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Natural Graphics Scenery Animator

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Natural Graphics’ Scenery Animator is a scenery creator and animation tool. There are three types of scenes that can be manipulated in this software. First, Scenery Animator can import DEM (Digital Elevation Model) files. DEMs are available from the USGS (United States Geographical Survey) as data sets, and are often posted free on-line. DEMs are available for just about every location on the Earth, and there are several planetary DEMs available for lunar, Martian and Venusian terrain. Scenery Animator comes with a collection of six DEMs (Mount St. Helens, Grand Canyon, a moon view and others), and additional DEM sets (32 in all) can be purchased directly from Natural Graphics. The second method for creating a scenery model in Scenery Animator is to use the random number generator on-board to construct an original geography. You can determine the height, and even set trees (Oaks or Redwoods) to cover a percentage of the terrain. Scenery Animator geography is fractal based, and you can set the “edge” of the terrain to a discrete distance or make it infinite. The last method for loading in a scene is to choose a scene already saved out from a previous work session. You can alter any scene that is loaded in.

The Camera View: Not only does the camera view act as a preview of the overall scene, but it can be used to move the camera until just the right position is found for a keyframe. You can take advantage of panning left and right or up and down, moving forward or back, banking on any angle, and adjusting the pitch. All of these controls are vital when determining the drama of an animated fly-through of a scene. An adjustable rectangle on the Camera View screen lets you change the focal length of the “lens”.

The Map View: This is a top/side toggleable view elevation map of the loaded scene, complete with a colorization of the different elevations (lighter equals higher terrain). Along the left side of this Viewport are eight icons: path Modification Arrow, Move-View Hand, Camera Angle/Focus Tool, camera Position Crosshair, a “lake” tool, two Path Construct Tools (linear and curved), and a positionable magnification rectangle. The tools are straightforward to use and intuitively designed. Fine tuning controls with numerical inputs for camera, sun and path alterations exist in a separate dialog. The “lake” tool places water at whatever level in the top view you select, and everywhere below that level on the same contour lines. This makes it easy to place a watery surface at the base of mountain cliffs.

Landscape Controls: Land, sky, water and trees are controllable in Scenery Animator. Each has a separate dialog that alters needed parameters. In land, you can alter the snow, rock, vegetation and soil min/max elevation levels and the distribution of each. Sky has a toggle for both clouds and gradient, a cloud height setting, and cloud position and density. In water, you can turn ocean and waves on or off, and also set the altitude for the ocean. With the tree setting, you can select between Oaks and Redwoods and set their min/max altitude and coverage percentage. A separate “smooth” setting smoothes out the sharpness of a landscape.

Rendering: Rendering a graphic based upon the settings is a snap. Simply go to the render menu, set the size of the render (custom sizes are supported along with custom DPI settings), and choose a storage path. You can also select an area of a scene and save it out as a DXF file so it can be rendered in any 3D software that supports DXF imports.

Animation: Scenery Animator has a simple keyframe setting system for animated sequences that beats 90% of the animating software available. Settings are easy to configure, simple to alter, and quick to preview. Everything can be tweaked until it’s just right.