What you’re seeing here is a process known as “scanning”, or “photogrammetry”. It’s not new, having already been used to generate the landscapes in games like Star Wars: Battlefront, but as you’ll see, as the technology involved (and the skill of artists) advances, so too do the results.

Just look at this.

That’s not video, that’s a 3D landscape, running in real-time—at 4K resolution—in Unreal Engine 4. It’s the work of former DICE artist Rense de Boer.

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While its results seem almost perfect, the science behind photogrammetry isn’t that crazy; it was just waiting for technology to be able to match its processes.

Essentially, it involves taking a ton of photos of real, actual things/places. Those photos are then scanned, meshed together and turned into 3D landscapes. Artists then jump in and smooth out any rough edges, while also their own touches, along with effects for stuff like weather.

EA actually wrote a whole blog post on Battlefront’s photogrammetry last year; it’s a good read if you want to get up to speed.

And if you want to take a closer look at some of the landscapes featured in Rense’s video, here are some stills: