|Xfrog 3.5 - the "full + basic library" edition, is a 3D
graphic program used for the modeling and animation of organic
natural materials such as trees, shrubs, flowers, etc. It also can
be used to create some unusual abstract models. The modeling and
animation version of Xfrog is only available for the Windows
systems. It runs on "all flavors of Windows" and a fully functional
30 day demo can be downloaded. With free plugins you can integrate
your Xfrog creations into the major 3D applications. Xfrog 3.5
comes on a set of 2 DVDs. It also can be downloaded from the web.
On the DVDs is the program to create these models, plugins to the
major 3D programs, as well as a library of 20 different trees in
myriads of different forms. Each DVD contains the 20 trees in
varying 3D format - 3ds, c4d, Iwo, max, mb, xfr, and tif. The
second DVD has files in mtl, obj, obp, and vob format along with
the necessary textures in tif format. In addition, both DVDs have
billboards of the trees and the trees in three perspectives. The
billboards and the perspectives are identical on the two DVDs.
These files can be dragged and dropped into Photoshop. The
resulting image is 800 x 800 pixels at 72 dpi. From the greenworks'
web site, one can download a reference manual and reference manuals
for using the particular plugins for the various 3D programs. There
are also some excellent tutorials on the greenworks' web site and also
from Jan Walter Schliep called the Xfrog
Compendium V.1 which have been incorporated into the Xfrog
site. Rhythm might be a funny word to describe a program, but for
me it describes Xfrog's "plant" creation program. One basically
gets into the rhythm of creating a model. The interface is
customizable. Different sections can be turned on or off so that
there is more room on the screen. For example, the two animation
components can be temporarily toggled off so that the main window
expands. Also, world axes can also be turned on or off, etc.
Xfrog has almost an infinite number or parameters that can be set
so that each part of the model that is being constructed can be
controlled. The way they are organized makes it easy to do. There
are basic settings and then settings that are indigenous to each
component. The PhiBall has settings such as fan settings, radius,
angle while the Tree has categorical settings such as Stem,
Branches, Tropisms. One works in a hierarchical manner. In creating
a tree, I personally found it was best to rough out the tree, which
is in accordance with the greenworks' tutorial on creating the
Young Alder tree, and, then, starting with the first tree element,
the trunk, work to the smallest branch and, lastly, the leaves. To
control the distribution of the first set of branches (Branches1),
which are the ones directly protruding from the trunk, one would
set them from the trunk component. The shape of all the branches in
Branches1, however, would be set from the Branches1 component. For
this reason, I felt a rhythm to the program. After a short period
of time, it became easy to go from one component in the hierarchy
to another and basically feel how they were related. To illustrate
this work flow, look at the pictures below. To create the growth
scale for branches level 2, I worked from the branches level 1
component. The darker tone means it is selected. Notice how much
longer the smaller level 2 branches are in the picture on the
right. Then, notice the state of the solid gray curve in the box.
(The curves can be more precisely determined by clicking on the
word edit which opens them up).
The control one can have can literally be down to the edge of a
branch. Below is an example of manipulation using the density
curve. Notice on the right the bare branch tip and on the left the
leaf covering the branch tip.
Once a model has been completed, it can be exported into the
following 3D formats: shade, obj, dxf, rib, Iwo (6.5), 3ds, and
wrl. The image can be saved as a jpg or a png. Before the tree had
a leaf texture added to it, the leaves were placed on a geometric
"placeholder." Leaves can also be created in other ways.
When the tree was first brought into Vue 5 Infinite, the squares
showed. However, this is not a problem because it is easily fixed.
Walli (Jan Walter Schliep) has written an easy tutorial [in zip format], outlining how to do it,
and adding other ideas for creating great plants from Xfrog and
importing them into Vue. In brief, when in Vue, one creates an
alpha plane with the texture and then moves it onto the default
leaf "placeholder" material. Then, all one does is delete the alpha
plane. However, I suggest going to Walli's tutorial as he explains
it step by step.
Xfrog, of course, can create plants, flowers, shrubs, cacti, etc.
as well as be used to create really fun abstract figures.
Greenworks has a tutorial on their web site showing how to create
and animate a free form "octopi" like being. I created in about 5
minutes a simple abstract form which I animated by just changing a
few parameters. I modeled it after the one in the tutorial that was
mentioned above. Then, using the Cinema 4D plugin for version 8, I
rendered it into an avi and a mov file in Cinema 4D. I did a very
crude render just to see how the plugin worked. Remember, it is
crudely done. I ignored lights and about everything else. The short
clip is called Spinner, and it is in MOV format. The plugin for
Cinema 4D version 8 worked perfectly.
Below you will see some screen captures of some of the different
frames. The original abstract form is on the left.
These frames can, then, be imported into another program and
rendered as still images. This frame was brought into Vue 5
Infinite and rendered very quickly on a low render setting.
Animation is easy to accomplish in Xfrog and the tutorials on
greenworks' web site are very useful especially because they give
hints such as how to create wind blowing through a tree and how to
change the settings at various keyframes for the different
components. The tutorials also encompass creating flowers as well
as animating them. My tree was rather dense and I did not pay
attention to my polygon count as I created it. It turned out to
have 474,507 polygons. On the bottom left of the main window is a
polyslider. It shows the number of polygons in the model. This
model (the Sweetgum tree) could be reduced to 84,389. When
exported, the lower polygon count can be preserved.
While the "break" in the tree, is not too attractive, the tree can
be turned slightly to avoid it. Also, these counts are at the two
extremes. In the coming weeks, I will be reviewing
XfrogTUNE, which shows how to lower the polygon count and
reduce the complexity of the model. The requirements for Xfrog 3.5
are minimal. A PC 400 mhz machine with OpenGL graphic support and
256 of Ram are all that is required. If you purchase the DVDs, you
will obviously need a DVD player. While this program does not work
directly on the Mac, it can be used in the PC emulation mode. Xfrog
comes in a full and lite version. The difference between the full
and the lite version is only the lack of animation capabilities. If
you purchase Xfrog 3.5 Lite and want to do animation at a later
date, you can upgrade to the full version. Two forums are
recommended by greenworks organic-software: Xfrog
user-group on Yahoo, and the Xfrog Forum on Renderosity. While I know I am biased, the
unbiased side of me found the Yahoo format cumbersome. I would like
to see our Renderosity Xfrog forum grow. Xfrog, by greenworks
organic-software, is an exciting program with lots of potential. It
was easier to learn than I thought it would be. In addition, the
learning was fun! I actually had to pull myself away from
playing with Xfrog, and remind myself that I wanted to
explore XfrogTUNE. Just a brief hint on XfrogTUNE, one can really
lower the poly count using XfrogTUNE. Browse the Xfrog site. It is
interesting and fun.
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copied, printed, or reproduced in any manner without written
permission from the artist.
- The Paula Sander's Report is a regular
Renderosity Front Page featured column, where Paula [Renderosity's
Sr. Staff Writer] investigates and comments on graphic software,
techniques, and other relevant material through her reviews,
tutorials, and general articles.