Retouching Google Earth for Realism

In one of my 3D model roundups I listed a nice 3D model by ‘jpwade’ which added details for the Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona. Since the canyon is fairly accurately represented by the digital elevation model built into Google Earth, the 3D model makes it look very realistic – with one exception. The satellite photo of the area shows the bridge which crosses the canyon before the dam. But, since Google Earth just overlays its satellite photos over the terrain the photo of the bridge appears to drop down into the canyon.
Someone at the Google Earth Community named ‘gscad2004’ suggested the photo should be retouched to erase the bridge. A short while later, ‘GregTSL’ posted a retouched photo overlay which in fact erases the weird bridge anomaly. After downloading the 3D model above, download Greg’s overlay here. Every day, Google Earth becomes more real with the addition of user input. Amazing!

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.


  1. I’ve seen this flat-bridge effect in other 3d representations of GIS ortophographic data. Regarding this correction, it seems from your screenshots that they corrected the bridge, but not the dam: isn’t that white layer over the river white flat concrete?

  2. FlorentG says:

    It would be even better if we could change the elevation data. Sometimes, there are alignement problems, or wrong elevation.
    See in Paris, at the Eiffel Tower : There’s a strange hill, which isn’t there… It seems that the satellite noticed there were something high (actually the tower), but because of its limited resolution, the result is a strange elevation.
    Another example is at the egyptian Pyramids : the elevation does not match the pyramids.

  3. GregTSL says:

    Modifying the terrain in Sketchup is one of my all time requests for Google Earth (Although I dont know where to submit requests, this must have been requested). There are numerous sites where the data is either unsuitable for a building(Eiffel Tower) or simply not there (Niagra Falls).
    I hope they allow users to do this. Along with textured models and simple animation abilities, this would be the perfect app!

  4. I fail to see how this is an improvement because now you have a road that dissapears over the canyon. It seems a sloaping road, though inaccurate, is MORE accurate than no road at all.

  5. Be really nice if the clouds wouldn’t hug the ground when you tilted the view point also. This makes mountains in the tropics look like they have a snow cover.

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