So how about the 'Furahan biology' component? There is progress, if you account for the glacier-like advance of a very large project that you do not really have time for. Then again, in the last three years I got to grips with InDesign, Photoshop, Painter and XBrush (not that I am proficient in any). The most noteworthy skill I am trying to acquire is digital painting, which is the most needed one. I think I need to do some 10 additional illustrations of the "It's a fish" type, and then I will have some 15 two-page spreads to show to potential publishers. An example of those can be found in the New Hades book shop on the Furaha site: got to the brand new 'Living World Series' and you will find the 'Encyclopaedia of Furahan Wildlife' (also shown here). I aim to use that lay-out to present the book to publishers.
Rough tetropter animation; copyright Gert van Dijk
It is not difficult to think up many new animals or plants; many forms that I have now could do with some adaptive radiation. But my interest is mostly aroused by more complex puzzles. As an example I will explain the struggle to produce a good tetropter flight animation. The basic principles have been outlined before (start here to work back in time), but for good measure I have repeated an old animation above. As you can see the animal is shown from below, and the four wings move to and fro while rotating. They also move through one another, because the animation uses stiff planes for the wings: it is not good enough. I want a better one firstly, because I am curious: I wish to see what a spotted farfalloid looks like, when its beating wing reveal electric blue surfaces at one point in their cling and flap cycle, and bright orange ones the next! The second reason is that I would like to paint a variety of tetropters -talk about infinite variety-, and getting the perspective right of four warped surfaces in complex motion can be done by hand, but would be easier to manipulate by computer. I will break the problem into pieces:
Problem 1: defining movement
The wings can easily be modelled as surfaces in Matlab. These move through the wing cycle, meaning there are different requisitions for movement around the x- y and z-axes. To control them I wrote editing programs, now nearly done. The surfaces cannot remain simple planes throughout the movement cycle, but will have to be bent and warped. The animation above shows where I am now, meaning at the phase where all the 'warp factors' have to be tweaked to get it right. What you see here represents 'untweaked warping' though!
Problem 2: exporting the wings
The 3D program I am most familiar with is Vue Infinite. I had already written a program to convert Matlab patches to obj. files, which helps. But I then stumbled upon a new program, ad that was the imported wings for successive frames did not end up at the same spot in the scene. Apparently Vue calculates the mean of all x-, y- and z-coordinates to calculate the centre of an object, and if the object changes shape so does it centre. Well, I can counter that by shifting the object each frame to compensate. This needs work...
Problem 3: texturing the wings
Obviously, the wings will need interesting patterns on them as well as partial transparency. That, as well as bump maps, proved to be in the obj. definition and could be manipulated.
Here is a rough example of a warped wing with transparency and all in Vue.
So now you may understand why it has taken such a long time to put up a 'Flying with...' page, along the 'Walking with..' and 'Swimming with...' pages: the tetropter flight animation has to be ready first, and that is a big job.