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Skybox for Earth Orbit map

I’m currently working on putting NASA’s international space station into UE4 and having it appear to be in-orbit around Earth, animating solar panels to always be facing the sun, etc.
Getting the iss model was no problem, but I’m currently sifting the internets for ideas on the best way to make the Earth appear larger than life and not have any parallax. I only really need it to animate thru day/night cycles, but I really want to make it look good since there isn’t much else in the level.

I’m not sure the best way to make this. I was able to make this UDK Earth shader but the ISS orbit is relatively very tight so the textures look really bad that close up.

Procedural, streamed, animated skybox, any resources/ideas that anyone can point me to would be appreciated. I’m guessing procedural has the highest potential but I have no clue as to how to start learning how to make that happen.

for easy reference:

Hey there,

You should experiment with the “Height Lerp” material node. It is designed to take low resolution or low frequency data (like a blurry landmass map for example), then modulate that data with high frequency data, such as a tiling texture with some noise to break up a blend.

So basically, you would make your texture alpha for the shape of your continents be a little bit blurry on purpose. That’s because Heightlerp can only modulate where gradients occur, anywhere that is full 0 or 1 will remain the same. Then you would put this texture as the Transition Phase of the HeightLerp node. Then you would specify a tiling heightmap style texture as the heightmap input. Then you use the alpha output to Lerp between various diffuse and normalmap textures.

That should give your continental edges a meandering noise that is crisp. Use that Lerp to go between Land and Ocean.

Then you could tile various terrain style normal maps within the various sections. You could use one channel of your continent map as the height for ALL continents (ie, where is water), then the other channels could represent things like how much greenery the terrain has, maybe another channel for city lights etc.

Should be plenty of possibilities for making a high resolution planet using relatively little data.

I previously have built a real scale solar system in UE3 for simulating bodies, and to play around with gravity. I say this to say: In order to make this feel as real as possible, you need to have real scale to scale objects.

For example, I used 0.0001 uu = 1 mile
This conversion allowed me to create orbiting bodies out to around 1 trillion miles from the center of the sun before it became too much.

For this, I would try to find a unit conversion that would best work for you, and scale the space station and earth respectively.
On another Note:
Doing this is going to cause texture resolution problems. The quality of this is really going to be determined based on your patience and technique. With such a scale difference, and the terrible texture resolution it is going to produce, there needs to be a method for splitting up the earth mesh and assigning 2048x2048 “Grids” across the earth mesh surface. Each one needs to be uniquely uv-mapped and flattened. On the other hand, this can be done procedurally but will be harder to make it “Look like Earth”. Procedurally generated terrain at that resolution will most likely not give you a “North American Continent” shape, Or “African Content” shape. Therefore some brainstorming needs to take place on how you are going to create a pipeline and technique that will yield the best results.

Can’t wait to see what you come up with! :slight_smile: