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Posts Tagged fractal softwares

Fractals: photography or painting?

I was thinking other day… and suddenly this clearly came to my thoughts: fractals are more like photographs than paintings. I’ll try to explain why I think that way.

Fractal images, besides a lot of different interpretations and meanings, are nothing but graphical representations of a certain formula. Pretty much like that algebra class you had in high school. Although it can be artistic and all that (despite some refuse to call fractal art an art but this is another subject), it doesn’t even start (sometimes) with a blank canvas like a painting. You don’t create anything fractal-ish in the sense of inventing it. These graphical representations were all there already.

Algebra

Yes, a fractal is pretty much like that.

Take any fractal formula, say for example the Mandelbrot. It has a few parameters, but let reduce them to 2, X and Y for the sake of better understanding. The resulting image of the combination of the values of parameters X and Y gives you a certain image, the graphical representation of the combination of these parameters. This combination always existed. It was just waiting for someone to “create” the fractal with these values in a fractal generator software and publish it as a JPEG. Pretty much like the picture of a landscape, for example. The landscape was always there, waiting to have its photo taken.

What is a photograph if not a graphical representation of a landscape or a particular object in a specific moment in time, in a certain (constant, sometimes) environment? Take a picture of a mountain. Then the next day, the mountain will still be there, at the same place, in the same coordinates/parameters. If you go there and place your camera in the same position, with the same conditions (parameters) as when you did a day before, chances are that you will get the same or a very close image to the previous image. This is even more correct if you’re taking for example a picture of say a fruit in a studio. You can move your camera a few milimeters away from the original point of the first photo, and it’s about the same as using let’s say values of 0.000001 and 0.000002 for a certain parameter in a fractal. They are “pictures” of a fractal taken in a different condition, but they still keep the same basic subject, the fractal “structure” so to speak, just like the mountain or the car or the apple is the same.

And what about the post-processing? If you take a picture of a model in a studio with a red light today and tomorrow you use the same model, in the same position, but with a green light… it’s the same as using a different color algorithm in a fractal.

A painting is a bit different, because it’s your own interpretation of something, it’s not something that “is there” waiting to be unravelled. Each artist has a different technique and a way to “translate” things to a painting in his own way, some like to make the paintings entirely abstract, some like to make accurate reproductions making it look like a photograph, and although people can add their “personal touches” to fractals, these are more like a camera lens or some other dark room effect added to the image than a real “personal” touch. But this doesn’t mean that fractal artists aren’t creative. I hope I could make myself clear.

The trick I guess is to find the “right side of the mountain”, the correct time of the day to take your picture. The same landscape might look boring today and tomorrow with a few natural “tweaks” (a word constantly used by fractal artists) it can become a masterpiece. Sometimes it’s a matter of luck, sometimes you have some inner voice telling you to explore a new combination/spot, whatever. What is important is what you can do with that – the final work.

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Mandelbulb mountains

Some more stuff done with Mandelbulb 3D. Much probably as I’m late with the software everything I’m seeing and doing has been done already to death, but who cares. Also I’m starting to use a new watermark. I’m glad to see that the length of the visits are getting much longer, which means people are actually spending some time viewing my fractals. Thanks.

Mandelbulb 3D mountains

Mandelbulb mountains

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Some more on fractal movies

I’ve moved the animation that I had saved to a faster computer, but it refused to render, it wasn’t rendering even the very first frame. Time to think a little why it was happening. Maybe some folder permission error, not really a software bug.

In Mandelbulb 3D, in the animation window, you have the option to send back the saved keyframes to the main window (useless feature? Not at all!), so this is what I did. Sent them back, re-rendered each and send them back to the animation timeline, and saved this animation under a new name and in a different folder just to be sure. And it worked.

It’s currently rendering right now with a couple more frames added towards the end of the previous version (but I’ve reduced the number of frames between keyframes from 50 to 25 to see what happens, therefore the movie should be shorter this time) and 150 frames out of a total of 250 are already finished in 18 minutes. Quite an improvement. I think that I can even raise the size of the animations to some sort of “semi-HD” quality. I’ll have to check first if these fractals used here are also faster than others, sometimes when adding a Julia calculation or a “Cutting” things get a bit slower. Anyway, this is much much faster than rendering it in the other computer, that has half of the memory of this one, but the processor is a Celeron while in this other one it’s a quadcore… it’s not RAM that makes the difference here, but the processor. And maybe the video card (I have a Radeon something in the faster computer), but I’m not sure as it doesn’t really help in other softwares like Ultra Fractal to have a faster video card, these cards are more useful with games and… well, 3D processing. Definitely fractals aren’t for slow computers.

One thing that I’ve noticed though even in the preview animation window is that for some reason (or maybe it’s not really happening) is that the keyframes I had already used and all the frames inbetween these are rendered a bit faster than the new added keyframes. Sometimes deeper zooms render a bit slower too, this might be what’s happening as it’s a little deeper in these new frames.

Another thing I’ve noticed that seems to happen at least in this image is that in areas that have a certain depth of field, showing parts of the “sky” (or of a background image), the render gets much slower. The more sky/background, the slower it gets. If the image is filled with just the fractal parts, it goes much faster. The elements that are closer to the camera for example, are rendered much faster in an image that has “sky” parts even though they look much more complex than the plain blue sky behind them. I guess it’s due to the 3D, it has to calculate the distances from for example the border of the fractal to the “horizon” or the “sky”, which is quite far from the camera (I guess this calculation is limited by the iterations as well, it tells the software where the “sky” – the end of the image – is). The difference is brutal. Frames with about 30-40% of “sky” areas can take up to 20 mins to be rendered, maybe more (just one frame!), while others with minimal open areas are rendered in 40 seconds. So a good tip for a fractal animation using Mandelbrot 3D is… avoid these open areas, focus on the fractal details. Which is the most interesting part anyway.

Update: it is really getting slower. Last frames past the #200 are taking 7 mins to be rendered and it’s getting considerably slower from there. Maybe it’s really the zoom, the frame #207 for example has a zoom of 1599946.7something while the very first one is 1x I think or near that. This combined with the lights, shading, etc. make it go slower. And I just found that I’m using the Julia mode and the cutting in this one. Also it seems that the more colours an image have, the more complicated it gets to be rendered. Images that are too colourful like the “Beatle Sugar Cube” below seem to be slower because of the different colours. But sometimes the images need to be that vivid. OK if you like a plain pink shade all over your image, I don’t.

I will try to make some more tests and for example disable the cutting when/if it won’t make a difference in certain keyframes. I think that it works for me more like a guideline if I want to find a Mandelbrot shape inside that mess, for example, or to reveal certain areas of “solid” fractals to see if they have something interesting inside. I’m not sure if I can really reach these internal areas just by zooming in without cutting them first, probably I can’t.

I have read that the common timeframe people spend rendering these animations are “weeks”, so I guess I’m just starting… if I want to add a soundtrack for example, it wouldn’t work if the animation is too short. At 24 frames per second, 2 of these keyframes with the settings I’m using for this new test (25 frames inbetween keyframes) will give me a 2 seconds animation. Do the math.

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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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Mind-Boggling Fractals

While doing the fractal softwares tests I had the opportunity to try one software that was in my list of “I want to try this someday”, Mind-Boggling Fractals. I always liked its colourful images, but never could find even a demo of the software.

Apparently, the author gave up on its development and it is now available for free in that list of fractal softwares. It used to be shareware, and a very expensive one if I can remember, considering what it did. Maybe because you now can replicate most if not all of its effects with some colouring algorithms in UltraFractal (pwc.ucl and kcc3.ucl in UF 4 which is what I use) it was no longer interesting for it to be kept as a separate software.

Anyway, I tried it and I didn’t go too far, I just did 2 images (a relatively deep zoom in a simple Mandelbrot looking for a square midget) and gave up. I think with these 2 colouring methods of UF I can make much more interesting images in that style, if needed. Here are my attempts:

Mind-Boggling Midget

MB-Midget

Mind-Boggling Midget

MB Midget 02

It might make some interesting images, but with UltraFractal I have way more options, as in different formulas. With this specific software, I will be limited to a dozen or so kinds of fractals.

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