Terrain generalization with multi-scale pyramids constrained by curvature

Bernhard Jenny, Helen Jenny, Lorenz Hurni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


This paper presents a method for terrain generalization using Laplacian pyramids. The method pre-processes digital terrain for generating cartographically generalized 3D maps. Map authors can attenuated or amplify selected frequency bands of the terrain with a graphical interface imitating an audio equalizer. Ridge lines and valley lines are localized by curvature indices, and their characteristic shapes are preserved or emphasized using additional sets of equalizer controls. Frequency bands are adjusted separately for the foreground and the background to remove visually disturbing terrain detail in the background. This is relevant for 3D maps in central perspective projection that considerably compresses distant terrain features. The proposed generalization method was implemented in Terrain Equalizer, a free and open-source application providing a graphical interface with interactive 3D previews (available at http://wwvv.terraincartography.com/). Using this application, disturbing high frequency details can be easily removed and major mountain forms can be accentuated. The level of generalization can be adjusted seamlessly from the foreground to the background of the 3D map. Topographic break lines, such as ridge or valley lines, are successfully preserved, which is important for conveying the characteristic shape of a generalized terrain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)110-116
Number of pages7
JournalCartography and Geographic Information Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • DEM frequency filtering
  • Laplacian pyramid
  • Terrain equalizer
  • Terrain generalization

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