Terrains

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Terrain rendering in computer graphics is an interesting challenge because terrains should look good both close to the camera and far away from the camera. If we decided to draw everything with a constant high of detail, we would get the appearance we want, but we would find that we need to draw a huge amount of geometry which would likely lower the frame rate.

There are different algorithms that can be used to reduce the amount of geometry without losing the amount of perceived detail. These are generally referred to as “level of detail” approaches.

One useful approach is to base the rendering on quad trees. A quad tree is a data structure that allows data to be stored so that it can be sub-divided into further pieces of data. In Figure 1, the closest tiles to the camera are each a quarter of the size of the larger tile. This means that distant geometry can be drawn as quickly as close geometry, and yet will cover greater areas.

Figure 1. A quad tree approach to level of detail.