Terragen animations tutorial
How to use Terranim
By Hoffmann Nicolas
2nd part available here
Also available in French Franšais


I will maybe shock its creator (Dan Parnham), but I really did not like Terranim before the 2.0 version, for several reasons : However, - and as it is said "only stupid people don't change their mind" -, it should be recognized that an exceptional job was made with this version 2.0, the interface was enhanced, the software ergonomics were improved, and the possibilities are more numerous than before.

Most of my last animations have been made with Terranim 2.0 (since "Breathe" in fact).

What changed in this new version ? I propose to discover exactly that in this tutorial.

Important note - I must specify : I specify it (once again) : this tutorial will not enable you to make a success of your animations as if by magic, but will explain Terranim's possibilities to you, with some advice specific to the program. If you are more interested in the problems of making a successfull animation, have a look at my 3rd tutorial, where I give a great deal of advice on animating in general. This tutorial would be interesting even if you're a beginner in animations.

Tutorial plan

Necessary elements

Several elements are necessary to create an animation :
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A "logical" way of creating an animation

I want to use the same logical way discussed in the first tutorial I wrote. I will give you the Terranim-adapted method : Don't worry (be happy...), I'm going to explain how you can do all this, but the new features I've deliberately not talked about too !
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1) First launching of terranim 2.0.13

Here's a snapshot of Terranim.
Let's go over the options in the main menus :
The graph-shaped icon enables you to create a graph (more on that later), the wheel-shaped one will display the "Control Panel", and the little triangle in the bottom-right will launch the previsualization (just remember to build the model by clicking on the little cube in the bottom-right, it will generate the 3D-terrain).
Let's go back to the "Control panel", it has two rather useful tabs, and one for more advanced users.


Now that menus are covered, let's see the graphic interface !
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2) Interface

To my humble opinion, it's here that Terranim gives us all its power. The system is simple : you just have to use the buttons above your terrain to place your points and the graphs enable you to change all the values very quickly and simply.
Let's detail the buttons, from left to right :
Point manipulation interface
As you've seen, it is very simple. Now let's take a look at how to use the graphs :
A graph
Graphs enable you to see your path with the values of each parameter - the camera height compared to the ground for example - but they can also show much more. It is possible to see each parameter (banking, etc.) change along the path with these graphs, and moreover to change values for the parameter directly on the graph.

Let's suppose your camera goes under the ground in a certain place. You just have to select the nearest point(s) on the height graph and then you can "raise" each point to fix the problem, editing the height value directly with a simple click-and-drag, while comparing it to the underlying terrain.

This approach is even more powerful because, if you are using the 3D-previsualization, you will see the view changes according to the modifications you've made. For example, if you've changed the banking value to 45 for the second point of your path, and the 3D-previsualization is near this point, you will see the camera changing at the same time. It can save a lot of time when you're searching for the "best" value. You just have to try a new value and you can see the result immediately in the 3D-previsualization.

You may use not only one graph, but several graphs, you just have to add graphs as you need, in order to control several parameters at the same time ! It is quite useful, and very powerful.
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3) Possibilities given

Terranim already allows you to change the banking and the zoom properties (and the point positions of course). But it has new possibilities, or new parameter possibilities : There is only one thing to remember when you want to make variations in a parameter: you have to check "Used" in the principal menu for each parameter. For example, if you want to change the banking, select it in the principal menu, and check "Used", as shown below.
Check used
Note : you may want to uncheck "camera auto-banking" in the Control Panel. This option can create problems if you want to use certain parameters (such as banking, exposure, etc.). Moreover, banking is not difficult to parameterize yourself !
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4) Terranim strong points

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5) Terranim weaknesses

Terranim also has its weak points of course. Here are a few - the most important to me are first : I'm sure that these "weak points" will be added in the next versions !
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6) Script division

I've already explained in my 1st tutorial how to split animation scripts (.tgs), however I will go over it again for a Terranim-generated script (basically the same way). If you can't do the render all at one time, which is often the case, it is possible to split the render. This is also useful for distributing an animation render across multiple systems to reduce render time. It is extremely simple. Your script file looks like this :
Let us suppose that rendering has to be stopped at image number 666 (number 665 has been calculated but not yet 666). You'll have to modify your script to obtain this :
(This is the new file)
   initanim,"D:\images\terragen\anims\prochaine_animation\frame",666 <-- indicate from where it is necessary to restart
   And here it is necessary to remove all the useless lines, i.e. until the frame 666.
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7) Rendering an animation without "monopolizing" a computer

I have often heard that Terragen "monopolizes" the computer, and that rendering an animation "locks" your system. Let's try to explain very quickly (and simply) what's happening : most application "threads" are launched with a normal priority, i.e. every thread uses the CPU the same as others.

Terragen is rather "greedy" and it takes what is not "used", in general 98% of the CPU. If you try to launch an application after starting a Terragen render (animation or still image), it will try to take what processor time remains... which is approximately nothing. Result : other applications go slowly, etc.

Changing the priority of a thread
It is not always possible to dedicate your computer to Terragen rendering, so to make it easier to do other things with Terragen rendering in the background we can change its thread priority. You just have to hit the "magic Windows keys" (i.e.: Ctrl-Alt-Del), and then go to the "Processes" tab. Assuming that you've already launched Terragen, you just right-click on "Terragen.exe" in the process list then select "Set Priority" and choose something below "Normal". The illustration above is in French (sorry!), but the menus are the same.

Now Terragen will not use "what there is", but only "what remains" - that is to say other applications will be able to take resources when they need them. In general other applications are not very greedy (except if you're running Unreal Tournament with another big applications at the same time for example), so Terragen can continue its render without freezing your other applications.

You can do this for an animation render, even for a single render (a 4000*3000 render can be very long). However it only works with Windows XP and Windows 2000.
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You have reached the end of this tutorial. I hope that it has given you a good overview of Terranim and the advantages of using it. This software is really interesting for animations with Terragen and I'm sure that Dan Parnham will enhance and complete it soon !

I personally use Terranim almost exclusively for my animations, this software has a lot of potential !

I would like to thank Oshyan Greene, for correcting my poor english !

In order to read this tutorial offline, here's a zipfile : zipfile (about 50 Kb)

Don't hesitate to mail me to tell me what you've thought of this tutorial, or to show me your animations !

Hoffmann Nicolas

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