Basic information
Researchers involved:
, , , , ,
since 2 September 2013

Relief Visualization Toolbox

Relief Visualization Toolbox was produced to help scientist visualize raster elevation model datasets. We have narrowed down the selection to include techniques that have proven to be effective for identification of small scale features. Default settings therefore assume working with high resolution digital elevation models, derived from airborne laser scanning missions (lidar).

Despite this, techniques are also used for different other purposes. Sky-view factor, for example, can be efficiently used in numerous studies where digital elevation model visualizations and automatic feature extraction techniques are indispensable, e.g. in geography, geomorphology, cartography, hydrology, glaciology, forestry and disaster management. It can be used even in engineering applications, such as, predicting the availability of the GPS signal in urban areas.

Methods currently implemented are:

  • hillshading,
  • hillshading from multiple directions,
  • PCA of hillshading,
  • slope gradient,
  • simple local relief model,
  • sky-view factor (as developed by our team),
  • anisotropic sky-view factor,
  • positive and negative openness.

For a more detailed description see references given at each method in the manual and a comparative paper describing them (e.g. Kokalj et al. 2013, see below).

The tool also supports elevation raster file data conversion. It is possible to convert all frequently used single band raster formats into GeoTIFF, ASCII gridded XYZ, Erdas Imagine file and ENVI file formats.

Development of RVT was part financed by the European Commission's Culture Programme through the ArchaeoLandscapes Europe project.


Relief Visualization Toolbox Standalone version (EXE), Windows 64-bit, version 1.3, no ENVI/IDL installation is required.
Relief Visualization Toolbox manual, version 1.3 (Instructions for use)
Relief Visualization Toolbox Computation code (SAV), version 1.3, for ENVI 5.0. You can also run the computation code with IDL Virtual Machine. You need to copy the GDAL library if you want to process anything other than (geo)TIFF files.

Please report any bugs and suggestions for improvements.


When using the tools, please cite:

Further reading

  • Kokalj, Žiga, Klemen Zakšek and Krištof Oštir. 2013. Visualizations of Lidar Derived Relief Models. In Interpreting Archaeological Topography – Airborne Laser Scanning, Aerial Photographs and Ground Observation, edited by Rachel Opitz and C. David Cowley, 100–114. Oxford: Oxbow Books.
  • Kokalj, Žiga, Ralf Hesse. 2017. Airborne laser scanning raster data visualization: A Guide to Good Practice. Ljubljana: Založba ZRC.



Note: click to enlarge, press ESC to quit.

Visualization techniques showing St. Helena church and its immediate surroundings. St. Helena is a known yet un-researched archaeological site west of Kobarid, Slovenia, believed to be a late Roman camp.

Relief Visualization Toolbox graphical user interface for choosing different visualizations and their options.

Relief Visualization Toolbox graphical user interface for conversion of raster elevation files. The tool reads all tipically used raster formats and converts them into GeoTIFF, ASCII gridded XYZ, Erdas Imagine file and ENVI file formats.


Project manager

Funded by

Slovenian Research Agency ArchaeoLandscapes Europe project funded by the European Commission's Culture programme


terrain visualization • high resolution DEM • toolbox • lidar • hill-shading • diffuse illumination • sky-view factor