. You find the settings for clipping for the viewport in the N-Panel under the tab View. You might want to set the end clipping to 4000m, but that depends how big your terrain is. And to see the settings for clipping of the camera, you select the camera and in the Outliner. And next, you select the Data Object Properties tab in the Properties Panel (the icon with the camera), and set Clip end to something like 4000 meter.
You could also scale the terrain of course, but that will give a few issues when you import other assets later. So I prefer to do it this way, rather than scale the terrain. And to import the terrain. you just select Image Overlay (Mapbox Satellite) in the Blender-OSM Addon and press import.
Some caveats rendering a fly through animation
The problem with an Image Overlay, is that it is like a processed picture. It’s similar like a (bad home-made) texture you find often on the internet. What I mean with that, often textures doesn’t represent plausible albedo values. For example a picture has shadows, reflections, and we don’t know how these are processed. Exposure, or other transforms? Textures like you can get at Quixel Megascan are different: they contain data (albedo values for example) we can use in our scene. That is our scene referred data. And the albedo values, roughness and normals, etc are separated data with those pbr textures. Whereas a picture has all data in one which we can’t separate properly.
So, we can do two things: a) fiddle around with the values the Image Overlay provides us, or b) get good textures and texture your terrain. Both can works, but this time I am lazy and just want to fiddle around with the values we have. That is pretty tricky, because the texture has already shadows. It’s really fiddling around and you can’t get a serious production out of it, but here a few ideas.
Ideas for dealing with pictures (vs textures).
- Select the terrain and go in the Shader Editor. You could bump up the darks with an RGB curve node for example
- Also it’s often to bright in the highlights. Remember that snow is like 80% white.
- So now we have texture that doesn’t look better most likely , but we have room now. (see screenshot below for the rgb curves)
(In case you have the Material Nodes Addon, you can use the Level Correction Node, which is designed for corrections like that.)
- Often the saturation is to high. It might look better when you lower the saturation
- We could turn of the specularity in the Principled BSDF. Maybe you could give it a bit and put roughness high. The problem, there is already specularity baked in the texture, so it’s a bit trying out what works best.
- Most likely you see that there are shadows in the image overlay, caused by the sunlight. Check if you can position a sun in the opposite direction and see if you can cancel out the strong shadows a bit. I know it’s very fiddley, but I guess it is what it is with satellite image overlays. There could be some programs out there though, that can do a better job than this. Let me know in the comments if you came across such.
Another approach dealing with satellite images
In case you have nothing else in the scene, you could experiment giving the image overlay an emission shader. Leave the emission strength on 1. In this case you might check the default view rather than the Filmic view. One big benefit of this, is that you barely need any samples. Possibly 10 samples are enough (vs the 220 samples if use other shaders).
Post process the render
So we have a bit more room now that we turned the black into almost black and pure white into almost white. Or in other words, the albedo values are a tiny bit more plausible. (It’s impossible though, but I try to get the best out of an satellite image overlay). For tips about the compositor, I suggest you to check out the article “Compositing and Scene Referred Data“
Where to download the Blender-OSM Addon
On top of this article you find two links. There is a free and a paid verion.