Best Practices

The imagery in Earth Studio is incredible in quality and scope, but many factors affect how it will appear in your animation. Learn the ins and outs of Earth's satellite and 3D imagery, as well as some of our post-production tips and tricks, to be sure you're getting the best possible results.

Using 3D Imagery

Earth Studio's 3D city data can yield cinematic, nearly photorealistic animations when used to its full potential. The following pointers can help you achieve this level of quality. Reference these as you're deciding how to frame your subject and animate your shot.

Exploring Available 3D Cities

Virtually all of the Earth contains 3D terrain data (mountains, valleys, and other large-scale topographical features). But in a vast and growing number of urban centers and natural landmarks, the Earth is further represented in highly detailed 3D geometry. Smaller features like buildings, bridges, and even individual trees are represented with high degrees of accuracy.

You can view all of the cities with 3D data directly within Earth Studio. Just click the Available 3D Cities option in the View menu to overlay an interactive map onto the globe.

Do Not Get Too Close

The 3D imagery in Earth Studio is high-resolution, but there are limits to how sharp the imagery can be when your camera is placed at low altitudes. This is especially true in remote areas of the Earth.

While framing your shots, try to avoid situations that bring your camera extremely close to buildings or other landmarks. Fuzzy textures in your render are a sign that you're too close—try moving your camera back a little bit for sharper imagery.

Street Level Quality

In cities, textures and meshes can have less-than-ideal quality at street level. Avoid animating the camera extremely close to the ground or in between buildings, as these angles tend to reveal imperfections.

Geometry and textures aren't as attractive at street level. Avoid shots that reveal these shortcomings.

Avoid High Camera Tilt

As your camera tilt increases, more geometry becomes visible in the frame. To compensate and maintain performance, Earth Studio must reduce the 3D model and texture data. This can result in lower quality imagery in your final animation.

Geometry and textures losing quality at higher tilt angles, especially in the background buildings

As a general rule, 3D city data looks best when viewed from a camera tilt angle between 40° and 60°. This is the closest match to how the imagery was originally captured—from low-altitude planes.

That said, rules are made to be broken! Be creative with your shot composition and take advantage of some of the more cinematic attributes to achieve the best results.

Using Satellite Imagery

The globe in Earth Studio is composed entirely of satellite imagery, much of it in high resolution. Imagery is updated both to increase quality and better reflect the current state of the world. Most current imagery is approximately one to three years old.

While imagery coverage is practically global, the level of detail varies by location. In some locations, you'll see differences in detail manifested as distinct square regions on the globe. These are the imagery tiles that make up the globe in Earth Studio.

Image Tiling

All imagery in Earth is subdivided into tiles of data. As you zoom in, big tiles split up into smaller tiles, each with more detailed imagery of the Earth. This means that multiple tiles of imagery exist for any given point on the globe. Some have many subdivisions (cities and populated areas), and some have few (remote regions, like the polar ice caps). Earth Studio picks which tiles to display based on your camera's altitude.

Sometimes, you'll see the seams between tiles of imagery in your rendered animation—especially in less populated areas of the Earth. Imagery tiles are often updated at different intervals and with different levels of detail. So you might be seeing two datasets of imagery, captured by different satellites, years apart. If your animation allows it, try adjusting the altitude to force Earth Studio to use a different tileset. You can also try rendering at a lower render quality.

Mismatched tilesets in a remote area of northern Canada, only visible below a certain altitude

Google Earth gathers the highest resolution imagery where possible and works to eliminate seams, discoloration as well as other image artifacts. You can learn more here.

Supersampling to Increase Quality

Earth Studio uses the size of the frame to determine the level of mesh and texture quality. This means that rendering larger than the default 1080p will result in much higher quality data—more geometry in the background and higher quality meshes in the foreground.

When you notice 3D data losing quality, like when the camera is at a low angle, try rendering at double the standard resolution (3840x2160). The resulting render should have significantly more detail. You can then downscale the render back to 1080p in the editing software of your choice.

Reducing Moiré

The supersampling technique can also help minimize aliasing artifacts common in areas with complex repeating textures, like flickering moiré patterns in the windows of skyscrapers.

Skyscraper moiré patterns in a native 1920x1080 render vs. a 3840x2160 render downscaled to 1080p

Adding Shapes and Labels

Overlays enables you to add borders, shapes, and text using the KML format. Learn more about KML

Often, it can be simpler and more powerful to use compositing software to incorporate these elements into your imagery after rendering. This gives you full control over styling, and enables more complicated effects like drawn-on paths. 3D Camera Export makes this process fast and straightforward.

Elements like labels and paths can be added and animated with compositing tools.