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Context Trees/Forestry Massing

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I have a site model of around 5km x 4km... within which there is a fair bit of forestry cover. 


I don't have (and won't have) tree survey information for this entire area... however I have polygon blocks showing the extent of significant areas of forest. 


I know I could use landscape areas to show a block of planting at set height, but I'm conscious of site area and killing my machine! And I know I could look at extruding these blocks from the surface of the model to a set height to give sharp massing blocks... but I'm looking to create something a bit more stylised, and softer in terms of edge and height. I'd ideally want to show a mass with transparency and texture, and potentially undulating height (say between X and X metres above site model surface) - almost like being able to put a drape or blanket over the trees!!


However - I have no idea where to start with this, or if it is at all possible. Has anyone shown forestry successfully graphically in Vectorworks in this type of way? Or does anyone know of a tool I could look into to give this type of visual effect? 

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@lisagravy Depending on how close you want to view these trees, a forest canopy texture with a bump map could really be useful.  That's how the GIS and atmospheric perspective folks handle it.  Years ago there was this guy that worked for the US National Parks Service that modeled landscapes in Bryce 3D and he had the most amazing tutorial on utilizing displacement mapping for visualizations such as this..

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@lisagravy Do you want to show little, zoomed-in vignettes of parts of the forest? IS this only for presentation, or do you want to break the forest into zones for costings and interventions (Oh, I see you already have some polygons)? Does your jurisdiction have full waveform lidar available? Some areas of NZ now have this and it gives you the canopy and the ground as two separate files. I'm working with this stuff more as some job sites are getting huge, and the data is coming available.


Tom's method, basically super-elevating existing surface, and maybe adding some (very widely spaced lumpiness) looks promising.


I have in the past got an aerial of rough grassland, converted it to monochrome, and then used software (in that case a sketchup plugin) to  treat it as a heightmap (e.g a .dem file), and generate contours off that - that'd enable lumpiness that shouldn't overburden your machine. This is very simple now using tools like QGIS, IDK if VW's latest versions can do anything with .dem files - my agent keeps telling me it's a GIS now.


this guy https://smathermather.com/2020/03/23/beyond-data/ does similar work to what Jeff refers to. Here he's talking about single plants under the canopy https://smathermather.com/2010/01/09/modeling-sub-canopy-biophysical-variables-with-povray/ . Software has advanced since then and some of this is less rockjet science than it was in 2009

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Hmmm I seem to be falling at the first hurdle here, and not sure why!


I've set up landscape areas to display 3D components / 3D polygon, and sent these to surface on my site model (though I don't even think I should have to do that?!) and my polygon is still weirdly floating in air away above my site.


@Tony Kostreski - I'm assuming I'm missing something insanely obvious, but I can't for the life of me work out what I'm doing wrong here, before I even get to mesh stage!!


I've screengrabbed some of my settings below.







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  • Vectorworks, Inc Employee
3 hours ago, lisagravy said:

Yep, so as @iainlyon pointed out, my obvious mistake is in the 'site model layer' setting - my site model is on a different layer, though is set to accept modifiers from all layers. I didn't realise it defaulted here to <landscape area layer>!!



Ah yes, I believe this is being addressed to default to the site model design layer if there is only one site model in the file.

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@lisagravy I'm interested in seeing what you come up with!

I've been playing around with it a bit today to test some ideas.


Something you might consider in your quest...

Using your poly boundary for a forest to clip a duplicate of the site model and then texture it.


Taking the texture up a notch would be to bump map it.


Taking the site model a step further, you could use the site model sculpting tool with the radius set to an appropriate tree diameter with 100% fall off and randomly stipple the surface with different heights.  Probably too much work for wide area imagery.  Using plant objects is better for close ups anyhow.


These are just some quick cartoony examples of the above methods I threw together while experimenting.  I think the "build your own texture" method is pretty fun and has a lot of potential.  Using brushes with 0% hardness makes smooth gradients that translate well to bump maps.


nadar forest canopy image from google with bump generated from the image.



Sculpted site model with same texture as earlier, this would be time consuming over large areas.1661770797_ScreenShot2021-04-28at9_35_13AM.thumb.png.0069389398e32cb0332db48868b9d0f7.png


quick texture and bump made in Affinity Photo on ipad with pencil.


Edited by jeff prince
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