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The 10-minute Vistapro Tutorial

Get up and running quickly.

This short tutorial will give you the rudiments in becoming productive with Vistapro in short order. Only the most used features will be explained. For more in-depth detail on other features, consult the printed owners manual, or the on-line documentation. Of course, there are some assumptions and disclaimers which need to be stated first.


There are a few basic assumptions of your computer abilities that are expected of you. If you have gotten this far, you most likely already have these abilities. This tutorial can not answer all possible questions you may have. The things you should know are . . .

  • how to install the Vistapro program and start it running.
  • be familiar and comfortable with the Microsoft Windows and/or MS-DOS interface.
  • know how to use a mouse, trackball, or other pointing device.
  • understand pull-down menus, option selection, and point & click operations.

That's about it. If you have never used Vistapro before, this tutorial should get you up and running and producing beautiful images in "10-minutes". Enjoy!


The Consortium for the Application of Space Data to Education project, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the California Institute of Technology, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration do not recommend or endorse any commercial product mentioned on these web pages.

Ok, now let's get started!

What is Vistapro anyway?

Vistapro is a relatively low cost software package written by John Hinkley and marketed by RomTek of San Luis Obsipo, California which allow a user to create three dimensional (3D) perspective renderings from Digital Elevation Models (DEM) files. The most common source of DEMs is the United States Geological Survey. The CD-ROM version of Vistapro includes a wealth of DEMs. Vistapro also includes a fractal landscape generator which allows the user to create their own landscapes.

The user interface of Vistapro allows the user to have complete control of the "camera" placement. In the most simple mode, single images are rendered at various quality settings after the user specifies the camera parameters. A separate program included with the Vistapro package allows the user to specify a "flight path" with which to create an animation that "flys over" the landscape.

Rivers, oceans, clouds, and fractal trees of various types may also be created by the user. The color palette can also be changed which is used to simulate different times of the day and different seasons. Lighting direction and intensity is also user specified.

Vistapro is a quite complex program which has enormous potential for generating stunning images in the hands of an experienced user. Fortunately, very good images can be produced by the most novice of users with just a little insight into the program.

This is the initial screen that first appears when the Vistapro program is executed.

Okay...the program is running, what do I do now?

How to load an image.

Probably the first thing you will want to do is to load a DEM into Vistapro. You do this by selecting the "Load" option in the menu bar, and highlighting "Load DEM" option. Here is what your screen will look like.

This will bring up a new window that looks like this.

Just select the file you want using standard Windows selection procedures.

Let's make our first rendered picture!

It's easier than you think.

We have selected the "258.dem" image that was shown in the last screen. This is the Vistapro small size file of the four quadrant Omaha, Nebraska CASDE test area. Your screen should now like like this . . .

You will notice a button in the lower left corner of the image that says, "Render". Place your mouse cursor over this and press the left mouse button. Your screen will change, (all those confusing buttons will go away), and after a moment the following picture will be displayed.

This is your first rendering. Congratulations! But, why is it so blocky? It is just a bunch of colored shapes. Go to the next page to get an explanation about different quality settings.

Hint: Press the Close! menu option on the "Rendered View" window to close that window and return to the main Vistapro window.

Vistapro's different quality settings.

How long do you want to wait for a rendering?

As you saw in the last page, Vistapro renders images fairly quickly. This is because Vistapro, by default, produces renderings at the lowest quality setting. The sixth menu option on the top menu bar is Quality. Selecting this option displays a drop down window from which you can choose different quality selections. There are five quality settings available from this pull down menu. The picture displayed on the last screen was rendered with the low quality setting. Below is a comparison of the different settings.

  screen shot rendered picture

Keep in mind that the higher the quality setting, the longer your computer will need to create that rendering. It is wise to use the low quality to test your settings. The low quality setting will give a good idea of what the final image will look like.

Moving around

Changing the "camera" position

You may have observed in some of the screens that there is a "V" displayed on the DEM image. This "V" indicates the camera position and the view angle. Picture yourself standing at the apex of the "V" and looking at a point halfway between the two "arms" radiating out from where you are standing. The "arms" represent the field of view. Anything "outside" the "V" will not be visible. When Vistapro initially loads, the camera position is at the top of the image in the center from left to right, and pointing directly at the bottom of the picture.

Two buttons allow you to change the camera position. These are labeled, Target and Camera, and appear at the top on the right hand side of the main Vistapro menu screen. The easiest way to use these is to first select the Camera button by pressing it with the mouse cursor. The button will appear to be depressed. Then place your mouse cursor in the DEM image where you want to stand. When you press the mouse button, you will notice that the apex of the "V" will move to be at that position. Next, depress the Target button and move your mouse cursor into the DEM window, clicking at the position where you want to look.

That is all there is to it! Press the render button and look to see what your new viewpoint shows. You now have everything you need to make beautiful renderings within Vistapro. The home button on the bottom of this page will take you to the main CASDE Vistapro page where you can select your own DEMs to load and conduct experiments. Be sure to check out the "expert" tutorial for more detailed information about using Vistapro. And of course, refer to the on-line help and manuals that came with your version of Vistapro for further help.