3D Nature Frequently Asked Questions

Add-on Tools

What is NatureView Express?

Explore Scene Express projects with NatureView Express, the free realtime viewer created by 3D Nature. NatureView Express is included with Scene Express and may be redistributed with no additional licensing costs. This allows Scene Express users to publish projects and send them to clients and other interested parties with NatureView Express included to explore the scene. NatureView Express can also view projects on the Internet in a web browser.

More info about NatureView is available.

What is Scene Express?

Scene Express is 3D Nature's tool that allows the export of terrain and landscape elements for use in realtime engines or for final rendering in other 3D packages.

Learn more or see a wide variety of images here.

What is the Forestry Edition of VNS?

The Forestry Edition for VNS was created at the request of our many Forestry Customers. They wanted a tool that would directly connects their forest stand and polygon attributes to their visualization with a few easy clicks of the mouse.

You can learn more about this tool and see some images created with it here.

What is the NLCD Data CD Set?

The NLCD Content CD is actually a 2-CD set with one VNS Template project, supporting texture image files, and compressed GeoTIFF raster images for the lower 48 US states. This product relies on the Templates feature and is therefore only compatible with VNS, not WCS. 

For more information or to view images created using this data click here.

What is the Ultimate Earth Data DVD?

This DVD-ROM contains the best quality, highest resolution collection of terrain, bathymetry, color imagery and cloud maps that we could assemble that covers the entire planet.

Ultimate Earth contains 1 Kilometer land mass terrain data, 10 Kilometer bathymetry, 1 Kilometer color imagery and 5 Kilometer cloudmap data for the entire globe. The DEM data alone contains well over 939 million data points. The imagery contains over one billion pixels.

This DVD-ROM also contains over a dozen projects that allow you to work with a smaller area of the earth (Saves memory and hard drive space.) and Components that allow you to apply this image data to your current projects. 

Click here to see sample imagery or learn more.

Buying WCS or VNS

Are 3D Nature products RoHS compliant?

All of the parts that are included in our products have been verified to be compliant.

I'm a dealer/distributer. Can I purchase WCS or VNS from 3D Nature?

Yes you can! Contact us at 303-659-4028. We will review your information to see if our companies are a good match. We can also add you (and your Web Page) to our Online Dealer Network so customers can find you quickly!

World Construction Set and Visual Nature Studio can also be conveniently be purchased from your favorite software distribution sources. If they do not carry WCS or VNS, ask them to contact us!

I'm an end-user. Can I purchase WCS or VNS from 3D Nature?

Yes you can! 3D Nature sells World Construction Set and Visual Nature Studio to users worldwide. You can order from the Store or call the Sales Office at (303) 659-4028. We can also direct you to a dealer in your area. Visit our Online Dealer List.

What is 3D Nature's return policy on software?

3D Nature does not generally accept returns on software. Please make sure you really want our product before ordering it.

If, under extenuating circumstances a return is authorized by one of our Managers, that product must be in the original unopened packaging, including all parts, undamaged in any way.

If a return is accepted a 15% restocking fee will be charged. Additionally, you will not be refunded for the original shipping charges and you will be responsible for shipping the product back to 3D Nature at your expense. 

When will [version X] be available?

See our Availability, Pricing and Upgrades page for pricing and availability for announced versions. If it is not on the list, then we're not talking about it yet! Stay tuned to our web site for more details.

Where can I get updates?

Right here! Registered users can obtain program updates online via our Internet Update System after Registering their copy of WCS or VNS.

Delivery and Shipping

What is the 3D Nature policy on International shipments of products?

3D Nature is proud to have a world wide user base.

When a product is shipped outside of the Untied States we will ship it via whatever service method the recipient prefers. Due to reliability and billing issues, we currently only offer services through Fedex. Although we can offer average delivery time for each service we are not able to guarantee these times due to occasional international shipment delays that are beyond our control.

All international duties and taxes are the sole responsibility of the recipient.

Features and Capabilities

Can I create landscapes from scratch in WCS or VNS?

Yes! World Construction Set and Visual Nature Studio both include powerful tools for drawing or importing control points and using them to grid new terrain shapes. The points can define contours, ridgelines, peaks, dips, valleys, watershed/drainage basins or any other topographic features.

The new Terrain Generator allows users to create their own terrains. Use the power of the texture editor to design a heightfield, and have WCS or VNS turn it into a DEM of what-ever resolution you require.

Can I create my own trees?

Yes. For Image Object trees you can modify any picture to add your favorite local species of foliage! There is a tutorial located on the Tips and Tutorials Page telling you how to do this. 

Can WCS or VNS Animate?

Definitely! WCS and VNS can animate hundreds of different terrain, foliage, texture, water, cloud, atmosphere, sky, celestial object, light, shadow, 3D object and camera attributes. Our keyframe animation system is spline-based with precise control of key frames, tension, continuity and bias on every motion channel individually. For your convenience, you can also simultaneously create key frames for related groups of parameters together, such as all three camera position parameters.

Can WCS or VNS create roads and other man-made terrain features?

You can create roads of all types, from simple paths to multi-lane super-highways, with our exclusive Terraffector™ technology. WCS or VNS will even manage the terrain modification (cuts or fills) to maintain the road centerline elevations you specify.

Terraffectors are useful for more than roads. They can make dams, runways, golf course features, baseball diamonds, and much, much more.

Perhaps the best thing about Terraffectors is that the changes don't really alter the terrain model. They only alter its rendered appearance. So any changes are instantly reversible. You can tweak the effect until you get just what you want without worrying about wasting disk space with multiple copies of the DEM.

Another important advantage is that they work on fractally-subdivided terrain. You don't need highly detailed terrain models to get detailed topographic effects. The detail is added at rendering time only in the areas where it is needed. This is a big benefit when most of the scene doesn't need extreme detail.


Can WCS or VNS Import/Render/Animate 3d Objects?

Yes. WCS and VNS let you import 3D Objects created in LightWave, MAX, Onyx Tree Professional, Tree Druid, LSYSTEMS or any other program that can create objects in LightWave, 3D Studio, Wavefront OBJ or DXF format.
3D Objects can receive shadows, be self shadowed and cast shadows on other 3D Objects and the terrain. They reflect in water. You can animate size, position and rotation on any axis. You can place 3D Objects at specific places on the terrain with georeferenced host vectors using the 3D Object Effect.

For surfaces, WCS or VNS recognizes object color, luminosity, transparency, specularity, single or double sided rendering and shading. You can choose from flat or phong shading. WCS 6 and VNS 2 and 3 support Bump Mapping and UV mapped bitmap image textures to make your 3D Objects more realistic!

You can animate and texture color, luminosity, specularity, transparency and translucency with the powerful WCS or VNS Texture Engine. The Texture Engine that is included with both programs, lets you combine a variety of procedural textures to create looks like brick, rock, dirt, metal, plastic and water, along with image-based texturing. Translucency controls lets you simulate light transmission, which is great for realistic sunlit leaves.

You can also add non-landscape objects to your animation by modeling and rendering them in a general-purpose 3D package and using our Z-Buffer Compositing to merge them together seamlessly. This is particularly useful for character animation, aircraft or objects that you need to render using specific features of another package.

Does WCS or VNS calculate cut/fill or water body volumes?

At this time, WCS and VNS do not do volumetric analysis. A number of the natural-variety adding features of WCS and VNS would actually degrade the precision of any analysis calculations of this sort, so we do not currently attempt to address these capabilities.

Does WCS or VNS have AntiAliasing/FieldRendering/MotionBlur?

Yes! World Construction Set and Visual Nature Studio both have advanced antialiasing built right into the renderer. In addition we offer Box Filtering, Z-Buffered Edge Softening, and Multi-Pass antialiasing with sub-pixel offsets. Plus, we have Field-Rendering for smooth 60fps video, and built in user-controlled Motion Blur.

Does WCS or VNS perform Viewshed Analysis?

At this time, WCS and VNS do not perform Viewshed Analysis calculations. While calculating Viewsheds for simple surfaces is a well-known art, Viewsheds incorporating more advanced capabilities such as foliage occlusion, lighting and contrast consideration, distance weighting and other perceptual factors are considerably more difficult. 3D Nature does not feel that a simple bare-surface Viewshed analysis adds any value for our users, but we may in the future implement visibility analysis if we can create a method that incorporates vegetation and other factors we feel are critical.

Import and Export

Can I create landscapes from topo maps with WCS or VNS?

Yes! If you have contour data available in a compatible vector format you can import the data, assign elevations to the contours and use them to grid a DEM in WCS or VNS. For files with over 6,000 points, VNS is much faster at the gridding process.

Can I drape a satellite imagery over the landscape?

Yes. You can drape Satellite or other remote-sensed imagery over the terrain. You can directly project a picture onto the terrain, or even use the colors in an image to control where different ecosystems appear. Ecosystems include overstory foliage, understory foliage and ground texturing. WCS can drape images in geographic coordinates only. VNS can drape images in many other projections (UTM, State Plane, etc) as well!

Can I export trees?

WCS or VNS can use trees of several types. The efficient and realistic Image Object trees are essentially 2.5D objects composed of textures shaded onto generic 3D forms. 3D shading gives them their realistic volumetric look. These trees cannot directly be used by other 3D packages in the same manner since other software lacks the ability to render them this way.
WCS or VNS can also import and render true 3D trees in LightWave, MAX, DXF and OBJ formats. If you have trees in these formats, other packages might also be able to use them. However, only WCS or VNS gives you the ability to render luminosity for realistic light transmission by leaves. WCS or VNS also gives you the ability to plant many trees automatically based on Rules-of-Nature™ for fast and realistic Ecosystem distributions.

Update: The new Scene Express add-on for WCS and VNS allows for more full-featured export to a variety of formats, including pre-shaded tree images!

What 3D Object formats do WCS/VNS import?

VNS can import the following 3D Object types: LightWave 3D, 3D Studio, DXF, Wavefront OBJ, and VNS 3D Object geometry files (extension “.w3o” or “.w3d”).

What DEM formats do WCS and VNS read?

DEMs, which stands for Digital Elevation Models, define the shape of the terrain. WCS or VNS lets you visualize real places and can import DEM data in a wide variety of standard DEM formats.

The amazing new Import Wizard makes this much easier. It will identify your data and walk you through the simple steps needed to load it.

Currently WCS and VNS can read: Arc ASCII DEM, Arc USGS ASCII DEM, ASCII Array, Bryce v2, v3, v4, Binary Array, DTED, DXF, GTOPO30, Images (BMP, IFF, PICT, Targa, JPEG, PNG and TIFF), NED BIL (National Elevation Dataset), NED Grid-Float, SDTS DEM, STM (Simple Terrain Model), Terragen, USGS ASCII DEMs, VistaPro DEMs and WCS or VNS DEM. Additionally VNS can use ECW, UK NTF and Arc ADF and E00 raster data.

The Import Wizard can also read almost any form of regular- interval data (spreadsheets, raw data files, images, etc) and create new DEMs under your control. You can even use the Import Wizard to interpolate and tile your data.

What formats does Scene Express output?

Scene Express for WCS and VNS outputs NatureView, VRML, VTP, Google Earth KML, 3D Studio (PRJ), Lightwave LWO and Alias FBX. Additionally, Scene Express for VNS offers export to GIS (ESRI DEM + GeoTIFF) and VNS .proj. Some optional add-on formats can be purchased for VNS, including STL(Stereolithography)/VRML-for-STL and OpenFlight (FLT). Sample output for some of these formats is available here.

What image formats do WCS and VNS support?

Currently WCS and VNS read and write Targa (TGA), Windows BMP, IFF, PICT, JPEG, PNG, Radiance RGBA/HDR, AVI, Quicktime and TIFF. They also both generate RLA and Sculpt/RAW/RGB files. VNS can also write a variety of rendered data to ECW, Arc Grid BIL and Arc GRIDFLOAT. Support for other formats is planned in the future.

What vector formats do WCS and VNS import?

Vectors let you position WCS or VNS components onto the terrain. For example, you can use vectors to place roads, lakes, trees, entire forests, clearings, flat building sites, mountains and much more.

WCS or VNS can import ESRI 2D & 3D Shapefiles; AutoCAD DXF or XYZ files in Lat/Lon, UTM or arbitrary coordinates (VNS supports over 30 different projections as well) and USGS ASCII DLG files. The new Import Wizard will detect the data type automatically!

WCS or VNS can automatically group your Shape files into layers, for easy, automatic assignment of Ecosystems.

You can create control points interactively with your mouse or import existing data from a file. WCS or VNS supports AutoCAD DXF files, ArcView Shape files and DLG files.

The gridding process is much like 'draping' a sheet across points in 3D space to create the terrain surface.

WCS or VNS also includes an easy-to-use fractal landscape generator that lets you create terrain with a single click. You can control various attributes to generate different types of terrains.

Support and Training

Are there any Internet resources for WCS or VNS?

Yes! Check out our Resources section and Scott Cherba's Landscapes Illustrated for lots of tutorials, hints and tips, DEM sources, and links.

You may also join the International WCS/VNS Mailing List, currently hosted on YahooGroups. This is a great place to ask questions and share WCS or VNS tips with members of the development team and WCS or VNS artists and scientists from around the world.

Are there any third party training materials for WCS or VNS?

Yes! See our Training page for details.

How long will 3D Nature support a version after a newer version of the same product comes out?

We continue supporting all of our products for a long time after newer version become available. You can count on having support available on some level for your product for a minimum of two years after the next version is released.

As of August 1, 2003, 3D Nature suspended support for WCS4. At that time WCS 4 was 2 versions behind the current release and had been out of production (no longer available for purchase) for well over 2 years. You can find more information on this policy.

I have lost or misplaced my hardware key. What do I do?

The hardware key is the only way 3D Nature has to make sure that our products are only being used by authorized customers. They are also the only way we have of controlling the number of copies that people are using of our software.

If your hardware key had been lost or stolen, 3D Nature is able to sell you a discounted additional seat of the version of our product that you have that will include a new dongle.

If in the future your original dongle is found or returned you will be able to run two copies of the software legally.

Please note that if you dongle was destroyed or stolen the cost of the replacement seat is often covered under your business or home insurance. See also Repair of Damaged Hardware Keys.

My hardware key is not working. How do I repair it or get a replacement?

The first thing to do is to make sure you have installed the proper drivers for your hardware key. You can download these from SafeNet.

If you have done that and the key is still not working, download the Sentinel Advanced Medic tool from the same page. When you run this it will tell you if the hardware key has been detected. If it has, try rebooting your system and that may solve the problem. If not please contact our office and we will arrange to have a new key sent out to you.

We will provide free hardware key exchanges (for defective keys) for the current version of any product. If you are running an older version of the software there will be a $50 fee for the dongle replacement. However, if you decide to upgrade to the current version, the fee will be waived.

Is there training available for WCS or VNS?

Yes! 3D Nature typically offers a 5 day training course in the Spring and another in the Fall. Check out our Training page for information about the upcoming sessions.

Certified Trainers also hold classes at various locations on occasion. Contact 3D Nature for more information or with questions.

Support Knowledgebase

Technical Issues

What are the minimum system requirements?

Your Windows OS system should have 2GHz processor speed (Pentium 4 or later, SSE2 required for VNS 3) and at least 1Gb of memory. The full program install of VNS 3 requires 4.4 Gb of hard drive space.

You will also need a True-color (16, 24 or 32-bit) OpenGL capable display running at a resolution of at least 1024x768. Make sure you have the latest display drivers and OpenGL support for your display card. WCS and VNS use advanced OpenGL capabilities extensively and will have trouble with outdated or buggy OpenGL support from your display card.

Are WCS or VNS Multithreaded?

Currently WCS and VNS are not multithreaded. However you can use multiple processors to render by running several instances of WCS or VNS and adjusting the frame range or step on each to divide the rendering among your processors. This actually works more efficiently than typical multithreaded rendering implementations.

Both programs now include our free Network Render Controller, SuperConductor. For more information about this product please visit http://superconductor.sourceforge.net/.  For the most recent SuperConductor tutorial in the VNS/WCS HTML format, download the zipfile.

Can I use a Direct3D card to accelerate WCS or VNS?

No. Direct3D does not support the high-precision graphics operations that World Construction Set and Visual Nature Studio require. If you are buying a 3D card for graphics work, and you want graphics acceleration, make sure the card you choose supports OpenGL hardware acceleration.

Do hardware 3D cards improve the speed of rendering?

No. Hardware 3D accelerators typically only improve the speed of real-time interaction with 3D objects and terrain in WCS or VNS (and other programs). 3D accelerated graphics cards make a VERY signifcant difference in the performance of realtime landscape viewing tools like NatureView.

Do I need an OpenGL hardware accelerator?

WCS and VNS now require OpenGL. You don't necessarily have to have a graphics card with OpenGL hardware acceleration, though one is strongly recommended. If your display card implements OpenGL, WCS or VNS requires a good reliable OpenGL driver. Make sure you have updated your video card display driver to the latest available for best performance. WCS and VNS support OpenGL under all versions of Windows.

Do WCS and VNS support multiple CPUs on one computer, multiple cores on one CPU, or HT?

Not directly, since WCS and VNS are not multithreaded (see above). However, one can launch several instances of the program during large render jobs. OS task scheduling on multi-processor systems will assign CPU resources equally between each instance, and will therefore use all of your CPUs effectively.

Both programs now include our free Network Render Controller, SuperConductor. For more information about this product please visit http://superconductor.sourceforge.net/.  For the most recent SuperConductor tutorial in the VNS/WCS HTML format, download the zipfile.

How do WCS and VNS work on 64-bit computers?

WCS and VNS are 32-bit applications. They will run fine on 64-bit CPUs using the X86-64 instruction set (The AMD64 CPUS or the EMT64 series from Intel). WCS and VNS will not run on the Intel Itanium architecture. The hardware key used by WCS and VNS is available in parallel port or USB port variants. Only the USB port variant is currently supported on 64-bit Windows at this time. Additionally, due to the newness of 64-bit Windows, not all systems work perfectly even with the USB hardware driver. Contact 3D Nature if you need to exchange a parallel key for a USB key, or if you need the 64-bit drivers. WCS and VNS perform identically on 64-bit OS as they do on a 32-bit OS. Other than access to greater amount of memory (64-bit OSes can offer a 32-bit application up to 3Gb of address space), there is currently no advantage to running 64-bit Windows. There are numerous disadvantages due to many companies not having drivers up-to-date for 64-bit Windows. While 3D Nature has tested WCS/VNS on 64-bit Windows, we currently have no compelling reason to recommend it for most users. We do recommend that new hardware purchases specify 64-bit capable CPUs, as in the future (within the lifespan of today's workstation computers) more and more programs will support and take advantage of these capabilities. (Info current as of May, 2006).

How fast are WCS and VNS on various computers?

WCS and VNS include a very specialized and efficient terrain renderer that can handle millions of polygons and vast amounts of foliage very quickly. The speedy renderer is designed for production animation.

Current Intel and AMD processors are all very fast, and faster versions constantly become available. In any given month a different system may be fastest.

When you are ready to buy a computer for WCS or VNS, get the fastest system you can afford. Compare the floating point performance of the processors you consider. Make sure you have plenty of RAM, with at least 1GB of RAM -- even more is better. Ask for up-to-date hardware advice on the international WCS or VNS mailing list.

What is the Render Engine?

When you run WCS or VNS without its hardware key, it loads as a Render Engine. By running WCS or VNS as a render engine you can use multiple computers to render final animations, saving valuable production time!

Both programs now include our free Network Render Controller, SuperConductor. For more information about this product please visit http://superconductor.sourceforge.net/.  For the most recent SuperConductor tutorial in the VNS/WCS HTML format, download the zipfile.

Version and Pricing

Is there a competitive upgrade?

Occasionally we do offer competitive upgrades. Watch our web site for announcements and information about these offers.

Is there a demo version?

We have Demo Versions for World Construction Set 6 and Visual Nature Studio 3. You can download them for free and they even include tutorials!

The Demo Version will not allow you to save your work, preview renderings will have a "rainbow bar" across them, and certain other features are intentionally disabled. A window may appear periodically to remind you that you are using the Demo Version. The Demo version is intended only for you to try the program in order to decide if you wish to buy it. You may not use the preview version to create any finished work.

Is there a student/academic version?

Qualified educators and students may purchase World Construction Set, Visual Nature Studio and Scene Express at a discount. Contact 3D Nature at 303-659-4028 for pricing and qualifications.

What if the hardware key that is included doesn't work for me?

WCS and VNS include a USB hardware key. If you require a legacy parallel key, you can arrange this at purchase time by contacting us prior to ordering. If needed at a later date, you can exchange key types for $50. You must return your original hardware key before a replacement can be shipped out to you. Please contact a 3D Nature sales representative if you need to exchange your hardware key.

What is an extra seat and why do I want one?

Extra seats are available for registered users of the current version of WCS or VNS. It is another full copy of the same version of WCS or VNS with the same Serial Number as your first copy. These are available at a very reduced rate from 3D Nature or a Preferred Dealer. Please contact us for pricing.

What is your upgrade policy?

Registered users can upgrade to newer versions at significant discounts. We also offer cross-platform upgrades. For more information, contact the 3D Nature Sales office at 303-659-4028. Interim updates are free of charge to registered users. They can be downloaded via the Updates page.

WCS or VNS and Other Programs

Why is WCS or VNS not a plug-in?

There are a number of reasons. From an economic standpoint, we can offer greater flexibility to our users by not locking them into a particular package or platform. World Construction Set and Visual Nature Studio's powers are available to you without forcing you to buy a particular 'host' program to run a plug-in. You can use a variety of general-purpose 3D packages together with WCS or VNS, or use WCS or VNS by themselves to produce the most stunning 3D landscapes you've ever seen!

From a technical standpoint, World Construction Set and Visual Nature Studio utilize many innovative rendering techniques. We have developed a number of proprietary algorithms for rendering our landscapes at optimal levels of detail, and have pushed the envelope in the field of antialiasing. Many of these methods would not marry well to the traditional scanline/raytrace 3D packages.

Can I import camera motions from (3DS/Max/LW/Alias/Maya/SoftImage)?

WCS VNS can import scenes, including camera motion, from LightWave and MAX. WCS or VNS can also export scene files in LightWave and 3D Studio formats. Other programs may be supported in the future.

Does WCS or VNS export terrain in 3DS/Max/Lightwave/Alias/Maya/SoftImage formats?

Update! The Scene Express add-on for WCS and VNS allows for more full-featured export to a variety of formats. The following description applies to WCS and VNS without the Scene Express add-on.

World Construction Set and Visual Nature Studio are capable of writing a landscape out to LightWave 3D and 3DStudio/Max formats. Other packages are under consideration. The landscape objects are meant for reference use. They make it easier to see where your 3D objects will appear in relation to the terrain as you place the 3D objects (buildings, vehicles, characters etc.) using the external 3D program.

The actual landscape rendering is done in WCS or VNS where millions of polygons and thousands of trees are no problem. The fully rendered WCS or VNS landscapes are then composited in 3D using the Z-Buffer plugin in the external 3D program, allowing the 3D objects to go in front of or behind the already photorealistically rendered terrain.

The exported landscape objects are necessarily limited in detail due to polygon limitations in most 3D programs. You can also further downsample the objects on export to increase the display speed in external 3D program.

The landscapes are exported as objects built of 3-point polygons.

The landscape file does not contain any trees or other foliage (See "Can I export trees?", below.) The file does contain reference NULL/dummy objects that stand in for any vector objects you might have created in WCS or VNS. This allows you to precisely mark a point (or path) in WCS or VNS, and then have that exact position translated along with the landscape, into other 3D formats. Placing objects relative to these reference points is as simple as parenting 3d objects to the NULL/dummy object.

The Scene Express add-on for WCS and VNS allows for more full-featured export to a variety of formats.

Does WCS or VNS generate scenes for (3DS/Max/Lightwave/Alias/Maya/SoftImage)?

Update! The Scene Express add-on for WCS and VNS allows for more full-featured export to a variety of formats. The following description applies to WCS and VNS without the Scene Express add-on.

WCS and VNS currently export scenes in LightWave and 3DS/Max format. Other packages are under consideration. The Scene file contains camera and (optionally) target motions, light positions, haze distances and other animation information. The combination of scene export and Z-Buffer plug-in support makes it possible to smoothly integrate WCS or VNS with external 3D programs.

The Scene Express add-on for WCS and VNS allows for more full-featured export to a variety of formats.

How would you say WCS or VNS compares with other terrain software?

World Construction Set and Visual Nature Studio are the professional choices. If you are really into terrain animation you may have more than one terrain program. WCS and VNS will happily work with data from other programs. But if you can have only one terrain program, WCS and VNS offer the best combination of advanced features and photorealistic rendering quality, all at price so affordable it can pay for itself with a single job.

WCS and VNS are the Industry Leaders

World Construction Set and Visual Nature Studio are the leading GIS-based terrain visualization and animation packages. WCS and VNS offer a serious set of advanced photorealistic terrain tools for professional use. WCS and VNS are the choice of artists and scientists for critical tasks where high quality is important.

World Construction Set and Visual Nature Studio are everywhere. You have probably seen see WCS and VNS in feature films (such as the Academy Award(R) winning film "The Cider House Rules" from Miramax); high profile architectural and engineering visualizations (golf courses, shopping centers, mines, dams, etc.); network television animations (CBS, PBS, BBC, HBO, TLC and others); land use planning visualizations (BLM, USDA Forest Service, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, California Department of Forestry, and Ministry of Forestry, British Columbia, etc.); mapping and cartography (USGS, National Geographic Magazine, the Washington Post, Hawaiian Airlines, etc.); aeronautics and space exploration visualizations (NASA, JPL, German Aerospace Center, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Aerospatiale, United Airlines, etc.); and animations and backgrounds for a long list of popular video games.

WCS and VNS are also popular on university campuses for architectural and engineering visualization, cartography, natural resource management and scientific simulations. You'll find WCS and VNS at Harvard, Oregon Graduate Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins, Penn State, and many others.

Other Terrain Software

Many people have moved up to World Construction Set after starting with consumer-level terrain software. Although they may have liked some things about the consumer-level software, they've reported finding many limitations, being unsatisfied with the rendering quality and user-interaction, and being frustrated with slow rendering times. Some of these programs can only render a limited amount or resolution of terrain. None of them have any concept of location on the actual planet. All of them render terrain as a giant flat table top instead of an actual spherical earth, which means positions, lighting, skies, view sheds (what you see from any given point), and fly-through animations cannot be accurate.

These various low end "flat earth" terrain programs are suitable for artistic impressions of landscapes or creating surrealistic scenes. Some render a few things well but you may soon find limitations. A few have useful terrain editing tools. On the plus side, people can gain experience using these tools, and WCS or VNS supports many data formats so artists can move up to WCS or VNS, bring their terrain data along, and continue to use the other software along with WCS or VNS if it makes sense to do so.

If you're serious about terrain, eventually there will come a time when you will want to move beyond the typically limited feature sets and computer-generated, even flickery feel of low end software.

WCS and VNS let you upgrade your work to a higher sense of realism, a more accurate simulation of the real world, unlimited terrain on an actual spherical planet, smoothly antialiased rendering, and reasonable rendering times for production animation and high resolution print output.

Other 3D Software

Many people have come to WCS or VNS after attempting to create realistic landscapes in general 3D programs. But having great tools for making and animating things like cars, dinosaurs and characters won't really cut it when the time comes to face the very different demands of creating vast areas of believable terrain with realistic foliage distributions, skies, water and clouds.

It is possible to simulate limited terrain in general 3D programs, but it's not easy. Larger terrains may be entirely impractical due to the sheer amount of polygons and high numbers of pieces of foliage necessary to create a believable scene. This amount of data may overwhelm a typical general 3D program.

WCS and VNS offer dedicated and unique tools specifically designed to make creating vast terrains and huge foliage distributions easy. WCS and VNS's powerful terrain renderer is specially designed to handle millions of polygons and huge numbers of trees and other foliage in ways not possible in a general 3D program. WCS and VNS can render any amount of terrain, up to and including an entire planet.

Using WCS or VNS doesn't mean you have to give up your general 3D program. WCS and VNS include integration features that let you combine the great WCS or VNS terrain rendering with your 3D program's characters and objects.  See also "What is this ZBUF compositing about?".

WCS and VNS have proven itself in high profile feature film, network television and game development applications. The output can look so real you may have seen WCS or VNS renderings and just assumed you were looking at actual film or video of real places!

WCS and VNS are the Complete Choice

For professionals in the GIS, natural resource planning, forestry, engineering, cartography and architectural fields, WCS and VNS are the complete choice. For artists, the scientific foundation of WCS and VNS offers higher realism and accuracy and opens new markets. Other terrain programs simply lack the advanced features and real-world foundation of WCS and VNS.

Is WCS or VNS a Plug-In for (3DS/Max/Lightwave/Alias/SoftImage/Maya)?

WCS and VNS are both stand-alone terrain rendering and animation programs. WCS or VNS is not itself a plugin for any other program.

We do provide several compositing plug-ins for popular 3D packages to facilitate integrating WCS and VNS imagery with theirs. See also "What is this ZBUF compositing about?".