Free custom BirdsEye maps from Google Satellite imagery (and others)

Got an How To Guide you want to share? Please use this section.

Free custom BirdsEye maps from Google Satellite imagery (and others)

Post by mbirth »

This is probably only interesting for 276C(x) users and zumo XT users. Or people that have other Garmin devices.

Garmin never intended people to be able to create custom BirdsEye maps, and thus the devices usually expect some form of unlock code before displaying them. If you have an active BirdsEye subscription, you can let BaseCamp handle the activation by drag&dropping the custom map onto your device.

If you don't have an active subscription, you'll need to patch your device's firmware first. Here's a tool to do that.. (Since you still can't acquire official BirdsEye imagery by using this patch, I don't think it's illegal in any form.) This patch probably won't work on the zumo XT at the moment - but there you have the complimentary BirdsEye subscription to work around that.

Now to create some maps.

Up until yesterday I only knew one rather elaborate way of creating custom BirdsEye imagery using MOBAC to download the desired area and a hand full of other tools to compile the JNX file.

A much easier solution is to use an Ukranian(?) tool called "SASPlanet" which can be downloaded here. Don't feel intimidated by the cyrillic web page - the software itself also has an English language option. The very first link will download the latest stable version. Just unpack the zip file and it's ready for use, no installation needed. Just double-click the SASPlanet.exe.

For me, it already came up with Google Satellite imagery, but you can change to various others via the "Maps" menu.

Once you've found one that you like to convert to BirdsEye format, click the second icon in the toolbar (right of the arrow, left of the ruler) to enter selection mode. Now you can select your desired area by clicking once for the top left corner and a second time for the bottom right corner. After that, a new window should pop up.

First step is to download the required images. On the first tab "Download", you can select the desired zoom levels to download. When browsing the map, you'll see the current zoom level in the bottom left of the window. Higher zoom levels mean more images, more time to download and a larger resulting file. For the area around a big city, I've chosen levels 16, 14 and 12. After making your selection check the expected "Number of tiles" below the map selection drop-down. That's how many files it will have to download. When you're satisfied, click "Start".

Once the download is finished, close the window. Now click the small arrow besides the second icon on the toolbar (the one you clicked earlier). Find the option "Last selection" which will open the dialog pop up again with your previously selected area. Now we can create our BirdsEye file. Select the "Export" tab and choose "JNX raster map for Garmin" from the drop-down box. Then choose where to save the new file in the field below.

On the tab "Map" you can select up to 5 different zoom levels (and even different map sources) to write into the file. In my case, I've enabled 3 layers and added my previously downloaded levels 16, 14 and 12. (Note: Images/Zoom levels you didn't download earlier WILL NOT appear in the final map.) You might want to adjust the "Scale" value a bit as this is when the devices starts showing that layer. E.g. for imagery at zoom level 16, the default is to show it at 200m scale. I prefer to change that to 300m or even 500m to show the detailed images a bit earlier when zooming in. You can leave the checkbox and compression value as is (i.e. unselected/default).

Now check the "Additional" tab. Here you can enter a name for your map and a product name. Both will usually be displayed in the selection of your device. Also note that at least my Fenix 5 can only show one map of each "Product ID". Although it DOES seem to display several maps with the same ID just fine, I can only toggle ALL maps with that ID on/off. So if you want to be able to switch between different BirdsEye maps, make sure to give them different IDs. Also of interest: "JNX version" - you should probably set that to "4" as that's the newer format. This will also enable an option "Z-Order". From what I've noticed, that one becomes only important if you have multiple BirdsEye maps of the same region. Then, if they're all enabled, only the map with the highest Z-Order will be shown.

"Use postprocessing settings" might become useful if you own a Fenix watch. For me, the Google satellite images looked perfectly fine in BaseCamp but after transferring the file to my Fenix 5 Plus, it looked blunt and washed out. Luckily, you can adjust the colours with that option. In the main program's settings (menu "Settings" --> "Options") there's a tab "View" which has the postprocessing settings. Usually, they're neutral, i.e. Gamma 1.0 and contrast +/- 0%. For my Fenix, I had to change these to Gamma 0.7 / Contrast +50% for the best results. Enabling "Use postprocessing settings" will make sure to apply these settings to the images before creating the JNX file.

Once you're satisfied with your selections, click the "Start" button and the BirdsEye map will be created.

You can drag the resulting file onto your device into a "BirdsEye" folder (that's usually inside the "GARMIN" folder - if not, create it). Or let BaseCamp manage that.