Terra Forma Worldwide 3.0

Attention to detail is possibly the most over-used reviews phrase ever. Highly accurate, realistic, authentic – any number of idioms could be used, but “attention to detail” gets the nod too frequently. But there are times when nothing but this oft-used expression will do – and this is one of them. Terra Forma Worldwide is a six-CD set full of high-resolution maps – 87 to be precise – covering the major continents plus a number of global views. Oxford Cartographers created a “continuous relief” model – a 4ft-diameter 3D-image of Earth to you and me – using exhaustive survey data and colouring obtained from NASA satellite images. The maps here are the result of taking photos of this model, with CTPI in Cheltenham scanning the transparencies – yes, a film camera, not a digital one – and handling the colour balancing. Each map comes complete with a hi-res CMYK TIFF (2,800-x-2,100 pixels) plus RGB TIFF and CMYK five-file EPS (1,400-x-1,050 pixels) images, the latter being used as placed artwork for the FreeHand and Illustrator vector overlays. Open any of the three Photoshop images and you’ll find each area of the map carefully created as a path – every country outline, border, lake, water mass and all outlined texts. This opens up various possibilities, from colourizing selected areas to creating semi-transparent overlays, vignettes, drop-shadows and creative-colour effects. The 30-page PDF manual shows how to achieve many of these. Unfortunately, the explanatory images are from an old version of Photoshop – and the screen images are so low-resolution that you can’t zoom in to see any of the details. Still, they work with a little perseverance. Open up the Illustrator file, and you’re presented with the placed five-file EPS, plus all manner of layers for texts, borders, and country outlines. Turn off the ones you don’t want to see and print – easy enough. But that’s not the way most people work. Designers tend to bring EPS files into QuarkXPress as part of a layout and then print from there – in fact, very few people ever print direct from Illustrator. And only single-file placed EPSs will print from XPress, not the five-file variety. A small point possibly, but one that needs to be considered before printing. AI Interactive now has some info on its Web site concerning this.

OUR VERDICT

Aside from the minor gripes, this is a thoroughly professional package with images of the highest quality. Presentation is good throughout, from the laminated Quick Reference card to the neat, labelled double-CD boxes. Map-makers, or anyone else who needs to incorporate maps within a design, should certainly check out Terra Forma Worldwide.

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