I started building a ‘realistic’ planet Earth a couple of months ago for some corporate titles. Ultimately the project went in a different direction, but I wanted to continue building a realistic and versatile Earth scene. I would envisage it being used as a starting point for an Earth Matte Painting, as I have done with the poster. The orbiter and flare and colour grade where added in Photoshop.
Important. This requires an excellent third party Atmosphere shader from www.welter-4d.de. This should be installed before opening the project. The shader simulates the way light is scattered in the atmosphere (giving us blue sky at midday, and red/orange at sunset).
To make things easy I have put the main settings into a User Data box.
Most of them are pretty self explanatory. When rendering closeups or very shallow angles, the Atmosphere sampling should be turned up. For most usage 8 gives a good speed/quality balance.
There is no moon in the scene, but there is a slider for the Moon shine strength (not the drink!). On the night side of the earth, sunlight hitting the moon reflects back and casts light on the Earth. This has been approximated with a light, it can be tuned to suit.
Atmosphere shader settings are explained in the manual, here.
Download project (89mb)
Planetary maps and cloud textures courtesy of NASA.