Utilities SDK

The osgEarth Utils namespace includes a variety of useful classes for interacting with the map. None of these are strictly necessary for using osgEarth, but they do make it easier to perform some common operations.


AutoScale is a special Render Bin that will scale geometry from meters to pixels. That is: if you have an object that is 10 meters across, AutoScale will draw it in the space of 10 pixels (at scale 1.0) regardless of its distance from the camera. The effect is similar to OSG’s AutoTransform::setAutoScaleToScreen method but is done in a shader and does not require any special nodes.

To activate auto-scaling on a node:

node->getOrCreateStateSet()->setRenderBinDetails( 0, osgEarth::AUTO_SCALE_BIN );

And to deactivate it:



The DataScanner will recursively search a directory tree on the local filesystem for files that it can load as ImageLayer objects. It is a quick and easy way to load a full directory of images as layers.

NOTE that only the MP Terrain Engine supports an unlimited number of image layers, so it is wise to use that engine in conjunction with the DataScanner.

Use DataScanner like this:

DataScanner scanner;
ImageLayerVector imageLayers;
scanner.findImageLayers( rootFolder, extensions, imageLayers );

You can then add the image layes to your Map object.

The extensions parameter lets you filter files by extension. For example, pass in “tif,ecw” to only consider files with those extensions. Separate multiple extensions with a comma.


DetailTexture is a terrain controller that will apply a non-geospatial texture across the terrain. This is an old trick that you can use to generate “noise” that makes a low resolution terrain appear more detailed:

DetailTexture* detail = new DetailTexture();
detail->setImage( osgDB::readImageFile("mytexture.jpg") );
detail->setIntensity( 0.5f );
detail->setImageUnit( 4 );
mapnode->getTerrainEngine()->addEffect( detail );

Try the example. Zoom in fairly close to the terrain to see the effect:

osgearth_detailtex readymap.earth

LOD Blending

LODBlending is a terrain controller that will attempt to smoothly morph vertices and image textures from one LOD to the next as you zoom in or out. Basic usage is:

LODBlending* effect = new LODBlending();
mapnode->getTerrainEngine()->addEffect( effect );

Caveats: It requires that the terrain elevation tile size dimensions be odd-numbered (e.g., 17x17, which is the default.) You can use the MapOptions::elevationTileSize property to configure this, or set elevation_tile_size in your earth file if you want to change it:

    <options elevation_tile_size="15" ...

For a demo, run this example and zoom into a mountainous area:

osgearth_viewer lod_blending.earth

LOD blending supports the following properties (earth file and API):

delay:Time to wait before starting a blending transition (seconds)
duration:Duration of the blending transition (seconds)
vertical_scale:Factor by which to vertically scale the terrain (default = 1.0)
blend_imagery:Whether to blend imagery LODs (true)
 Whether to morph elevation LODs (true)

Logarithmic Depth Buffer

In whole-earth applications it’s common that you want to see something up close (like an aircraft at altitude) while seeing the Earth and its horizon off in the distance. This poses a problem for modern graphic hardware because the standard depth buffer precision heavily favors objects closer to the camera, and viewing such a wide range of objects leads to “z-fighting” artifacts.

The LogarithmicDepthBuffer is one way to solve this problem. It uses a shader to re-map the GPU’s depth buffer values so they can be put to better use in this type of scenario.

It’s easy to install:

LogarithmicDepthBuffer logdepth;
logdepth->install( view->getCamera() );

Or you can activate it from osgearth_viewer or other examples:

osgearth_viewer --logdepth ...

Since it does alter the projection-space coordinates of your geometry at draw time, you do need to be careful that you aren’t doing anything ELSE in clip space in your own custom shaders that would conflict with this.

(10-Jul-2014: Some osgEarth features are incompatible with the log depth buffer; namely, GPU clamping and Shadowing. Depth Offset works correctly though.)


Use Formatters to format geospatial coordinates as a string. There are two stock formatters, the LatLongFormatter and the MGRSFormatter. A formatter takes a GeoPoint and returns a std::string like so:

LatLongFormatter formatter;
GeoPoint point;
std::string = formatter.format( point );


The LatLongFormatter takes coordinates and generates a string. It supports the following formats:


You can also specify options for the output string:

USE_SYMBOLS:Use the degrees, minutes and seconds symbology
USE_COLONS:Use colons between the components
USE_SPACES:Use spaces between the components


The MGRSFormatter constructs a string according to the Military Grid Reference System. Technically, an MGRS coordinate represents a region rather than an exact point, so you have to specifiy a precision qualifier to control the size of the represented region. Example:

MGRSFormatter mgrs( MGRFormatter::PRECISION_1000M );
std::string str = mgrs.format( geopoint );


The MouseCoordsTool reports the map coordinates under the mouse (or other pointing device). Install a callback to respond to the reports. MouseCoordsTool is an osgGA::GUIEventHandler that you can install on a Viewer or any Node, like so:

MouseCoordsTool* tool = new MouseCoordsTool();
tool->addCallback( new MyCallback() );
viewer.addEventHandler( tool );

Create your own callback to respond to reports. Here is an example that prints the X,Y under the mouse to a Qt status bar:

struct PrintCoordsToStatusBar : public MouseCoordsTool::Callback
    PrintCoordsToStatusBar(QStatusBar* sb) : _sb(sb) { }

    void set(const GeoPoint& p, osg::View* view, MapNode* mapNode)
        std::string str = osgEarth::Stringify() << p.y() << ", " << p.x();
        _sb->showMessage( QString(str.c_str()) );

    void reset(osg::View* view, MapNode* mapNode)
        _sb->showMessage( QString("out of range") );

    QStatusBar* _sb;

For your convenience, MouseCoordsTool also comes with a stock callback that will print the coords to osgEarthUtil::Controls::LabelControl. You can even pass a LabelControl to the contructor to make it even easier.


The NormalMap effect will use an ImageLayer as a bump map texture, adding apparent detail to the terrain.

A normal map is a kind of bump map in which each texel represents an XYZ normal vector instead of an RGB color value. The GPU can then use this information to apply lighting to the terrain on a per-pixel basis instead of per-vertex, rendering a more detailed-looking surface with the same number of triangles.

First you need to create a normal map layer. You can use the noise driver to do this. The setup looks like this in the earth file:

<image name="bump" driver="noise" shared="true" visible="false">

The noise driver generates Perlin noise; this will fill the image with pseudo- random normal vectors. (Setting normal_map to true is what tells the driver to make normal vectors instead of RGB values. You should also set shared to true; this will make the normal map available to the shader pipeline so that it can do the custom lighting calculations.)

Once you have the image layer set up, install the NormalMap terrain effect and point it at our normal map layer. From the earth file:

        <normal_map layer="bump"/>

Or from code:

NormalMap* normalMap = new NormalMap();
normalMap->setNormalMapLayer( myBumpLayer );
mapnode->getTerrainEngine()->addEffect( normalMap );

Please refer to the normalmap.earth example for a demo.


VerticalScale scales the height values of the terrain. Basic usage is:

VerticalScale* scale = new VerticalScale();
scale->setScale( 2.0 );
mapnode->getTerrainEngine()->addEffect( scale );

For a demo, run this example:

osgearth_verticalscale readymap.earth