Welcome to our ‘Plants‘ themed issue, in which we look at the making of digital 3D plants with great software such as PlantFactory, and also the digital depiction of plants as they might exist on alien planets or even in some weird fantasy greenhouse.
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Inside this issue
DANIEL SEEBACHER We talk with Daniel Seebacher about the amazing plants that can be made with e-on’s unique PlantFactory. PLANTFACTORY | VUE ― PlantFactory‘s [node based] workflow allows to create any model which exhibits self-repeating, so called ‗fractal‘ patterns and structures, which mostly happen to occur in nature, and especially in plants. … Everything is happening through [node] parameters only. FRANK LITTLE Frank carefully designs and hand-crafts his amazing alien plants, and is now also making their symbiotic creatures. MAYA | MUDBOX ― Early on I gathered photos for textures, but for the most part I’ve switched to Substance. I sometimes use Megascans as well — a fantastic service, though I limit how I use it. It’s important to me that I model what I can, when it’s meant to be a unique creation. BRITTA JACOBS Britta Jacobs makes her work with Vue high in the Swiss mountains, while also exploring the new AI art generating tools. VUE | AI ART TOOLS ― To me AI machines are a fascinating and inspiring way of creating art, and I look at them as another tool. They can help when your muse is sleeping or as something relaxing to play with. … I love to paint over landscapes in Artbreeder, add elements to the story I see. Also find inside…
- ALIEN 3D PLANTS
- BACK ISSUES
Excerpt Interview with Daniel Seebacher We‘re pleased to be able to talk with e-on‘s expert Daniel Seebacher about their PlantFactory software and its many possibilities. Can the software also make amazing science-fiction plants? Read on and find out…
DAL: Daniel, welcome to Digital Art Live magazine. Thanks for taking time to do an interview about the unique and very capable plant modeller software from e-on software, called PlantFactory. DS: Hi, thanks for having me. I am happy to be back at Digital Art Live. DAL: Great. Ok, now to start… not all our readers are familiar with PlantFactory. The name of the software is fairly self-explanatory I think — it‘s a quick and relatively easy way of crafting and generating realistic 3D plants. But how would you describe the software to a 3D-savvy non-user, briefly? DS: PlantFactory is a procedural modelling software for quickly creating complex, organic models through a network of connected nodes. A node is a building-block that generates a certain 3D primitive shape, for example a cylinder. You then edit the parameters of this node to shape that primitive into any shape you want, for example into a tree trunk or a branch. Because everything is happening through parameters only, and not through classical modelling approaches such as creating loop cuts and extrusions manually, the process is non-destructive. You can always go back, change a setting and the software will recompute the model. By then connecting up the multiple nodes — which means primitive 3D shapes — in a node graph, you eventually assemble the complete model. Whenever you connect one node to another one, you can ‗clone‘ the generated primitive mesh and generate as many copies of it as you need. For example, you would create one node for the trunk and one node for all the branches growing out from the trunk. When you then connect the branch node to the trunk node, you can instruct PlantFactory to create dozens of branch copies that grow from the trunk. DAL: I see. So the user is not having to craft each individual branch shape… DS: Then… by editing the parameters of just one branch node, all branch copies then update automatically. And because each parameter can have a random variation assigned to it, each branch can be automatically randomized within the range the artist allows for a completely unique, organic model. DAL: Thanks. That‘s very succinct. So, that makes it easy to create something like a tree with a few nodes. Join them together, add a little random variation. Great. Ok… now let‘s talk about you for a moment though, please, as I think that some readers will be curious about what your role with PlantFactory at e-on is and what that involves? DS: Yes, sure. I work at e-on software / Bentley Systems as Product Marketing Specialist. This is a hybrid role encompassing two distinctively different area. On the one hand it involves the classic Marketing Manager tasks such as sending newsletters, website maintenance, marketing campaigns, content marketing, working closely with the sales department and more. On the other hand it means Product Engineering and Product Evangelist tasks such as creating tutorials, specifying new features for VUE & PlantFactory together with the developers, beta testing and content creation. DAL: Wow, quite a workload… DS: Yes, basically I am involved in many different areas, which keeps the job challenging, but also exciting. Recently, I also learned database-driven Web development techniques, so that I could code our new Learning Center and get it up and running.
DAL: Yes I saw that come online recently. It came up in search and I added it to my special Google CSE that’s for hobbyist 3D sites of the Poser / DAZ / Vue type. Learning Center looks very nice, with a good range of short videos. Ok, so your explanation was very clear in terms of your role, thanks. I should add that I know Vue 2016 fairly well, but I‘m not familiar with PlantFactory other than by seeing videos of it in action. Thus some of my questions are going to be what many readers in a similar situation might ask.
Such as… it‘s not just garden plants the software can make? It‘s trees, grasses, crops, fruits, mushrooms… and presumably the software can also model other biological structures? Spores, viruses? What‘s the full range, in terms of emulating nature?
DS: In a nutshell, PlantFactory‘s workflow allows to create any model which exhibits self-repeating, so called ‗fractal‘ patterns and structures, which mostly happen to occur in nature, especially in plants. But some users have modelled amazing non-organic objects as well, for example fences, chains and more.
DAL: I see. So it‘s highly flexible, and not just constrained to the more conventional plants. Ok, let‘s turn now more to the user-groups for this unique software. 3D creatives are one set of users, we know. But I would assume it‘s now even of use to traditional botanical artists? I mean… if they can model down to the level of things that might not show on a photograph?
So, an example — let‘s say they have a photo of the Lesser-spotted Pangolian Tree-Creeping Vine, from 30 feet away growing high in a tree. Which was the closest the photographer could get in the middle of dark and steaming Pangolian rain-forest. But they also have a precise scientific diagram of the very rare seed and pressed-flowers of that plant, which were taken to a museum in 1867… so then they could bring those together to craft a more complete 3D model from which they then make their fine traditional-style illustration? That sort of thing?
DS: Theoretically, there‘s no limit how detailed a PlantFactory model can get. You can just chain node-after-node for maximum flexibility. But as always with 3D, you will eventually reach a point where you will have to find the sweet spot between detail vs. performance.
Because of the hierarchical nature — no pun intended — of trees or other plants, each tiny detail you create at a high level in the hierarchy will increase the computation times and polygon count exponentially, because it is multiplied by all nodes that come before it. For example, if you wanted to model a fine layer of hairs on the underside of a leaf, just adding three hairs to the leaf node could make your polygon counts explode. Because these three hairs would be repeated across the thousands of leaves that you might have in your tree. So to get back to the original question, yes, PlantFactory is capable of an incredible amount of detail. But in practical terms, you will have to make compromises for performance reasons.