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Let nature take its course and grow natural 3D trees for visualization, art and film. Simulate the seasons in interactive steps. Each year growing, bending and pruning to evolve majestic trees. Build high quality models that are lightweight to render. The Grove’s unique way of distributing hand modeled twigs brings incredible detail and flexibility.
Mimic any tree’s character using growth parameters such as branch angle, gravitropism and gnarliness. One single set of parameters defines the tree’s entire life from sapling to hero tree. Play with this DNA to mix up species, even while growing. Control the flow of sugar and hormones to make your creation compete for light. Interact with an environment to attract, deflect and block new growth. Nurture your tree like mother nature.
Quick start your tree. Alder, Ash, Birch, Linden, Maple, Oak, 14 presets capture a variety of tree forms. Thousands of species are just a couple of tweaks away. Integration with Blender adds all the power of a full 3D application. Trees come to life in the Cycles GPU renderer. Import twigs from you favorite modeler – export trees to your favorite renderer. Blender is the ideal host for the Grove on Linux, Mac and Windows.
Simulate the seasons
Let nature take its course and watch trees develop into beautiful shapes. Mimic any tree’s character with intuitive parameters taken straight from the woods.
To learn how to grow your own 3d trees, first get up to speed with terminology in the arboreal world. A branch consists of nodes connected by internodes. Each node represents the place along the branch where a leaf grows. Between the leaf and the branch grows a bud, the embryonic beginning of yet a new branch.
The number of nodes a branch grows depends on its health, its species, the age of the tree and growth hormones. Willows are well known for their long twigs with lots of nodes. Which brings us to twigs, new branches grown this year. Except on evergreen trees, twigs are the only branches to carry leaves. Twigs turn into branches when the live to see another year. A characteristic of older branches is that they turn woody. Moving on, the branch that started the whole tree is the trunk.
- Interface and Presets
The interface guides the artist by following the same order as the simulation it steers. At the top you can Fell (chop down) your current tree and pick a Quick Start preset species. Then continue down. There are thousands of tree species and cross species. A small number of those species are well known to everybody, like oak, willow and linden. Those are going to be the trees you need to create most, as they are most common. Their growth parameters are a good starting point for any cross species. Studying these will soon teach you each parameter’s impact on a tree’s shape.
Watch heavy branches bend under the weight they carry. Bend fresh twigs to the sky, or droop them under leaf weight to create pendulous trees.
- Bend branches under weight
Gravity has a big impact on the shape of trees. As branches bend down, the shape of the crown is in constant change. Bending affects the distribution of branches. Some get pulled apart, others get closer together. As leaves cast shadow on branches beneath, bending determines the light each branch gets. It thus affects which branches are successful and which will drop. Bending is a feature unique to the Grove and greatly improves realism when you get it right.
Branch weight controls the bending of branches under their own weight. Bending at each node increases with the amount of nodes it carries. And it decreases with branch thickness and branch verticality. As branches grow in width, they strengthen and thereby Limit bending.
- Leaf weight
Young twigs carry a large weight relative to their thickness and strength. On trees like weeping willows and some birches, this causes drooping. On others, twigs can carry their leaves with ease. The stronger tendency to grow away from gravity causes an upward tropism. Leaf Weight controls this and can be both negative to bend twigs up, and positive to bend twigs downward.
On trees like birches, young twigs are quite thin, yet they carry many leaves. Other trees have thicker twigs and tend to grow upward toward the light. Using a negative weight allows this effect.
Witness branches compete for light. Drop them when too little is available. Evolve your trees into airy branching structures.
- Grow feature illustration
Almost every bud on a tree grows a twig. If a tree would keep growing them all, it would become a thick green ball collapsing under its own weight. To escape this horrible fate it drops all but the most successful twigs.
The Grove uses bending and pruning to evolve airy trees. Pruning is the exact opposite to space colonization and yields far more natural results. At the cost of more calculation time. Incredible amounts of twigs are grown and almost as many don’t survive winter. This takes time, and its the way of nature.
- Collecting shadows
There are two pruning parameters that are dependent on each other. With the right settings, the tree prunes itself right at every year of its life.
It starts with a Radius in which to look for other twigs that cast shadow on the current twig. A bigger radius yields a lighter tree. Leaves with more surface area cast more shadow. So increase the pruning radius on big leaved species. Increasing this parameter also requires tweaking the prune threshold.
So a twig’s fate is determined by looking above to see if there’s any leaves shading it. The influence each leaf has increases with its proximity to the twig. A leaf that is close above has an influence of almost 1. If a leaf is at the boundary of the prune radius, it will have almost no influence. When the sum of influences exceeds Shadow Threshold, the twig will have had too little light. It will drop.
Regulate growth by controlling the flow of juice. Favor current or sub branches, with a bias to the base or crown.
- Control the flow
Trees regulate growth with hormones. Different parts of a tree synthesize these hormone molecules. Hormones get distributed through the branches and have an effect on each cell they reach. They are a means of communciation.
Terminal buds produce the Auxin hormone. It tells side branches further down the branch to keep low. This helps the tree expand and win the race for light. The scientific name for this is Apical Dominance. Simulate the Auxin hormone with Favor Current.
Favor Crown boosts crown growth over lower branches. Or go the other way and pump all left over energy into the lower branches. Negative values up until -1.0 create heavy side branches and a less apparent main trunk.
Branching Loss controls the inefficiency of the structure of a branching point. Lowering growth power for each successive branching generation. This results in less growth in current branches and more growth in side branches. It fills up the crown in a shrub like fashion.
On older branches, only a thin outer layer just beneath the bark is alive and keeps growing out. Everyting else is dead tissue that acts like a sponge. It sucks up water up until it can’t beat gravity. No water means no growth. Different trees have different inner structures, it determines their Peak Height. When a tree reaches Peak Height, the growth power of the apical bud will be zero.
Set up an environment to attract, deflect or stop new growth. Avoid buildings, simulate a dominant wind direction and grow inside a shape.
- Forces of nature
The shape of your 3D tree was so far based on genetics. Now it’s time to add a second influence, its environment. There are several ways in which an environment object can interact with the trees you grow. It can Block growth when a branch approaches too close. It can Deflect growth as if casting shadow. The tree reacts by bending away, toward light. It can also Attract growth, as if it were a light. You can combine these interaction types to get the effect you want to achieve.
This is a good place to clear a common misconception. Plants do not grow toward direct sunlight. If they would, they would all lean south. They would soon lose balance, gravity would not be in their favor. Plants bend only to indirect sunlight, the light bouncing around the sky all around us. It is the blue color that a plant senses and loves.
Type the name of the object to interact with into the Environment text field. A simple mesh object with just several polygons can have a striking effect. Or use the stylized shape of a building to avoid it. Use complex shapes to create a topiary.
With the object selected, its name appears in the lower left of the 3D viewport. If the Grove can’t find an object by that name, you see a warning below the Environment field. The object has to be on a visible layer for interaction to work.
The Attract and Deflect interaction types have a Radius of influence. When a branch grows within this proximity, it gets influenced by the environment. The closer it gets, the more powerful this effect becomes. The Force parameter multiplies this influence.
Pull out all stops on detail and build a realistic 3D tree model from your simulation. Twigs complete your tree to a lightweight model full of intricate berries and flowers.
- Bend feature illustration
After growth, the simulation data structure serves to build a 3D tree model. Building the tree model is a two step process. Main branches are first created, followed by the placement of twigs.
- Trunk and branches
The Grove builds a 3D model of the tree’s simulated branches by turning them into a curves object. Every branch becomes a curve, while every branch node becomes a curve node.
Now it’s time to add thickness to the branches. Determining each node’s thickness starts at the tips. Thickness then adds up all the way to the base. This ensures correct results at every age without needing constant user input. It does all the hard work for you.
Starting with Tip Thickness, each next node adds Internode Gain. Match Tip Thickness with the starting thickness of the twig you are using for a smooth transition. Internode Gain is usually a minute value.
Traveling further down to the base, we reach a branching point. As a side branch joins the current branch, the two don’t just add up. Both thicknesses blend naturally through an exponential formula. Branching Thickness Exponent controls the blending. It defines the character of a tree big time. Its value usually ranges from 1.5 to 2.8, with most trees around 2.4. It’s tempting to pick a low value, which adds a lot of thickness at branching points. This rapidly adds thickness to main branches and the trunk. To our mind, this looks real. Yet when looking at a real tree, its main branches are often freakishly thin relative to their length.