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Flying Over the Rocky Mountains Monday 2009-04-20

Ever since I first installed Google Earth, I’ve been fascinated by all the things you can do with it. You could live and travel on this virtual planet, and see places you’d never have chance to visit. It gets better all the time, with 3D houses in bigger towns, better satellite photos and lots of layers with information on places you go to.
My Rockies
I have experimented on a basic level with placing my own bookmarks and overlays, and by building simple houses to place where I live. You do this by constructing them in Google SketchUp. To get the right spot to place a building, you first import a piece of the globe into SketchUp, place your house on that piece of ground and export it back to GE. All information, such as your building, the latitude and longitude coordinates and images to use as texture, is saved in a ZIP archive whith the kmz extension.
When you import a piece of ground from GE into SketchUp, what you get is an image of the area you currently show on GE and a mesh carrying the height information.

I have messed around with SketchUp for few days, which was a lot of fun. The tool is very intuitive for the basic things, and for the more advanced, there are plenty of tutorials, many in form of excellent videos, to show you exactly how things are done. I thought it would be a good idea to cut away a piece of the Earth and try to import it to a Sandy application. That way I would have real terrain to play with in my Sandy projects.

I thought that a piece of the Rocky Mountains would be fun, so I started SketchUp, went to Google Earth and selected a piece of the Rockies, that looked nice, flew up to a suitable altitude. Then I got rid of most of the widgets in GE, to avoid click buttons in nature :-).
I imported that piece of ground into SketchUp, and made some manipulations to keep only the mesh and the satellite image. Then I saved the result as a kmz file, which I immediately unpacked to extract a COLLADA file and the image. The I converted the COLLADA file to a 3DS file, as I trust the 3DS parser in Sandy. I wrote a small application in Sandy, that imported and presented my claim in the Rocky Mountains.

The flight navigation is lousy, but you can rotate and tilt the piece of ground with the navigation keys, fly forwards and backwards with mouse drag, and zoom with the mouse wheel or Ctrl (aka Command) and Shift. Look what beautiful mountains. They rock!

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