Height maps is information stored as an image to be read by 3D software for creative works. This image is in grey scale and every pixel holds a piece of information, this information defines the depth or heigh of a mesh if put on one. White is defined as the minimum depth and black is defined as the maximum height. Having this information in an image makes workflows much more efficiant and you can pass the information around very easily. This form of geometrical manipulation is also a great way of taking real-life environments and putting them into 3D very easily. This is what I will be doing to St Vincent Island.
I will be using a height map taken from terrain.party. I can zoom in on the islands and define a space for me to download as a height map easily. I had then used this in Maya to get an idea of how large the island scale would be and how it would work with Maya.
This is the height map put into maya, this is a very detailed plane mesh with 40,000 subdivisions. Not Good for optimisation, but good at capturing most of the island.
In this image I had really pushed the limits of Maya and my computer, my computer is decent as it has an Nvidia 1070 installed but this mesh really was too much. The scale of the mesh combined with the amount of subdivisions with this height map really made it difficult to even get this screenshot. Maya kept crashing when I made any movements in the viewport, but I had placed a Maya bipod on the top of the highest mountain to give perspective of what the island looks like from there.
The last thing I thought to do with this mesh is to place a texture on top to add some detail. I had used a U.V snapshot exported from Maya and placed within Photoshop to create this texture, it is placed directly on top of the mesh. I had used Quixel Mixer to create the grass and mud texture and blended them all in photoshop.