This tutorial explains my workflow of how to get texture-baked 3D models into Google Earth, completely based on open source/free software. There are other ways to do that – maybe less complicated ;) – but this is the way I finally achieved my goals.
I will start with an overview about the workflow, adding more details step by step. The tutorial will grow over time and I can take possible questions into account. That would be a pleasant way for me, because I can start directly and I don´t have to prepare the whole tutorial at once…
Intro 1 : The Software
In the course of this tutorial we will use three different softwares: SketchUp, GIMP and Blender. I’m assuming that you have at least basic knowledge in each of them, because I won´t go too much into details.
SketchUp : Free 3D software provided by Google
SU is the easiest way to prepare 3D models for Google Earth, because it has a direct import/export function for GE. In addition you can upload your geo-located 3D models directly into the 3D Warehouse if you want to share your model inside the GE 3D buildings layer. You can visit the 3d model of St. Mary´s Church in Google Maps (+GE PlugIn) or in the 3DWarehouse
GIMP : Open source Image Manipulation Program
Gimp is a freely distributed program for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition and image authoring – we will need it for editing our textures.
Blender : Best open source 3D Software ever :)
Blender is a free open source cross platform suite of tools for 3D creation. We will use it for the texture baking process, because this rendering function is not provided inside SketchUp.
Intro 2 : The Overall Workflow
A short overview about the whole process:
1. Download terrain data from Google Earth into SketchUp
2. Model your 3D building with SketchUp
3. Export your 3D model to Blender
4. Unwrap UVs with Blender
5. Export UV Layout to Gimp
6. Texturing UV map with Gimp
7. Applying UV map in Blender
8. Set Lighting and Environment in Blender
9. Bake Full Render in Blender
10. Export 3D model with baked texture to SketchUp
11. Upload 3D model to Google Earth/3DWarehouse
12. …be proud that you made it through all the mess :)
To be continued…
If anybody knows how to simplify the process, please feel free to comment!