Introducing FerryMan Fractal
July 4, 2007 11:13 pm
It's always exciting to find new freeware to play with. I have always been amazed at the hard work and dedication of program writers that toil endless hours to give us new digital tools, and for free! After reading a post about FerryMan Fractal, I felt compelled to find out more. This turned into a quick interview and follows with an introduction to FerryMan Fractal from the program's author, Span Zhang.
Nick: What led you to design FerryMan Fractal?
Span: One day in the year 2005, I found several fractal images on the Internet. They attracted me the most. After a google search on the term "fractal," I realized that fractal art is generated by mathematical algorithms and fractal images can be enlarged without losing detail. This looked so fun to me. About three weeks later, I implemented a simple computer program named spanFractal to generate fractal images. Later, when I had coffee time, I gave it to the program. One year later, FerryMan Fractal 1.0 was released to the Internet as freeware. I gave an abbreviation of FMF to it.
Nick: What is it that sets your program apart from other fractal programs?
Span: When I was developing the program, I did a wide research on fractal programs. All the features I added to it were intended to shorten the distance from math to art and give more possibilities and controls to the process of generating fractals.
I think FMF is the best freeware fractal generator for two reasons. The first one, FMF is so flexible. It has a delicate framework of generating fractal images. FMF is the only program that supports layer groups. Players can build fractal images in so many ways. The second one, FMF is so expandable. Fractal algorithms are enclosed in plugins. Based on a so-called Fibrics interface, plugin developers can do everything in fractal components.
Advanced GUI interaction tools can easily be integrated into FMF, thus the user can put more attention to his art design instead of math formulas. When given a point, FMF will produce a corresponding RGB color at your desire. This is the core of FMF. So, any algorithms, for example ray tracing, can be integrated into FMF. Besides this, FMF is not only a fractal generator. It has a gallery management tool as well. As you can see, more tools will be added.
Nick: How long have you been involved in computer graphics?
Span: About 4 years. The first time I was involved in computer graphics was when I designed a particle system based screensaver 4 years ago.
Nick: What do you see in the future for FerryMan?
Span: FMF has a strong and flexible basis. More and more interesting tools will be added to it and more and more art features will be integrated into it. Players can design more structured fractals and other computer generated images in various ways.
Nick: How did you come to the name FerryMan Fractal?
Span: Fractals use mathematical algorithms to produce images. The front side is art and the back side is math. Fractal players are just like ferrymen. We are always ferrying between math and art. So comes the name FerryMan Fractal.
Welcome to FMF's wonderful world! This is a powerful and flexible fractal generator for your creative artwork design. The newest version of FMF is writen in Visual C++ 2005, which is the most powerful programming environment that Microsoft provides. The source code of FMF is designed for all 32-bit MS Windows platforms, such as 2000, XP/2003 and Vista. With all components enclosed, the setup file is only 1.45M in size.
Besides the small installation file size, FMF is also light and flexible in its software implementation structure. All algorithms, including coloring, iterator, escaper and color pipeline, are managed under a plugin structure. That means, fractal algorithms are enclosed as fractal components in plugins as binary information. Designers use fractal components without knowing their inner implementation details. Plugin developers thus can keep their algorithms unknown to the public. Besides this, plugin's can do more things to everything. Well designed fractal components are just like standalone editors. For example, with the 'Free Panel' coloring algorithm, you can design your fractals by your mouse. And with 'Script Panel' you can construct your fractal scene by writing a script.
As you can see, FMF's workspace is capable of containing not only FMF's fractal documents, but also HTML pages. This is an important function to integrate more interesting tools into FMF. For example, in the main menu of Tools, you can find a 'Browse Gallery...' item. These tools are designed for your convenience when designing fractals and managing them on your disks. So, FMF is an integrated fractal design and management environment. The new version of FMF can be more powerful to your fractal life with more and more useful tools integrated. Please check out the examples that come with the FMF program in the welcome page. They can give you an initial impression of what I, the author of the program, have done with FMF.
Two interface languages, Simplified Chinese and English, are provided. You can switch your operation language at any time. If the fractal components you used in your fractal document support multi-language, the property editor will show the text as you expected. So, if someone created a fractal document under a Simplified Chinese environment and released its parameter text to the internet, anyone who pasted the released text to his/her FMF will see the right language in FMF's Property Editor. Thus, fractal designers all over the world can share their ideas without language gaps.
FMF use layers and groups to structure fractal documents. A layer is the leaf of the document tree, it contains a fractal complex number iteration and produces colors. A group contains some layers or groups, its colors are formed by blending its children one by one. In this situation, the whole fractal image is a special group to some extent. A fractal image's colors are blending results of its children. FMF provides so many blending algorithms that can be applied to layers and groups. Some of them are invented by the author. For example, the gray and reverse gray blending algorithm. These blending algorithms give you more posibilities to create interesting results and let you have a more powerful control on your fractal image. Besides these good things, FMF can blend colors in both RGBA and HSLA color space. All components can be blended individually to get a new result. Thus you can easily make masks in FMF.
FMF is a WYSWYG (What You See is What You Get) fractal editor. You can apply anti-aliasing at design time to every level of your document. That means, you can specify an anti-aliasing factor to the whole image, or to individual layers or groups. When drawing fractal images in 'Min Memory' mode, you could create very large images in dimensions of 20000 x 20000 and above. The next version of FMF is focused on anti-aliasing and render to disk functions. The purpose is to speed up the drawing process and produce bigger images.
Some basic functions, including Select, Zoom In, Zoom Out and Clip, are provided. You can select an area at a specific width/height ratio, or just freely. The Zoom In and Zoom Out can be applied to the whole image, to linked layers, or just the current selected object. This design shows the flexibility of the software at another aspect.
If you are not satisfied with the colors produced by a layer or blended result of a group, you can create a color pipeline to change them at a desired direction. All levels of fractal objects, including layer, group and image, have their own color pipeline. FMF includes several commonly used color tone components, such as: Brightness and Contrast, Gamma Correction, Color Balance, Gray Scale, Transparency, etc.
In FMF's layers, iterators play an important role in the iteration process. Iterators can be used as five types, namely: Start Mapper, Iterator, Coloring Filter, Escaper Filter, and Index Filter. Start Mappers map the start point to a new place. Iterator is the standard iterator in classic complex fractal iteration. Coloring Filters take effects when complex samples are ready for coloring algorithms.
Another interesting function of FMF is to specify effects to groups or the top-level images. This is something like post processing. When a group is designed okay with its children blended rightly and some ideas, for example, how about a lake effect on the group, come to you, then you can get it by applying a Lake fractal component to the group. To change the group's 'Effect Coordinates' can change the viewport of the effects. A group can have serveral effects applied in order and its effects will influence the whole sub-tree.
Layers/Groups can be stored individually to a FML file and loaded to the fractal document again at any time. This is the way FMF manages styles. You may create some of your own styled layers and save them to your disk for future use. For example, a signature layer with your own signature displayed at the right bottom corner. Or, a frame group that adds a frame to your fractal image as an artistic border. Different artists may create different styles. It all depends on the players' art direction.
At some time, you may want to show your friends your fractal artwork. But for copyright safety consideration, you finally give it up. FMF manages this situation by adding a password authorization to each fractal tweak. You can create your new version of fractal image after you get a parameter set from others if you have the right authorization. Once you want to release a parameter set to the public, you can choose to set a password to prevent editing, or just showing the image. And with the tweaks management mechanism, you can make several versions of fractal images in one single document.
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I am Chinese and my English name is Span. This name has a three-year history now. I like this name because it means extending or bridging something, or broadening my perspective in both techniques and arts. That's what I wanted. So, based on computer techniques, I am creating visual artworks. Probably the best way to get to know me is through my art. More...
August 6, 2007