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Creating a Virtual Earth Low-Light Map Style

What if Night Rider Needed an On-Board Map?

Those in darker environments, like war rooms or vehicles, benefit greatly from a cartographic style with a diminished base-color intensity, and map features that have a greater contrast with the ambient fill.  It’s easy on the eyes.

In a stroke of great luck, I recently found that if you run an invert filter on the incoming Virtual Earth street map styled tiles, you get a pleasing darkened map with cartographic features denoted in a range of blues.  This is a simple solution to map users who require a map interface for use in a darkened environment.

The solution is performed on the client side in the browser and does not require the creation or use of additional map tiles.  Dark Room users of the world, Invert!


Where Have All the Map Styles Gone? Long Time Passing…

MapPoint "Road Map (Night)" style

Before tiled map services, which require the providers to create and store literally every map image before-hand, cartographic options abounded.  The traditional-WMS method of generating a new map request with every navigation shift is sometimes wasteful and slower, but one gigantic benefit was that it was no big deal to offer tons of map styles -it’s made from scratch anyway, so set some style rules; big deal.  Remember the MapPoint map style library?  That’s "Road Map (Night)" there on the left.  I miss all those styles, but I love tiled mapping; you take the sour with the sweet!

Why should map tile providers like the idea of color-inverting their street map style tiles?  It’s no cost to them.  Tile providers don’t have to create, store, update, support, or provide hooks to terabytes of map tiles.  The tiles are already there; the inversion is rendered on the client end in the browser.  This opens up the rich data of tiled street maps, like Virtual Earth, to clients whose users who need the 007 map style.



Somewhere in NORAD

  • Anyone looking at the same application for much of the day (to reduce the staring into a light bulb all day effect)
  • Coordinators working in low-light environments, like military, police, or the cast of 24
  • Those who’s eyes shift between a computer monitor and the real world -like those in mobile units or cruisers.
  • Users who’s visual priority is fluctuating data draped over the map

    Video Proof


    Here is a video capture of the Virtual Earth Street map tiles color-inverted in our client.  Don’t see it?  Here is a direct link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZO9IZ5utZY0

    Some Snapshots

    Here are some screenshots of the Virtual Earth Street map style color-inverted in our viewer

    John Nelson / IDV Solutions / john.nelson@idvsolutions.com


    John O’Brien, at SoulSolutions, posted a blog at Via Virtual Earth on how to do this in IE, using image filters, long before we imagined it up in Flash.  Oh well, there is nothing new under the sun.  Thanks, John!


    6 responses

    1. John

      Hey I\’m glad you found it useful! Good to see the idea being used. The article you refer to is here:

      December 17, 2007 at 4:21 pm

    2. John M. Nelson

      Thanks for the article link, John!  We had achieved this in our Flash client using an invert filter but we were unsure of how to apply it in a standard, DHTML version.  It looks like your CSS filter only applies in IE, do you know if there are corresponding versions for cross-browser support?

      December 18, 2007 at 4:13 pm

    3. darwin antonio

      Te quiero mucho

      February 14, 2008 at 10:08 pm

    4. Unknown

      Wots this all about

      November 9, 2008 at 3:08 am

    5. Unknown

      Wots this all about

      November 9, 2008 at 3:09 am

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