Feature Overview

Key Features

Tinman 3D offers a unique set of features. Here are the key ones:

Raster Datasets

Tinman 3D has its own highly optimized storage format for geodata rasters and giga-textures. Datasets support lossless compression, sparse data and dynamic updates. This takes away all groundwork when importing geodata; Tinman raster datasets will just grow and adapt as you import your data.

Unlimited Detail

The maximum size of a geodata raster or texture that Tinman 3D can use is 2^30+1 by 2^30+1 samples. In other words, Tinman 3D will easily manage a terrain texture or DEM of 1.073.741.825 by 1.073.741.825 samples for you. With these dimensions, the Earth can be captured at a ground sample distance of 9mm, globally.

Virtual Datasets

Datasets do not have to be provided as file-based rasters, data can also be computed at runtime. This is great if you have a procedural model that computes geodata or if you are using vector data to shape the terrain (for example roads).

Runtime Data Processing

With Tinman 3D, there are almost endless possibilities on how to combine, merge and adapt geodata at runtime. Once you have your datasets ready, you can plug them together at runtime in just the way you need them to.

Memory/CPU Consumption

You specify how much memory and CPU resources Tinman 3D shall use, and it will adhere to your specifications. The other way around, Tinman 3D will scale with your system and can utilize all memory and CPUs on a high-end multi-processor machine.

Terrain Mesh

Tinman 3D uses rasters as input for creating terrain meshes and textures.

The basic process of creating a terrain mesh from raster data is simple:

  1. The full resolution raster is stored using an efficient storage scheme.

  2. The application defines a selection criterion, the terrain engine chooses raster samples accordingly. This creates the reduced raster.

  3. The samples of the reduced raster are arranged into a graphics primitive (e.g. a single contiguous triangle strip). This yields a GPU-friendly triangulated irregular net (TIN).

Tinman 3D provides powerful implementations for these steps.

Table 1. Terrain mesh creation process
1. Full Resolution Raster 2. Reduced Raster 3. Terrain Mesh

raster full

raster reduced

raster mesh

The dynamic Continuous Level-Of-Detail (CLOD) mode of Tinman 3D is optimized for real-time applications.

The basic meaning of CLOD is that the whole terrain is represented by a single triangle mesh. The mesh triangles may differ in size, which makes it possible to capture different levels of detail at once.

A CLOD mesh is always contiguous, it does not have holes or T-junctions. Terrain meshes created by Tinman have an inherent quadtree structure, where each node represents a mesh sector. All terrain operations can be performed on the whole mesh or on specific sectors.

Using a CLOD approach for terrain rendering has various benefits:

Figure 1. Benefits of Continuous Level-Of-Detail (CLOD)
High Detail

CLOD can capture high local detail. If necessary, terrain mesh triangles can become very small - even down to a single pixel. This makes it possible to encode terrain data into mesh vertices which otherwise would have to be packed into textures. Effectively, this will save GPU memory and bandwidth.

Low Detail

Only few triangles are used to represent terrain regions with low detail. The spared triangles will be used to capture high detail instead.

Vertex Colors

The terrain surface texture can be modulated by using per-vertex diffuse colors, at any location, at any resolution. This makes dedicated modulation textures obsolete, which are limited in resolution anyway.

Vertex Materials

Surface materials can be encoded as per-vertex weights. Usually material weights are used to texture near terrain parts. Materials are also used to control placement of ground objects (grass, plants, rocks, etc.). Tinman encodes independent weighted combinations of four materials out of a palette 256 possible materials, for each vertex. This makes terrain detail textures obsolete.

Vertex Normals

A CLOD mesh accurately represents the terrain surface. Because of this, per-vertex normal, tangent and bitangent vectors are accurate enough for being used in shading and lighting computations. It is not necessary to use separate normal textures. Lightmaps can also be encoded as per-vertex data.

Smooth Mesh

Tinman performs cubic interpolation at runtime in order to create smooth terrain surfaces, independently of the resolution of the input terrain data. This provides high-quality per-vertex data, which in turn allows an application to use advanced rendering techniques (for example, displacement mapping using GPU tesselation) with great success.

Unlimited Detail

Tinman 3D can easily represent the whole surface of the Earth with a ground sample distance of ~9mm.

Furthermore, Tinman 3D Rasters are sparse, so an empty raster will not consume a single byte, independent of its size.

Current realtime 3D engines have an upper limit orders of magnitude below that. Here are some examples:

Unreal Engine

Maximum "Recommended Landscape Size" : 8129 by 8129


Maximum "Recommended Terrain Size" : 4096 by 4096


Maximum "Heightmap Resolution" per Terrain object : 4097 by 4097

A typical game terrain spans an area of 16km by 16km. Using the maximum terrain sizes mentioned above, this would result in ground detail of 4m or 8m. Working around these limitations in order to improve ground detail requires considerable amount of manual work and design.

With Tinman 3D, you no longer have to worry about terrain size. You simply choose how big your terrain should be - then you decide how much detail you want to paint on it; on-the-fly and in real-time. The Demo Application uses a detail map of size 262144 by 262144. This would provide ground detail for a typical game terrain of 6cm. The possibility to paint arbitrary detail everywhere onto the terrain simplifies development and saves time.

The following images give an impression of what Tinman 3D can do.

Figure 2. Data-driven continuous level-of-detail terrain mesh
Figure 3. Smooth terrain mesh with queryable ambient occlusion
Figure 4. Data-driven surface texturing (tri-planar + standard UV)
Figure 5. Real-time shadows (LiSPSM + CSM)
Figure 6. Data-driven planting of foliage and other 3D objects
Figure 7. Queryable per-vertex displacement for terrain materials
Figure 8. Real-time persistent painting and deformation of terrain mesh
Figure 9. Up to 256 distinct materials - anywhere at any resolution
Figure 10. 1m DEM with color-ramp and ambient occlusion
Figure 11. 1m DEM + 50cm imagery using smooth texture atlas
Figure 12. Silent City of Rocks - NED 1/9" + GoogleMaps
Figure 13. High resolution reconstruction of mining area
Figure 14. Terrain mesh with view frustum and horizon culling
Figure 15. Robust shadow-mapping setup for terrain mesh
Figure 16. Geo-referenced terrain decal texture
Figure 17. Vector shape layers on terrain mesh
Figure 18. Real-time debugging helpers
Figure 19. Interactive data inspection & editing
Figure 20. Real-time reprojection and rendering of geodata
Figure 21. Interactive data inspection & preparation