Spherical decal problems in PWX

I am trying to create a rendered animation which will include the earth
(the planet earth that is). I need to map a world map onto a sphere.
Unfortunately, I am having trouble getting this to work out accurately.
I am seeing the following problems:
a) Seams where the image wraps around the sphere. I cannot find the
correct combination of variables to get the image to map without a
noticeable seam. It looks as though the image is correctly stretching
around the sphere, except for the seam where the image looks
"squished". It doesn't matter if you type in explicit values for the
image size or use the stretch to fit option, the seam is still there.
This is not acceptable as I was planning to have the model rotate in
the animation so I can't just hide the seam at the far side of the
model. Is there a specific ratio of decal length to width that will
result in a correctly mapped decal with no seam? I suspect that it may
be necessary to use a mask to accomplish this but would prefer not to
have to do endless experiments to get the correct shape.
B) Blurring of the decal when rendered. The decal looks good in the
preview window and when the part is not rendered. The file size is
sufficient to show a good level of detail. However, when the model is
rendered the decal suddenly becomes very pixellated and blurry, almost
like the resolution has been cut in half. I have never seen this
before in PWX.
I am using SWX2006 SP0.
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A flat decal on a spherical surface will get squished, deformed, wrinkled, and/or torn. It just isn't mathematically possible to do without this happening.
You may be able to get the computer to compromise a little better. Try chopping off the poles so that there is a flat at the top and bottom of the "world". Also do the same with your decal.
My theory: While there will still be distortion, you will be avoiding the singularity that occurs when wrapping at the poles.
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