Google Earth Studio

Its Day 42 of Melbourne’s second lockdown. I’m allowed to travel outside the house only once each day and within a 5km radius. My cycling trips have been curtailed to doing laps in the local Velodrome with a one hour time limit.

So, no bikepacking trips from Melbourne to Lisbon. No rides around Australia or even hikes in nearby regions of Victoria. Instead I’ve been keeping myself busy on home renovations and learning some new digital skills. One of those has been Google Earth Studio. This is an amazing tool that Google has put out in beta mode, and requires approval before you can use it. It runs in Chrome and allows you to render a flyover image sequence of locations anywhere on the planet. As a first experimental project I tried creating a quick 30 second fly over off the Tour Aoteroa bike ride that I did last year. Here’s the result.

Getting this done wasn’t exactly easy. To get the blue route and markers displaying in the Map I needed to use Google My Maps to create a route profile, and export everything as KMZ files. These get imported into Google Earth Studio and added to the timeline. Controlling the camera position and camera angles in Earth Studio took a while to get used to but eventually I managed to get it tracking down the South Island, more or less following the Tour Aotearoa.

Earth Studio renders the final ‘movie’ as a frame by frame image sequence, which you’ll then need to export. My 30 second movie had 750 such jpg frames which all were downloaded to my Mac.

I then need to go into Blender and import the images as an image sequence movie and render it again as a FFMPG file. For someone like me, a Blender novice, this was a real mission as the Blender User Interface is frightfully complex. Eventually I figured out how to do it, and I ended up with a 75MB mp4 file.

This I could import into iMovie. Unlike Blender, iMovie is simple to use and I was able to add the text captions and background audio quite easily. The final export from iMovie went straight to Youtube.

This was a solid afternoon’s work that’ll be much easier next time around, now that I know the basics. I’d like to give it a try with the Lycian Way next. Earth Studio seems particularly suited for viewing long distance journeys across varied terrain and elevations as it does a great job of visualising 3D maps.

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