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The CanVis software is no longer available or supported. Please be aware that CanVis may no longer work as desired with current operating systems. The object libraries that were created are still available for download.

Photo-realistic Visual Simulations

In natural resource planning, being able to simulate a proposed change can be a powerful tool when working with landowners and other decision-makers. Computers now make it possible to create realistic-looking simulations using image-editing software.

Before and after image of a simulated windbreak being inserted into the landscape.
A simulated windbreak has been inserted into a field at the Great Lakes Visitor Center.

Image-editing software can be used to digitally alter a digital photograph to create a visual simulation. The proposed design can then be "created" by adding objects, such as trees, shrubs, grass, and other materials, onto the image of the planning area.

Creating believable simulations requires both a proficiency in how to use image-editing software and the art of creating simulations. Agroforestry Tech Note 30 (Photo-realistic visual simulation: an agroforestry planning tool) provides a brief overview on developing visual simulations for agroforestry projects.

There are many image-editing software programs commercially available as well as a few freeware programs that can be used to create photo-realistic simulations. Current programs can be identified by doing an internet search. Refer to the specific vendor's software manual or tutorials to learn how to use the editing tools.

Object Libraries

object library example

NAC has prepared visual simulation objects that can be used with image-editing software. Objects are cut-out images of elements, such as trees and people with transparent backgrounds that can be inserted into a visual simulation. Below are downloadable zip files of available object libraries.

https://www.fs.usda.gov/nac/resources/tools/simulation/index.shtml