loves the terrain modeler in Carrara:

Virtual Terrains & Mountains

made or rendered with Carrara Studio 3 and other variants

Ever since the first release of Carrara, it has included a terrain modeler which was the result of the Rayflect plugins by Antoine Clappier. It's easy to use, awesome, powerful, intuitive, interactive. You can use it with an imaging tool to separately paint elevation maps.

There is a very nice terrain modeler in Carrara Studio 3, and with the more sophisticated shaders it got even better in Carrara 5.

This page will serve to show a few experiments with terrains, landscapes and stuff.

moving camera over canyonlands
flying over canyonlands
(very briefly - the Kittyhawk flew only a few seconds after all :-)

You can easily create this
in Carrara Studio 3:

one of my first mountain scenes, made with Carrara Studio 1.1
combine the terrain with local fog objects and atmospheric clouds....
Example 1: Terrain Editor in Carrara Studio 3

This took about 5 minutes to model and  texture, and slightly over a minute for the partial rendering with GI (Global Illumination) and Indirect Lighting .

working with the terrain editor of Carrara Studio 35
above:   screenshot of assembly room. The terrain was created in the model room with the Terrain editor, starting from an elevation map image created in Project Dogwaffle. Click image for full view (1024x768 Jpeg)

One of the very important aspects of making good terrains is the shader. Shaders add rock sedimants of various colors. Shaders can add the appearance of vegetation, gravel, watery reflective surfaces such as lakes and rivers and melting wet snow.

In Carrara, a shader can have multiple channels, such as for color distribution, bump maps, reflection, etc... Each such channel can in turn be a simple color or a complex combination of many things: color gradients, texture maps, even animated maps (Quicktime or Avi movies and image sequences), and a variety of sophisticated controls. For example, a particular branch of the shader showing a certain color (e.g. white for snow) might be allowed to show only for  certain elevations, or on a given range of slope (e.g. almost flat).  There are mixers and other types of operators than can blend or combine various branches of the shader channels, and the criteria and operands of these mixers can in tern be the results of other criteria that evolve as a result of space and time.

Sample renderings:

Click image to enlarge: using the terrain shaders with elevation and other controls
Snapshot of  a  quick test rendering (area render) with a terrain shader in the making (while inside the Texture Room).
Example2: a fly-through banner rendered in Carrara 5

- from a preset mountain scene. (Just added camera motion.)

[Quicktime movie - double-click image to play, click to stop]

Notice that there is a little bit of flicker in this particular animation. Part of it is due to the compression codec. In part it's also due to not having used the best anti-aliasing option during rendering. 

Using Project Dogwaffle to fix noisy renderings:

In terrain fly-throughs, especially when there are numerous small, high-contrast elements such as white snow vs. dark rocks, it is difficult to avoid flickering. Sometimes  the trick involves rendering at higher frame rate than final destination and higher resolution than desired one, so that you may then sample it down to the target resolution for color averaging on subpixel details as well as to blend two frames into one while time-compressing the rendered animation.

Sometimes however you're in a hurry when it's time to render, and you may have rendered an animation quickly without the best possible settings for temporal smoothing, anti-aliasing or other techniques for reducing pixel noise in motion. Furthermore, compression codecs may add temporal flickering.  Project Dogwaffle (PD Pro Digital Painter) can then be used to remove some of these artefacts. Loading the original, rendered AVI file (uncompressed), we can time-stretch it up for more frames with frame blending, then back down to the original frame count. We can also use the Ghost filder from the Timeline editor to add a littl ghosting motion blur (2-3 frames) for additional blending. We can also resample the frames up to double the size and resample back down to the original. We can further add sharpen or blur filters. All of these (or just some of them) can result in less pixel noise, for a smoother animation.

Here is an example (compare with the prior animation above) the processed animation:

[Quicktime movie - double-click image to play, click to stop]

This technique may improve the visual appearance during animation, but potentially of course at the cost of lesser quality of a single still frame, for example there may be several ghosted images, as visible in the last image.

Same animations but embedded into a Flash MX stream:

original animation

Dogwaffle-processed animation:

Clearly this shows that no software is an island... you will always want to have an arsenal of companion tools, plugins, add-ons and post-processing gadgets at your fingertips. Because even if the primary tool is perfect, the user may not be a flawless operator thereof  so it's good to have ways to fix a poor rendering, compression or other blemishes. And of course in other cases it just looks rad and cool to see more fx like motion blur/ghosting and such 'enhancers' like old-film look or snowfall/rain effects.

Other Examples:

Another one of the presets from Carrara 5:

click image for larger version

Another one of the presets from Carrara 5:

click image for 1024x768 version - use it as desktop wallpaper