This week I spent some time setting up a new desktop with a new high-end video card. With this new system, I felt I could afford to turn on more graphics settings for 3D applications. I knew that these settings could improve the look of Google Earth – I occasionally would use this on my old box to make screenshots. But, using these settings while interactively viewing Google Earth is just awesome! It makes viewing the earth even more beautiful. Oh, and 3D models in GE look MUCH better with these settings. It’s hard to see in the scaled-down comparison above, but the clarity improvement of these two airport shots is pretty obvious even here.
If you have a relatively new video card which is ranked well for 3D gaming then you should try these tips out. Note: you should try each of these tips one at a time. See how each one effects the speed of update when you move around GE. If one of them slows things down a lot, you might want to avoid using it except when you want to to do a screenshot.
Here are the three main settings I recommend:
- Detail Area – From within Google Earth, go to “Tools -> Options“. On the “3D View” pane you should choose “Detail Area” to “Large” (unless you are running your screen at a low resolution – if you’re doing this, you’re wasting a good video card).
- Anisotropic Filtering – On the same “3D View” pane as above, try setting “Anisotropic Filtering” to “High“. If it slows things down too much, try “Medium“. This setting will greatly improve your view when you are looking at an angle (say down a runway at an airport, or at distant mountains). More details will be visible – things will seem clearer.
- Anti-Aliasing – Anti-aliasing is a technique used to reduce the appearance of jagged lines caused by pixels (which are square) when drawing a line at an angle. GE doesn’t currently have a setting for this, so you will have to turn it on using your video card’s settings (the method varies depending on your card). Look for the control panel application for your video card. Find the settings for “Anti-Aliasing” and start with the lowest setting. Try higher settings if it doesn’t seem to impact your graphics performance. NOTE: If you turn this on (instead of allowing applications to control it) all 3D applications you run will be affected. Also, you should close Google Earth and reopen it after changing the setting or the setting may not take effect. Once you have it on, turn on a vector layer like “Roads” or “Borders” in GE. You should see a great improvement verses looking at them without anti-aliasing. IMPORTANT – you must have the “Tools->Options->3D View->Graphics Option” set to “OpenGL” to see anti-aliasing – it does not work with DirectX in Google Earth.