Although this is still a work in progress, I would like to share with you a preview of a new project I'm working on:
Flying Over Endeavour Crater - A Tribute to Opportunity and her Epic Journey
(The video is best viewed in HD resolution (720p), fullscreen and volume turned up for the background music.
Click here for a (still experimental) excerpt as anaglyph (view in HD if possible)
Here is some background info for the technically interested:
The whole DEM consists of about 3 billions of triangles, modelling Endeavour's west rim at full HiRISE resolution of 25cm/pixel. Unlike the standard method (of draping hi-res 2D imagery over a lower-res 3D DEM), the new technique provides real 3D geometry down to the highest resolution level (i.e. 0.25 m/pixel for HiRISE). This results in a more realistic visualization because each single pixel contributes genuine 3D information - as you can see for example in the low sun images where each pixel is, in principle, capable of casting its own tiny shadow.
Rendering this kind of DEMs has been a real challange, though. At 0.25 m post spacing, the models are about 16 times larger than the already huge standard HiRISE DEMs at 1 m/pixel. So together with the mosaics of several full-res CTX frames ( that I'm merging the DEMs with for context ) this results in DEMs of several billions of triangles. Unfortunately this seems to be too much to render with conventional 3D programs such as 3ds-max that are usually limited to some dozens of millions of polygons, but can't readily handle several billions. This is why I decided to write a specialized gigapixel-ready terrain visualization software with a raytracing kernel for realistic soft shadows and global illumination.
As this is a rather time consuming work, it is not finished yet (still missing color support and the movie processing chain is still too slow for producing longer flyovers ... )
Hardware is another limiting factor (currently I'm running out of RAM on 24 GB ... but the new gear (48 Gigs + 12 cores) is already on the christmas wishlist...
Nevertheless the first results look promising so I thougt I'd share some impressions with the UMSF community