FT Pro and Real-world Data

Using Fractal Terrains Pro to map our home planet.

ProFantasy Software's Fractal Terrains Pro world-building software allows you to import real-world data to create maps of Earth. This short tutorial explains how to perform such imports using the ETOPO2 dataset.

Preparing the Real-World Data

You can download the ETOPO2 global relief map from National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) website. The site's pretty big and little hard to pick through, so here's a direct link: ETOPO2 dataset. [Note: Since this tutorial was written, NOAA have updated the dataset to version 2, so we can't speak to using these instructions with the updated version.]

You'll see two files; you want the ETOPO2.dos.bin file. It's a little over 110MB, so try to use a broadband connection if possible (or make a nice snack if you're using dial-up).

Save the file to your hard drive (e.g., "/FT/EarthMaps/"). When the download is complete, open your Windows File Explorer and navigate to the directory where you saved the download, then follow these steps:

  1. Rename ETOPO2.dos.bin to ETOPO2.bin
  2. Create a new TEXT file (with Notepad or your favourite text editor) and name it ETOPO2.hdr
  3. Paste the following into your ETOPO2.hdr file (or use the example attached to the end of this tutorial):
    	NROWS 5400
    	NCOLS 10800
    	NBANDS 1
    	NBITS 16
    	NODATA -9999
    	ULXMAP -180
    	ULYMAP 90
    	XDIM 0.03333333
    	YDIM 0.03333333
  4. Save the ETOPO2.hdr file. Note: ETOPO2.bin and ETOPO2.hdr must reside in the same directory.

Now you're ready to fire up Fractal Terrains and start the import.

Importing into Fractal Terrains

Fractal Terrains (FT) "interprets" the binary data in the ETOPO2.bin file with the parameters you've established in the ETOPO2.hdr file. Follow these steps to create your FT map of Earth:

  1. File -> New -> Binary File
  2. Click NEXT
  3. Choose Elevation File
  4. In the File Name field, browse to the ETOPO2.bin file
  5. Click OPEN
  6. You should get a pop-up that says "An info file was found along with the data file. Use it?"
  7. Click YES
  8. The Binary Data dialogue should automatically fill with the parms from the hdr file
  9. Click OK
  10. The path to the bin file should appear in the Binary Data box
  11. Click NEXT
  12. Click FINISH
  13. FT will render the map

You should end up with something like that shown below.


The image shown at right is a thumbnail of Earth, imported into FT from the ETOPO2 dataset (click on the image to open a larger view in a new window). The map projection is Equirectangular, though once imported, the map may be rendered in any FT projection you choose. Additionally, all of FT's editing tools are available. In fact, you can apply all of FT's capabilities to your Earth map, as in the following example:

The second thumbnail is a representation of an alternate Earth, rendered for the ODD Earth Open Campaign Project (click on the thumbnail to open a larger view in a new window). ODD Earth was created using the ETOPO2 dataset as above. The rendering here was created using several FT commands (noted in parenthesis):

  • Changing the Projection (Map -> Change Projection -> Mercator)
  • Reversing the east-west axis (Map -> World Settings -> Fractal Function -> Flip Horizontal)
  • Adding river courses (Tools -> Rivers -> Find Rivers -> Medium)
  • Raising the world's oceans (Tools -> Global Raise -> Water Level -> 750)
  • Added the Isle of Atlantis (Tools -> Paint Raise -> Land Offset)


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