This past week I’ve been messing around in Google Earth Studio. It’s an animation tool for Google Earth, and it runs in the browser.
For example, here’s the ‘Groß Klein’ housing estate in Rostock,
The Google Earth 3D map works really well with those tall blocky structures. You can download the original file in 4K resolution here for use as a desktop background or whatever.
The software allows you to render a sequence of images for animation, they’re all numbered in order, and you can string them together into a video using the following FFmpeg command.
ffmpeg -framerate 30 -i projectname_%04d.jpeg output.mp4
It’s dead easy, and as a demonstration of that animation, here is Lütten Klein, which is also in Rostock.
For this video I set the images to render in 2560×1440 and downscaled them to 854x480 when converting to video. The software does allow you to render whole image sequences in 4K. I gave it a try, and left my computer running overnight to deal with it. I didn’t get much sleep with the computer fans roaring at full volume; when I checked the following morning the rendering job was finished but the software was stuck compressing the images into a zip archive for download. So, I gave up with that.
This is a view of Chattanooga, looking out from the Hunter art gallery to the Walnut Street bridge.
I messed around with the field of view a bit for that one.
Here’s the Michael Savage Memorial in Mission Bay, Auckland.
I tried to recreate the view of Auckland from across the bay, atop Mount Victoria. It didn’t really work so here’s the mountain itself.
Unfortunately the bunker comes out as a blurry white blob, though I like the detail on the small ridges and ripples in the grass.
Here’s a drinks factory on the outskirts of Bucharest.
You can even see the red Coca-Cola trucks lined up outside.
Lastly, I did an orbit of the Attenborough tower, on the Leicester University campus.
I wasn’t too happy with my first attempt at this. When the scene moves too fast, it looks slightly jerky and un-natural; most of the frames with rapid motion would benefit from frame blending. You can sort of achieve this effect in FFmpeg using the tblend filter, but rather than smoothing out the motion, the ghost frames gave the effect of a montitor with a janky refresh rate. Ideally, motion blur should come from the camera, or from Google Earth simulating lens behvaiour.
There’s also a suggestion on the user forums for a depth-of-field setting, which again is very difficult to achieve in post-processing.
I mentioned that it runs in the browser, and to clarify this doesn’t just mean any browser: it only works in Google Chrome. Initially I tried switching User-Agent to spoof Chrome in Firefox, but it threw up an error. Then I thought I could get away with just using Chromium from the Ubuntu repo. Nope. It has to be the one and only version of Chrome you download from the Google website.
Also, it requires hardware acceleration. That setting was already on by default for me anyway, but if you have any problems that seems to be the first thing to check.