Thursday, November 30th, 2017 Posted by Jim Thacker

F12 ships The Grove Release 5

F12 – aka developer Wybren van Keulen – has shipped The Grove Release 5, the latest update to his Blender-based tool for generating realistic tree models.

The update adds support for wind animation and vertex layers, plus improvements to growth simulations.

Mimic the growth forms of real trees
The Grove takes a parametric approach to generating trees, with controls that mimic the factors determining the forms of real plants, resulting in more realistic-looking models.

Once the overall form of a tree has been set, The Grove fills in details by using ‘Twigs’: instanced geometry representing not only actual twigs, but leaves, flowers and fruit, sold separately to the core app.

The software is a Blender add-on, but the resulting textured geometry can be exported in standard file formats, including FBX and OBJ, for use in other DCC applicaitons.

New in Release 5: wind animation
The main new feature in Release 5 is support for wind animation. The implementation uses shape keys, which “should be compatible with most 3D software”, with each key being placed 10 frames apart.

Individual shapes are built from a combination of the effects of directional force and turbulence, the latter helping to generate realistic secondary motion.

If the demo video above is typical, the results hold up pretty well even under extreme wind conditions, and once simulated, wind animations can be exported to other software in FBX or Alembic format.

Vertex layers create selection sets based on growth parameters
The update also introduces support for vertex layers, enabling simulation data – either from wind animations or the growth simulations determining the form of a tree – to be written to the tree mesh.

Suggested uses include creating selection sets based on growth parameters – for example, only dead branches – or to link them to vertex colours: for example, to create a colour ramp based on branch thickness.

Improvements to growth simulation and the user interface
Other changes in The Grove Release 5 include improvements to the simulation of the way branches elongate in response to shade, bend under their own weight, or drop off at the base of the trunk.

The interface has also been streamlined, with the option to toggle off less commonly used settings, and there are a number of new presets. You can find a full changelog via the link at the foot of the story.

Pricing and availability
The Grove Release 5 is available for the current version of Blender running on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X. The base application has an MSRP of €109 (around $130), while individual Twigs cost €9.60 ($10.40).

Read a full list of new features in The Grove Release 5 on the product website