BACKGROUND and PHILOSOPHY
Our names are Oliver Deussen and Bernd Lintermann and together we have created thru extensive research the fundamental concepts of “Plant Modeling” and “Digital Ecosystems”. After we published our research in 1998 on those topics(please see below), we, together with Stewart McSherry, formed Greenworks Organic Software to move our research into publically available software and plant models.
Since the beginning our only objective has been to develop new research, and thru that, build useable organic software, and with that software, build plants that are as realistic as possible.
We have always used our own tools and the same botanical modeling team since we started. The software and plants have gotten pretty decent over the past 14 years.
It is important for us to mention that the Xfrog approach is procedural – they have no triangles, no quads, of Euclidean geometry.Polygons exist to represent man-made objects. This goes back to Descartes’ breakthrough idea of x,y,z coordinates and Euclid’s quest to represent what was around him with the theoretical ideas of “point”, “line” and “triangle”.
The problem is, is that none of these things are found in Nature. You don’t have any straight lines in Nature. Go ahead, try to find one. Ergo, you don’t have any triangles either. And no, before you say it, the world is not made out of fractals…
The World is thankfully a very big mystery but some math, as Descartes classified, can help us from going nuts in the world around us. Don’t worry, I am not about to try and debunk “Point”, “Line” and “Triangle”. Without Descartes and Euclid, none of us would have jobs, nor would I be writing this. BUT the math that generally helps with Nature is not a nicely built theory of “first you have a point then a set of points (line) then a group of lines (triangle)…. then a render farm with billions of triangles.”
In Nature it is generally a set of processes such as branching, spiraling, gravity, crookedness, golden section, golden mean, DaVinci, Divinity, Aliens, and yes a awful lot of this is iterative structures and who knows what else. Environmental processes are big: Dirt, Wind, Sun, Fire, play a major factor in plant and ecosystem development.
Plants are extremely mysterious and yet can be very self-iterative too: they grow their branching system and leaves in such a way that the leaves mimic the entire tree. Try looking at a maple leaf and the outline shape of a maple tree. Some trees emit every branch at precise angle to the previous branch and each branch emitting from the main trunk is in a precise golden section pattern, yet other trees don’t follow these rules at all. Some trees have one main trunk, others have no main trunk. There are so many different trees. Some loose leaves every winter, some never do. They all grow from a seed. Somehow codes in that little seed is their whole iterative sequence.
And who knows where we fit in, we are little monkeys trying to develop algorithms to mimic those Nature-sequences and giving that to other monkeys to twiddle with and create billions of triangles that need supercomputers to make eye-candy out of. And at the end of the day, are we even close to a photograph of a majestic redwood? or a blade of grass? not really, but it is our human quest to create, and to seek truthful answers to the mysteries of life.
The basic message here in this rather exhaustive set of words is that it is not really fun or useful to try and loft, extrude, or revolve a tree using the software package you have hammered your mouse through since you were 20. It is however perhaps useful to install our free 30 day trial (for Cinema4D, Maya or standalone) and start with something that does Branching and allows you to tweak the settings radically so that you don’t have straight lines anywhere.
You get to start with our somewhat established and rigidly defined set of algorithms(see our papers) that you adjust the variables for until they approximate the plant you want to make. Branching and Spiraling and Gravity, are fairly key to this. That is how we create to make our (as of today) 3,000 plants. We then save that as a set of parameters, it is a page or two of text file which is our “.xfr” Xfrog file.
Feel free to download a free sample plant, open one up and look inside. When you export the .xfr or simply open one of our many, many, formats of 3d files – then you have your familiar polygons all set up with good shading networks and proper light reflectivity on the bark and leaves (which we have scanned from the real plants and applied as textures). And of course the more of those polygons you have, the better the approximation of the (non-linear, non-polygonal) Natural plant is going to be.
Luckily since Xfrog and XfrogPlants are procedural, they have a long shelf-life. You can re-export them in future years at a higher poly count, (or edit their precision downwards for real time use).
Our company has grown in revenue every year since starting in Karlsruhe, Germany in 1996, then a highly productive 12 years in Berlin, and in 2008 we moved
to the United States, where we now thrive in Malibu, California as Xfrog, Inc.
Please click any of the below links to read our publications which were the first papers in the research fields of “Plant Modeling” and “Digital Ecosystems” or see more diverse Plant and Ecosystems Publications within our Research pages.
Lintermann, B., Deussen, O.
A Modelling Method and Interface for Creating Plants
Computer Graphics Forum, vol 17, number 1, march 1998
Deussen O, Hanrahan P., Lintermann B.,Mech R., Pharr M., Prusinkiewicz P
Realistic Modeling and Rendering of Plant Ecosystems
SIGGRAPH ’98, Orlando, Florida, July 1998
Deussen O., Lintermann B.,Mech R., Pharr M., Prusinkiewicz P
Digital Design of Nature: Computer Generated Plants and Organics
und auf Deutsch:Computergenerierte Pflanzen: Technik und Design digitaler Pflanzenwelten
Xfrog Software and XfrogPlants have been developed over the past 16 years.
Botanical experts, who love trees, have shaped our software development since day one, and they have used our software over the past 12 years to build 3,000 “XfrogPlants” plant models.