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My thoughts on a certain calendar

I hope this post doesn’t bring any negativity or haters. I’ve seen this happen when the subject was so delicate (to some people) like this. But here we go.

I had read in another blog – which I won’t mention here which one  it is just because of these fights and haters, but it has been mentioned here a couple times and I do share many of their thoughts about how and where the fractal art is going – about how the Fractal Calendar was becoming sort of a… how to put it lightly… commercial product supposedly open to the fractal artists community to participate, but a project where just a few people had the chance to participate. And it’s always been the same people over and over, year after year. This is what I had read, remember. As I’m not involved with these groups, I just know the names of some of these artists and saw that there was really some sort of repetitive list of fractal artists that seemed to appear quite often. Then, it was also commented that the images chosen to appear in such calendar were getting more and more boring and common and were not displaying the “good” fractal art (whatever that is), but just the eye-candy, with the same style that is typical of that specific group of “chosen ones”.

Today, when I was going to the Fractal Forums website to get the latest Mandelbulb version for my other computer, I typed a wrong address that took me apparently to the official site for the Fractal Calendar. And they had 3 galleries for the 2009, 2010 and 2011 editions with the images. And now I could see with my own eyes that this was very much true, the images are indeed boring and repetitive. They aren’t ugly, though. But 12 images of common spirals and Doodads? I can do that too. Sometimes better. Many others can do that as well.

I think that the last time I had checked for the images in that calendar was around 2003, when I even submitted some images (silly me…). The same group of people seemed to dominate the choices of approved images back then, but the images were much more better and diverse. Now, they’re just as I’ve said, common spirals and Doodads. Sad, really.

Not that these artists aren’t talented and can’t make good images, the problem I see – IMHO – is that the images are far from being fresh, creative and daunting or even “updated”, they are just something that seem to have been done to fit a certain commitment, “we must do the calendar, you are the chosen artists, just send me anything in time and that’s fine”.

With the huge ammount of fractal softwares – and fractal kinds  so to speak – now available, it’s sad to see that they have chosen just common spirals done in Ultra Fractal. No Apophysis, no old-school Fractint images, no new styles like the Mandelbulbs. And just spirals. While the time in the calendar goes on for all of us, the quality of its images seem to be going back in time. Or the clock seems to have stopped in 2002 for the people that are responsible to choose the images.

A small disclaimer: I don’t know any of the artists involved in the making of the images chosen for the calendar in any way other than occasionally viewing fractal galleries where their images are displayed, in their own websites or in other galleries in other websites. I don’t have any particular “hate” for any of these neither had any personal fights with any of these artists and this wasn’t a personal attack on anyone (before any of these haters that like to keep starting flame wars in the aforementioned blog find an excuse in this post to start some more of these wars), this was just my personal opinion on the Fractal Calendar (to which you are entitled to disagree) and my comments are mostly made about the way it’s made and conceived and how its images are chosen, not about the talent or the quality of any of these fractal artists involved.

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Mandelbulb compositions?

From my few experiences with the Mandelbulb, most of the images I could make so far that didn’t look like something that has been done by other fractal artists or that don’t look too much like other fractals remind me of coral reefs. A lot of them, actually. Or it’s a coral reef or it’s a futuristic building. Not bad, because I am not really stuck or am being forced into a certain picture style neither I have the need to make just common 3D fractal images by the dozens (that many other people are doing anyway), but it would be very interesting if there was a way to import some other 3D objects (non-fractal stuff) into that, like for example… fish.

This could lead though to a lot of cheesy mixed images like some we see at these online communities, with odd Poser nude girls mixed with colourful fake landscapes done in Bryce and some Apophysis things scattered here and there for a final touch, but if used right and done right, it would make things very interesting in this new 3D realm.

Also in images like these futuristic cities some other details could be added – spaceships, “cars”, fractal trees, people, ETs… again, without making it look too much like some of these furry porn characters, that look more like a bad acid trip than something really creative and ingenious.

There is a way to import background pictures in Mandelbulb 3D, but these are useful only to create sky textures I suppose, with a few planets and clouds. If there was a way to add actual 3D objects, things would get a bit more interesting sometimes, if one wants to move a bit away from the chaos and fractals and the random abstract things. In these reef images for example, 3D fish or other critters could really make the images very interesting. But again, purists would cry their hearts out saying it’s not a fractal (it isn’t… nobody said it was in the first place!).

I’ll start posting some of these images as soon as I have about half a dozen of them, maybe they will have their own galleries as they are of a different kind of fractals. I need to get better with the software first, I’m having some difficulties to understand its rendering parameters and I’m getting some images with artifacts and grains and other unwanted things that are ruining some possibly interesting images. As there still aren’t good tutorials on Mandelbulbs, I’m still lost and going on my own.

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Mandelbulb’s Green City

I guess I’m getting the hang of it. Warning: this is HUGE (3072 X 2304 pixels originally) but it was needed to keep up all the details, as with most fractal images the bigger they are rendered the better they look. You can see building complexes, airport tracks, green fields, playgrounds, penthouses, bridges… the whole thing but humans and dogs. I am now going to look for more coloring maps…

The watermark was hard to be placed, there wasn’t any part of this image that I wanted to be covered because in everywhere there’s a different detail to be seen, so I tried to find the least obtrusive place in the image as possible, I tried a few different positions and a few more watermarks but all the places had something that I didn’t want to be covered.

Please be kind and don’t use this image elsewhere without permission (asking first doesn’t hurt!) neither crop the watermark or replace it with your own. As I said in some old post, there’s no point in adding restrictions for preventing the download of images (or the plain old stealing) like that, and a watermark is the most useful method.

The image was compressed to reduce its final size (it was over 20Mb in .BMP) and also to prevent unauthorized reproductions with good quality, but you still can enjoy it as is. If you want an uncompressed version for any reason, “ask and you shall receive”. I’m not sure because I’m not familiarized with the Mandelbulb software but I think this is the biggest image size that is available for rendering, neither I don’t know if when it’s rendered in JPEG if it’s already compresed in some degree, I just rendered it in BMP and reconverted to JPEG. I’ll have to render an image with some more solid blocks (mostly in red) to see if there’s any compression, large solid red blocks seem to be more useful to show the JPEG compression artifacts.

The file size of the bigger image is about 2.5 Mb. Click the thumbnail to get the bigger version and use some viewing software where you can travel all over the city so you don’t miss any of the details.

Mandelbulb's Green City

Mandelbulb's Green City

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Fractal Gallery 36

Again it’s mostly the old-school images. Most of them where done with the Orgform formula collection, some were done with the fract_ml (I guess) collection which is a collection of formulas used in images submitted to the Fractint mailing list from what I could get.

I refused to try any enhancements on them using UltraFractal this time (but it doesn’t mean I won’t rework some of these images), and I’ve used UF just to render them in bigger sizes and to make them smoother because of the colour number limitations of Fractint, as usual.

There are some images that just don’t work, or it’s because of a certain parameter used in Fractint isn’t available in UF (like the “one” and some others like “cosxx”, usually replacing them with “cos” works) or because some of Fractint’s native colouring methods don’t work that well in UF (like the epsiloncross, and sometimes just replacing the outside/inside with the UF equivalent doesn’t work). Sometimes it’s just a matter of a small tweak, sometimes it doesn’t work at all no matter what you do.

Some images are entirely different when rendered in UF and are missing most of its main”theme” parts when they really don’t work, so I’ve decided to render these that can’t be fixed at all using Fractint. They had to be rendered in GIF, 256 colours, using disk render and 1600 x 1200 resolutions and later converted to JPEG. Unfortunately, if the original image had some imperfections like bandings, these can’t be fixed, but I guess most of them look fine as they are. Some of these imperfections even make them look more authentic and “vintage”.

I’ve named them using sort of a template, something like “OF-XX” where “OF” means “Orgform” and XX is the number of the image, or “OS-XX”, “OS” meaning “old school”. In specific images, I’ve used the “regular” naming, if they were really asking for a name. But as they are mostly abstract images, the template method works.

Enough talking, here we go:

PS. I didn’t edit the tags and details of these images yet, will do that later.

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The chosen ones, part VII

From Gallery 14, “Halo”:

This is one of my favourite images. People tend to say it’s very “spiritual”, even though they don’t know its real name, which could really be suggestive. It was the first image I sent to the exhibition(s) in Spain, and it looked gorgeous printed in a big size and framed. It was my first experience of printing a fractal bigger than the more common and easy A4/A3 sizes, and I was really surprised. The bigger you print them, the more details appear, all the time. It happens to even some of the ugliest images, when they are seen printed in a big size and framed, they change.

I had a few problems with the brazilian mail service though. They charged me a very expensive fee to send it to Spain, and the glass of the frame came there broken (silly me, I used glass, should have tried something else). They said (obviously) that it wasn’t their fault, despite all the huge FRAGILE signs attached to the package. Since then whenever I need to send some of my fractals elsewhere I try to send it unframed and make all the framing job in the destination. It’s more expensive to do the framing in places like Europe or USA, but it’s safer. Framing them here is quite complicated, people aren’t used to frame this kind of work and I had a couple damaged prints, not to mention all the problems with the shipping – and I didn’t use the cheapest option!

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