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Reprinted from Mac Power
London, UK, January 1997

Mountain High Maps

Chris Steven's on one hell of a map package. (MacPower Magazine)

"These maps are used by governments, TV and film producers alike", says the publicity waffle-yeah, yeah, yeah! "Oh ye of little faith, have these, take a good look and then come back and tell us that this collection of digitized relief maps are not just the best available to designer-kind!" So I did, and I'm probably going to have to eat my own words....

Mountain High Maps

These relief maps look detailed, I thought as I browsed through Disc 1, let's see if I can find where I live,-childish curiosity I know, but at least it would start to prove the quality, or maybe lack of it. I should have known better, not only did the Mountain High representation of the south coast of England give me a great pic of Portsmouth Harbour, it even revealed the actual hill I live on, and it's only half a kilometer square! So I browsed deeper and played a little in Photoshop and Illustrator.

Mountain High Maps is a two CD-ROM package containing some 74 meticulously detailed relief maps of the Earth's surface, ocean floors, countries and continents, plus 39 globe views and a collection of globe animations in QuickTime and AVI. The cartographic images are digitized from accurate hand-drawn shadow relief maps originally used in world-renowned atlases.

Each map is supplied as a hi-res. 300 dpi TIFF of up to 27Mb, and a 72dpi PICT for ease of experimentation or use in a multimedia environment. There are a number of political and physical precolored maps but the majority are grayscale images for custom-building in whatever image manipulation program you choose to use.

There is a comprehensive set of TIFF masks for each map, together with Illustrator and FreeHand layers to enable considerable customization of both land and seabed. Also included are political and design-oriented masks to add detail and drama to the blandest of map. Within the vector-graphic layered files are details of country outlines, rivers, latitude and longitude lines, scale and place names.

In addition to the graphic elements on the CDs there is a set of thoroughly comprehensive instruction manuals on how to get the most from the imagery provided. The Hints & Tips folder contains help for Photoshop, Illustrator, FreeHand and Quark Xpress users, as well as some information on disputed borders in the more unsettled parts of the world. I'm going to ramble no longer, let the images do the talking and then get out there and buy a copy!

Early next year Version 4.0 of Mountain High Maps will be available with the following updates:
    geopolitical updates (border/name changes, etc.);
    geopolitical updates (border/name changes, etc.);
    four CDs, rather than the current two;
    geopolitical updates (border/name changes, etc.);
    all maps will be colored in three variations (currently, only a selection are colored, in two variations). The grayscale versions will remain;
    geopolitical updates (border/name changes, etc.);
    FreeHand and Illustrator outline paths will now be joined and closed. The intense detail of the maps-some with coastlines of many thousands of points-would have hitherto been difficult to print unless paths were split into small chunks, particularly in FreeHand;
    geopolitical updates (border/name changes, etc.);
    thousands of additional place names and geographical features;
    geopolitical updates (border/name changes, etc.);
    several new maps.
If it looks good now, I can't wait to see the new version!


This is a two CD set of Illustrator and TIFF files in a wide variety of stylistic flavors to suit the wildest of requirements.

Volume 1.1 comprises 250 eps vector-graphic files, each with editable Illustrator and FreeHand layers, which allow coastlines, fills, rivers and graticules (lats and longs to the thickos among us) to be viewed and printed as desired. The collection includes a wide diversity of two-and three-dimensional plan, perspective, panoramic and globe map views, all creatively tarted up with a variety of artistic treatments such as bulges, waves, warps, and curves. Many have drop shadows, vignettes, various textures and materials applied for special effects-the CD even includes a number of crazed maps with national flags embedded in the graphic in one form or another.

CoolMaps Volume 1.2 brings together a wide assortment of 250 TIFF files which typically open to 17Mb, 300dpi images of around 10x7 inches. Again the images have been treated creatively with a variety of colour, texture and lighting effects to produce one heck of a selection of illustrations instantly available to the designer.

One gripe though, there was so much material on these volumes that it was a real drag to have to trawl through the electronic catalogue to find one I wanted to use. Take a lesson from the likes of Photodisc, guys, a paper catalogue is always much more usable in selecting the right image, especially in a client's office without the benefit of a computer.


This collection just continues to get better. The GlobeShot volume from Digital Wisdom brings together the ease of select and place with the flexibility to build your own customized world.

The CD offers some 168 low-res. PICT files comprising pre-designed views of the Earth from every conceivable angle, in a variety of backgrounds and colours. In addition there is also a set of hi-res. tiffs and masks, again with a selection of different views, backgrounds and colours, to enable the creation of a unique graphic.

The Hints & Tips file included on all these CDs are well worth the effort of reading-unless you already know what you're doing-just a 10 minute squint will allow you to produce some fabulous stuff.

Worth buying?

These have to be the most comprehensive, detailed and usable map collections I have ever come across. Not only do they provide the flexibility of customizing your own graphics, but they also have some pretty cool stuff all ready for enhancing your creativity.

The price of the Mountain High Maps collection limits it to serious use in high-end graphic design, but the other two collections are easily within reach of most artists' pockets and are, without question, worth this investment. If you have either the need or desire to produce seriously good maps or map-based design, look no further...and as an added incentive there's a 10% discount for educational users.

For more information, call 800-800-8560 or write Digital Wisdom, Inc., Box 11, Tappahannock, VA 22560.

Reproduced from issue 1/1997 of Mac Power (UK)
©1997 Copyright Mac Power, London, UK

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