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Fractal World

Fractal Landscapes Library

It's only first attempt of creation of the Fractal Landscapes Library User Manual. Please, do not judge us too strictly for all mistakes and discrepancies, which you will find here. We shall try to improve this document and we shall consider first of all those questions, which cause the greatest difficulties in our correspondents.

  Table of content: 
01. Main window
02. Navigation
03. Main menu
04. Landscape project
05. Using of the height map generator
06. Light and matherial properties window
07. Sky properties window
08. Water properties
09. Scene options window
10. Preferences
11. FAQ

  1. Main window: 

On this picture marked:
 1 - main menu and toolbar;
 2 - combo to select the image size;
 3 - group of the controls to terrain rotation and scaling;
 4 - image rendered by FLL;
 5 - group of the controls to change position and direction of the camera;
 6 - status bar.

Main menu - please, see below;

Toolbar - contain a set of most usable options: load/save projects and images, access to the mesh/sky/water/camera properties windows;

Image size combo - allow to set size of the result image. Also, you can use menu View | Image size;

Terrain rotation and scaling - sometime you will need to change terrain size and/or orientation. Use these buttons to get it;

Navigation controls - please, see below;

Status bar - left part of the status bar may contain two values. First, it is hint for selected menu/control item. Second, five numbers, which display the current position and direction of camera. On the picture below you can see the coordinate system used in the FLL.

Defaul position of the camera - X=0, Y=3.15, Z=12 and eyes looks to the [0,0,0] point.

Right part contains messages about rendering process and rendering time - good for testing of the video performance ;-)

  2. Navigation: 

Yes, of course, you can use mouse to navigation only: select button and click, select button and click... It's simple. But most part of time we use the keyboard for moving of the camera. It's simple too. Keys are listed below:

HOME - forward
END - backward
INSERT - turn left
PAGE UP - turn right
DELETE - step left
PAGE DN - step right
UP ARROW - look up
DOWN ARROW - look down
LEFT ARROW - move up
RIGHT ARROW - move down

Try to navigate with keyboard and you will navigate with keyboard only.    :o)

  3. Main menu: 

menu File
  New project
new in 1.04
Show the heightmap generation window.
  Open project Open the FLP-file.
  Save project Save current project.
  Save project as... Save current project into another file.
  Load environment...
new in 1.05
Load environment from FLE file. You can select which settings you want to load from file.
  Save environment...
new in 1.05
Save all setting (water plane, sky plane, light settigns and all textures) of the current project except terrain data, mesh settings and camera coordinates.
  Export terrain... Allow to export the mesh into another formats:
  Wavefront object - *.obj;
  POV-Ray 3.1 scene - *.pov;
  POV-Ray 3.1 object - *.inc.
  Save image... Save current image into JPEG or Bitmap file. Also, "JPG" button on the toolbar allow you to change compression level of the JPEG.
fixed in 1.04
Allow to set current image as Windows (tm) wallpaper.
  Exit Close the FLL.

menu Render
  Quick render In this mode skeleton of the terrain will render only. This mode really quick and very good for navigation.
  Preview render Full image will rendered in this mode, but no antialiasing.
  Resume render Same as "Preview mode", but antialiased. Very slow mode - up to 8x time. Antialiasing level controls available in the Options|Preferences window.
  Auto redraw Image will render and after any changes.

menu Object
  Vertical palette
new in 1.05
Show dialog to load (or create) vertical palette for the current terrain.
32 colours are smoothly placed on height from the lowermost point up to uppermost. You can choose colour for each height. Besides to get more realistic image you can set factor, which control the random order of the colours alignment (allowed values - from 0 to 4).
The created palette can be saved into VLP file and then loaded for another project. In the VLP folder you can find some palettes created by the authors.
  Mesh border to 0
new in 1.04
Force to drop border of the mesh to the sea-level. Check or uncheck this option to get the needed result.

menu Options
  Terrain smooth This option will recalculate terrain data (heightmap) to proportionally lower difference of the heights.
  Terrain blur This option will recalculate terrain data (heightmap) to get much smoother heights.
  Perspective... OpenGL controls for perspective calculation. On the different videoadapters the results can be different. Defaul mode - nicest.
  Cull faces Each polygon has two faces: a front face and a back face. Only one face or the other is ever visible in the window. Whether the back or front face is visible is effectively determined after the polygon is projected onto the window. Check this option to disable rendering of the back face;
  Preferences Show the "preferences" window. Please, look below;

menu Terrain texture
  Mode decal - lights not enabled;
modulate - default state with lights enabled;
blend - inversed colors with lights enabled;
  Gen mode the method of the texture coordinates calculation. The object linear value used by default. With another values you can get strange effects;
  MIN filter
new in 1.04
The texture minifying function is used whenever the pixel being textured maps to an area greater than one texture element. There are six defined minifying functions. Two of them use the nearest one or nearest four texture elements to compute the texture value. The other four use mipmaps.
nearest is a low-quality but very quick method, linear is a default method with good quality and good speed of the rendering, another methods produce high-quality images, but reduce speed of the rendering. With linear_mipmap_linear method you will get the highest quality images.
In common, as more texture elements are sampled in the minification process, fewer aliasing artifacts will be apparent. While the nearest and linear minification functions can be faster than the other four, they sample only one or four texture elements to determine the texture value of the pixel being rendered and can produce moire patterns or ragged transitions;
  MAG filter
new in 1.04
The texture magnification function is used when the pixel being textured maps to an area less than or equal to one texture element. It sets the texture magnification function to either of the following:
nearest - returns the value of the texture element that is nearest (in Manhattan distance) to the center of the pixel being textured
linear - returns the weighted average of the four texture elements that are closest to the center of the pixel being textured.
nearest is generally faster than linear, but it can produce textured images with sharper edges because the transition between texture elements is not as smooth. The default value of MAG filter is linear;

menu View

  Image size... Allow to select output image size.
  Toolbar Show or hide the toolbar.
  Statusbar Show or hide the statusbar.
  Show hints Enable or disable hints for any controls.

menu Help
  System info Show the OpenGL information window. You can check for available rendering modes and select any one to use for rendering.
  About... Show Library information window

  4. Landscape project: 

The Landscape Project is a file with special format, which contain the full information for landscape image rendering. You can save the project of your landscape and continue work with it later.
Default extension of the Landscape Project files is "FLP".
For open and save projects options please look to the File menu.

The FLL Loader is a small utilite to load Fractal Landscapes Library without runnig of the Fractal Explorer. Normally, you need to start FE, run FLL and load old project to continue work. It's too difficult way. We has passed by this way many times. In the FLL ver.1.04 the special loader for FLL has been added. It only load FLL and close after FLL termination. Now you not need to run FE to work with old landscape projects - select it in the Windows Explorer and click twice. Also, you can run FLloader directly.
After you start FLloader directly you will see the very simple landscape. Now you can open the old project or create new. To create new project select the File menu and choose New project option.

  5. Using of the height map generator: 

When you select the "New project" button or menu item the height map generator window shows. It allow you to generate new terrain data (source mesh) with one from five methods (all methods based on the Perlin Noise algorithm).

Map size - change size of the mesh.
Generator - select one from the five methods to generate meshes. All methods are various and will generate essentially different types of maps.
Gradient - defines a saturation of the map. For "Bret Mulvey" generator - right position is a most sated. For another generators - left position is a most sated.
Max height - define height difference between black and white points. The black points is a lowest areas of the terrain. Real height is 0 ("sea" level). And the white points - is a highest areas. This value defines the real height of the white points. Default value - 100 standard units.
Redraw - reinit internal generator of the random numbers and create new mesh. Also, mesh will recreated after any changes of the Gradient value.

  10. Preferences: 

Walk step - defines a value of the one step size. With greater values you will moved quickly, with smaller values - slowly.
Rotation step - defines a speed of the direction changing (in degrees).

Polygon offset
This two values will changes terrain height above the water plane. The sence of it: if some terrain's polygons has same height as water plane it will be draw above water. Increase this values to have terrain and water render correctly. Also, sometime this option will have no visible effects, we don't know why...

Antialiasing level
If you use the resume rendering method (menu Render) this value will determine level of the image antialiasing. Greater values will produce some strange effects.

The WAV file will play after finishing of the rendering if it took 5 seconds and more. You can enable or disable sound notifycation and load another WAV file.

Autosave settings
The most part of options defines a kind of figure. A configuration of the FLL determined by several options. You can enable or disable autosaving of the FLL state.

  11. F.A.Q.: 

Q. Can I create animations with FLL ?
A. No, we work to implement this, but now we have no good results and can not apply it. We will continue work with it. And, of course, any help, suggestions and opinions about this will be good for us.

Q. I want to load my older landscape projects.
Is you keep the compatibility with FLP files created by previous FLL version ?

A. Yes, of course ! We try to keep compatibility with 1.02 and 1.03 version of the FLL. In the oldest landscape projects the new options will be set into default values. Unfortunatelly, images will have little differences. It is connected that we correct some mistakes in rendering procedures.

Q. My good P-II computer with the Riva TNT2 video is too slow to render landscapes. Why ?
A. Why ?!? You try to render landscape from 300x300 (or greater) fractal image ! Simple calculation: 300 multiply 300 = 90000 squares, 90000 multiply 2 = 180000 triangles. The 180000 triangles with texture need to be rendered !!! May be P-III 850 with GeForce DDR video will render this mesh quickly, but not the Riva TNT 2.
Little hints about speed optimizations:

  • first of all, use 64x64, 128x128 or 256x256 source fractal images for building of the landscapes;
  • check the "Cull faces" item in the "Options" menu;
  • use the "MIN filter: NEAREST" and "MAG filter: NEAREST" modes in the "Terrain texture" menu. In this case textures will look not same good as with another options, but you will select good modes for final rendering;
  • use textures with power-of-two dimensions. Good texture sizes: 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, ets. Not god, but not bad: 48, 96, 160... Any non-even size is a very slow textures !
  • build the landscape from different parts: first, work with sky plane, then disable it, next - work with water plane, then disable it, next - work with terrain. After finish each from the all parts - enable all parts and render the final image;

Q. I work with FLL some time and I get the very strange image after I run the FLL again. What is it ?
A. Really, you tried to use the "OpenGL info" window. You have changed the "Mode number" value and have pressed the "Use for rendering" button.

In this case, you have changed the pixel format for the OpenGL rendering context used by default. Each videomode support up to 12-30 pixel formats with various opportuninies. Many from them are not supported by the hardware graphic accelerator. Many - can not be used for rendering into overlapped window. Besides the different formats differ from each other by size of the depth buffer (called Z-buffer).

FLL requires 16/24/32 color bits, 24/32 depth bits and 8 stencil bits pixel format !!! Any another modes will produce some "strange" effects.
We recommend you to choose RGBA pixel type mode with the "Double buffer" flag enabled.

In common, select first pixel format number ( 1) and push the "Start render" button. Check for FPS. Then select next mode number and render preview with it... Good mode numbers are present in the first ten modes (modes from 1 to 10) - you not need to lost the long time for searching.

Q. Sometime I get error message "Invalid pixel format". Any ideas ?
A. Really, you tried to use the "OpenGL info" window. You have changed the "Mode number" value and have pressed the "Use for rendering" button.

Look the previous question to get hints about pixel formats (mode numbers) selection.

Another hint: if you can't select good mode number, try this steps:

  • close FLL
  • open the fractal.ini file with Windows Notepad
  • find the [OGLForm2] section
  • find the "ModeNumber" value and set it to zero (or delete this line)

When FLL will started again the best mode number will be selected automatically.


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Copyright © 1999-2001
Sirotinsky A.A. and Fedorenko O.V.
Kiev, Ukraine.
If you have any questions about FLL, please contact us.

Last modified: Jun 10, 2001