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.