Vasco da Gama 15 and Vasco Street Maps 10

Review by Dr David Smith

We have all become used to having instant access to GPS-based  maps on our phones, laptops and in our cars. So surely the vast databases that underly global mapping should be available to us for our own projects, whether they be presentations, videos or just beautifully detailed and personalised maps for photobooks or framed wall hangings.

Is there a simple way to access all of this mapping data? The short answer is yes, there most certainly is. It comes in the form of two highly integrated software packages from Motion Studios in Germany, Vasco da Gama and Vasco Street Maps.

Vasco da Gama allows you to very quickly build a travel route between towns and cities anywhere on the planet. You can fly, drive, ride a motor bike or sail in anything from a speedboat to a luxury liner. The latest version, Vasco da Gama 15, is the most comprehensive upgrade in the company’s history and it is huge, requiring up to 50GB free space for installation. It is also turbocharged, with a new performance mode that significantly accelerates previews, rotations, zooms and so on, for a smoother, more fluid editing experience.

Highly detailed maps of towns and cities can be generated in Vasco Street Maps and in the latest Version 10 these maps can be built using the new SQL database system (MBTiles format). This format, in which each map consists of just one much smaller file, is also supported in Vasco da Gama 15, providing even greater integration between the two programs. There is now an additional 45 GB of vector data and all up the program includes a total of 270GB of map data, with new maps and associated satellite and elevation data. And yes, I was able to locate our own house precisely where it should be on the globe.

There are significant benefits available in the Pro version of Vasco Street maps 10 as shown in this table:

Extended functionality of the Vasco StreetMaps 10 Pro version

VSM 10

VSM 10 Pro

Number of SQL database files for the vector data

425

1377

Highly optimized databases especially for multi-processing

NO

YES

Faster data access to data storage (hard disk/SSD)

NO

YES

Additional Low Details databases for faster calculations at lower resolutions

NO

YES

Multi-processing: The calculations of the individual card layers are distributed over up to 10 processes in order to minimize the latencies of the hard disk and thus achieve the maximum

NO

YES

Multi-Threading: All computationally intensive functions are now distributed to the individual CPU cores to get the maximum speed

NO

YES

Extended areas for glow and shadow effects

NO

YES

Using a newly developed compression algorithm, highly detailed elevation data is now compressed to one tenth the size seen in earlier versions, which saves disk space and makes reading and processing elevation data much faster.

One extremely useful new feature is Landmasks. These enable you to instantly create a monochrome map in which oceans, rivers and lakes are solid black. These waterways are very clearly distinguished from the surrounding fully detailed land mass. Such maps are increasingly seen in TV news programs and documentaries but are also ideal for book and magazine publications. And having shelled out to buy the Motion Studios packages, you’re free to use your creations in any way you choose, royalty-free for ever.

Travel stages in Vasco da Gama

One major change in Vasco da Gama 15 is that you now develop your travel route in stages. Each stage is essentially self-contained which gives you far easier and greater control of everything that happens in each stage. For example, each stage can have its own vehicle, its own camera and timing properties and so on. It is different to the approach used in earlier versions but once you get your head around it you’ll find it far faster and easier to use and – importantly – to revise and edit.

The new versions contain a truly vast number of vehicles, including accurately modelled aircraft and cruise ships based on real companies. You can choose aircraft by their manufacturer including Boeing, Airbus, Cessna and so on, and you can even have them painted in specific company liveries. In the accompanying video I chose an Airbus 380 in QANTAS livery, with red tail and white flying kangaroo.

 There are also thousands of beautifully modelled buildings, all with embedded GPS metadata, which automatically place themselves accurately in their home towns and cities. You can add buildings singly, or you can select all buildings for a given city and import them with a single click. There is also a vast array of plants and animals, all grouped within their natural geographic habitats, so you can add whales, sharks and jellyfish in the oceans, zebras and giraffes in Africa and kangaroos and koalas in Australia. There’s also a new drag-and-drop system available, so these various objects can now be added to your journey by a simply dragging objects directly onto the map, which is much faster than going through the normal menu system.

There are two operating modes in Vasco da Gama, Easy Assist and Expert. Easy assist mode has fewer choices and tabs but is an extremely efficient way of generating a new travel route. For many purposes this may be the only mode you need to use. It is optimised to produce visually attractive journeys with smoothed take-offs and landings, interesting camera angles and a very fast path from concept to finished travel video.

Expert mode opens up all of the internal workings of Vasco da Gama, giving you complete control of every variable. There is a lot to learn because Vasco da Gama 15 and Street Maps 10 are high quality professional grade products with an immense array of highly customisable features. I found the new way of working in Vasco da Gama 15 a little daunting at first and so I was very pleased to work through the Learning Course videos that step you through each stage of the workflow. I recommend the Learning Course if you want to take advantage of all of the shortcuts and tricks of the trade that make these two programs so interesting and powerful. There are also numerous free tutorial videos on the Motion Studios website, and many more on YouTube.

Exporting your video

The data transfer requirements when working with Ultra HD videos produced in Vasco da Gama are very high and care should be taken when choosing the output video format. I had an issue with rendering an AVI video from my project which I raised with Motion Studios.

As has always been the case, their reply was prompt and very helpful. Ingo Kleefeld wrote:

The problem with AVI (DirectShow) is that when using the “uncompressed” codec, the amount of data per second is about 1.5 GB. This is hardly possible with an SSD and certainly not with a hard disk. AVI (Video for windows) is a very old format and is limited to 2GB. In your case with uncompressed code it is enough for 1.3 seconds. After that the file overwrites itself so that the video is no longer recognized as valid. I personally prefer Quicktime with the codec h.264. Very good quality with the smallest possible file size.

This is great advice and I found that H264 videos exported from Vasco da Gama played extremely well in Vegas Pro 19.

A worked example of integration between Vasco da Gama 15 and Vasco Street Maps 10.

Let’s imagine a simple trip from Sydney to Melbourne flying in an Airbus A-380. Then I’ll switch to a motorbike to travel from Melbourne, westwards to the town of Warrnambool, renowned for whale watching in October. The two legs of the journey will each have their own stage, so changes to each stage are very simple. To follow my building of this project in Vasco Street Maps 10 and Vasco da Gama 15 watch the video here:

Conclusion

The latest versions of Vasco Street Maps and Vasco da Gama are enormously powerful programs that are satisfying and fun to work with. They are much faster and more efficient to use than previous versions, reflecting a massive re-design of the internal workings of both programs. Map generation and editing is significantly faster and the integration between Street Maps and Vasco da Gama is seamless.

This is a professional class of software that offers numerous possibilities for graphic designers and video producers. Everything from travel videos to TV weather maps can be easily and beautifully created. I cannot recommend these two programs too highly!

Detailed information and video tutorials are available at https://motionstudios.de

Pricing:

Vasco Street Maps 10 Ultimate Pro €299.00 (AUD$444.00)

Vasco da Gama 15 HD Ultimate €399.00 (AUD$592.00)

More basic versions of both programs are available from €149 (AUD$221.00) for Vasco da Gama and €99 ASUD $147.00) for Vasco Street Maps 10.

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