Dr David Smith
I have been reviewing mapping software from Motion Studios, including Vasco Da Gama and its companion, Street Maps, for many years. The software is brilliant and the possibilities endless.
I have been extremely impressed with the responsiveness of the software designers. I have suggested a number of possible improvements over the years and all have been implemented in subsequent versions. This enthusiasm to learn from their users is somewhat unusual and very welcome.
I frequently use maps in my video productions and I commonly need maps of Australia with State and Territory borders shown. Up until now these ‘Federal Borders’ were available but they also extended over water. In order to use one of these maps, or to import the State borders into Vasco Da Gama, I had first to graphically remove the over-water sections, save them as a geo-tagged TIFF or PNG file then import to VDG. Although not difficult, this was a fairly fiddly operation and I suggested to Ingo Kleefeld from Motion Studios that it would be great to be able to switch the over-water sections on or off, as required. Ingo emailed back:
I’ve been looking at the boundaries problem and I am optimistic that I can offer a solution for this in VSM8 so that you can select between land and water boundaries.”
And, true to his word, a new switch is now available in the Display Settings menu called “Borders on Water Areas = ON or OFF. This is great on two levels: firstly because it is a really useful switch, and secondly because it reflects the effort made by Motion Studios to address suggestions made by users such as me. Very impressive!
Vasco Street Maps is not just a minor upgrade. The core engine has been rebuilt to achieve significantly higher rendering speeds which makes the program so much slicker to use.
At very high detail levels, the primary world map renders in less than a second and a preview map of southern Australia took just seven seconds to render. The fully detailed Full Screen render took exactly 30 seconds which about three times faster than in Version 7.
Maps of the highest quality
The Ultimate Pro version of StreetMaps 8 includes fully detailed maps of, Africa, America, Asia, Australia, Europe and Oceania and these new maps are truly stunning. The detail is incredible and the colouring – which is fully customisable – is beautiful. The three-dimensionality of the maps is also far superior to that in earlier versions which is scarcely surprising given that StreetMaps 8 Ultimate ships (on BluRay only) with a total of 280GB of data. I downloaded mine and it took just over ten hours to complete (thanks to the less-than-blistering speed of our Australian National Broadband Network).
The combination of satellite and elevation data now includes an additional 28GB of vector data – totalling a massive 75 GB – which is blended beautifully thanks to the newly designed high-precision engine. The results speak for themselves and, since all of the previously available tweaks to colour and shading are still available, you can design your own maps to suit a vast array of design possibilities, saving your preferred palettes as presets for future use.
An important new feature is the use of a Perlin Noise Engine which generates far finer detail within what would otherwise be relatively flat surfaces. When combined with powerful, customisable shadow and glow effects, this produces a very attractive, almost photo-realistic look to mountains and valleys.
Of course these various layers of detail can be selectively switched off, so your final map can be simplified from photo-realism down to simple line-drawn maps. It is difficult to overstate how many options are available for you to tweak.
When I was building a map of the south coast of Victoria, Australia, for a documentary I am filming, I noticed a strange thing: there were fine lines drawn within Port Phillip Bay and nearby Bass Strait that appeared to indicate what I know to be shipping lanes. I didn’t actually want these lines in my map and didn’t know how to turn them off, so I wrote to Ingo Kleefeld who informed that, yes, they are shipping lanes and they can be switched on or off within the Other Options panel of the Road and Rail Network button. Every single item in these menu lists can be adjusted: width, colour, line style and fill colour an all be adjusted and saved with your project.
Of course I am barely skimming the surface here because the real detail lies in the cities, towns, villages and hamlets which are all mapped in the finest detail. My coastal documentary focuses on a small town called Inverloch, which is shown in the screenshot. The detail available is incredible.
Once your map has been adjusted to your liking it can be exported to a variety of formats. Geo-TIFF is best and both it and PNG will include a small .xml file which gives linked GPS data. If you then import your map into Vasco Da Gama, it will automatically be placed perfectly in its correct position on the globe. Adding maps in this way can really enhance the appearance of the travel videos you generate in Vasco Da Gama and the detail in these maps is unsurpassed.
In case you haven’t guessed, I use this software regularly as my primary source of static maps or as part of videos created in Vasco Da Gama. Most of all it is just great fun!
Vasco Street Maps 8 Ultimate is breathtaking software that is invaluable for anyone needing professional-quality maps for publication or for incorporation into multimedia, broadcast TV or video productions. I cannot recommend it too highly. Bear in mind that you will need either a BluRay player or a fast internet connection to install this massive program.
Vasco StreetMaps 8 AUD $160