Houdini Game Tools: Assembling a 3D Scan Of The Earth

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Free Tutorials

Although they are technically called “Game Tools” there are quite a few cases in which you might want to use these assets built by the talented folks at SideFX. For example when you’re gonna do geodata visualisation.

The Games Tools come with a really handy importer for map data which can be downloaded for free from Open Street Maps. Apart from roads and borders the incoming data contains tags such as important buildings, waterways or phone booths. What this OSM data doesn’t contain however is elevation information. Which means we get a nice flat 2D view of our world that says very little about the actual altitude of the terrain.

Luckily NASA decided to release the data gathered on their SRTM (Shuttle Radar Topography Mission). Although not the freshest set of data (the mission flew in 2000) it nevertheless is free and there’s a handy tool to download it built by Derek Watkins.

All that’s left to do is somehow get that elevation data from SRTM into Houdini and match it up with the exact position of our Open Street Map data – and that’s what we’ll be doing in this tutorial.

Download Project File (.zip)

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  1. hey Moritz, I’ve tried the file, very interesting approach…it opens a lot of new doors for me.
    But when, in the last pointwrangle, I uvsample the position i get weird results: positive and negative position in y…. I’ve tried to fit the P.y but nothing. can you help me.


  2. thanks Mo,

    I’ve tired your file and mine, they are the same because I make it following the tutorial. I saw it several times and cannot find the error…. i didnt know the uvsample, i’ll play with it a bit to see if I can solve it…


  3. when i used the version 17 ,some changings makes me confused,how can i solve that problem.

    • Heyhey,

      I’d first recommend to download the scene file we provide and check against your setup. Then a more detailed description of what is throwing you off might be helpful to diagnose the problem 🙂

      Cheers, Mo

  4. Loved this tutorial. I’ve always wanted to populate real world earth geo data with real roads and buildings and now it is a reality. A little hitch I am encountering is that I am getting map data coming in flipped on one axis. Any ideas on fixing this without transforming the geo node 180 degrees? It does kind of work but its not a very elegant solution. I’m using H17

    • Osvaldo Alfaro

      Hi guys.

      Just a quick heads-up. I’ve had a look back at the tutorial where you’ve imported the Flores/Corvo islands and compared it with Google Earth and it seems that your import has the same inverted axis as well.

      I’ve found a temporary solution to this by simply changing the x scale at the base level obj/geo node to -1.

      Crude but effective.

      Also I’m keen to hear what source would you suggest to get high resolution satellite photos from if you know of any? Obviously a provider that supplies high res tiles that conform precisely to what both OSM and Derek’s SRTM exporters punch out would be the best case scenario.

      Love your work

  5. Phillip Peel

    Fantastic tutorial as always .
    One note ..
    I initially did your tutorial in houdini version 16, both my tutorial file and your shared file gave me a bizarre result.
    When i checked the file on 17.5 it looks perfect .. no idea why that is ..
    A warning incase anyone is struggling like i was.

  6. Antoine Giampaolo


    I’me using Houdini 17.5.293. I’m having a weird results with both my file and yours.

    After the last point wrangle, all the points have the exact same position.
    Do you know from where the problem might come ?

    Thanks a lot

  7. Benjamin Ariel Markus

    Switching the attribfrommap Filter Settings from Gaussian to Point doesn’t work in Houdini 18. Seems to work fine in 17.5 and earlier versions though.

    The variation between Houdini versions is something that’s always frustrated me when trying to learn Houdini from tutorials. I get that the SideFX team is constantly developing and changing the app, so that new features get added, but it can become such a tedious troubleshooting task trying to figure out why something doesn’t work just to realize it’s because some aspect of a node was changed or non existent in the version you’re working with.

    It makes it so that you have to use the same version of Houdini as the tutorial you’re working on, and sometimes that’s a pain when you’ve already started something that’s working in one version and then you have to rebuild part of a node tree or switch to another version.

    Do the guys at Entagma have any suggestions for how to deal with this? It seems like that could be a nice topic for a tutorial in itself.

  8. Hi! I am also using Houdini 18 and facing the same problem like Antoine. Everything looks good until the last node where every point is translated into one and the same. Has someone perhaps already found a solution for that?

    • Tom Goodliffe

      Hi, I encountered the same issue being described by a couple of comments above with the last point wrangle (where the points merge into one). For me it was a typo creating the ‘laton’ attribute- I spelt it ‘v@latlong’ instead of ‘v@latlon’, so the uvsample wasn’t picking up the right attribute name. Easy mistake to make, in case that’s happened to others! 🙂

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