Creating Google Earth Fly-over Movie: Part 1

First off: Yuck, what a process.

So here is the scenario: you get a gpx file that somebody gathered from their GPS device, with tracks from a recent trip, and you want to use it to create a fly-over clip, to include in a short travel video about the trip.

Here’s the basic steps:

  1. Get the gpx into Google Earth. Older (and/or Linux) versions may not work so well.If needed, convert the gpx file to a kml/kmz, with gpsbabel, if you need to edit the flight path (probably), and do something like:gpsbabel -i gpx -f file.gpx -o kml -F file.kml Note: For recent versions of Ubuntu, you can install with: apt-get install gpsbabel. Then, open the newly created kml file in Google Earth. Note: Google Earth tends to read the track information in a gpx file as tracks, which you can’t modify. If you don’t need to modify the path, then you can skip this step.
  2. Copy the placemarks/waypoints, and then (manually) edit the copied version (in Google Earth) to delete the tight turns, and try to even out the distances between placemarks, for a smoother video.
  3. Copy the 2nd set of placemarks (previous step) “as tracks”, and paste.
  4. Optionally, but recommended, re-time the tracks from the previous step:
    1. Export the tracks to a kml
    2. Manually edit the time of each waypoint, or use something like my script
    3. Import the re-timed kml into Google Earth Pro.
  5. Play with the Tour settings, until the fly-over looks reasonable.
  6. Use the “Movie Maker” tool in Google Earth Pro (the regular version doesn’t have movie maker) to export the fly-over. Make sure to select H.264 as part of the output settings, at least if you want to view it on a Mac.

Note: The movie clip created with this process comes with a bunch of copyright restrictions. Basically, you can’t make money off it, but you can share it on youtube. Use the Google to figure out the exact details.

Note: Google Earth is a bit buggy (I’m using both Mac and Linux versions). When deleting sections containing tracks, waypoints, etc. And then you want to open another kml file, sometimes the “Open” option disappears, so you need to restart it. Also, sometimes after copying the waypoints, the display of the new set of waypoints is messed up – again, quitting and restarting Google Earth is the solution.

Part 2