Wednesday, July 5th, 2023 Posted by Jim Thacker

F12 releases The Grove 2.0 for Blender and Houdini

F12 – aka developer Wybren van Keulen – has released The Grove 2.0, a major new version of the software for generating biologically plausible tree models.

The release transforms The Grove from a Blender plugin to a high-performance standalone application with add-ons for both Blender and Houdini.

Other changes include better simulation of the way that trees bend under gravity, a new Stake tool for adjusting the forms of the trees generated, and a new system of UV islands for unique bark details.

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 resulting textured geometry can be exported from the user’s host software in standard file formats, including FBX and OBJ, for use in other DCC applicaitons.

Users can also generate wind and growth animations for trees, which can be exported in Alembic format.

A Grove-generated 3D tree interacting with a character inside Houdini.

Now a high-performance standalone application with Blender and Houdini integrations
The Grove 2.0 is a major update, changing the software from a Blender add-on to to a standalone application written in high-performance programming language Rust.

The new Grove Core, which lacks a user interface, does all of the under-the-hood work, running tree growth simulations and generating the resulting 3D models.

Users control the software via add-ons for host applications – which now include Houdini as well as Blender.

The Houdini plugin makes it possible to control the form of a 3D tree via a geometry (SOP) network, although it’s officially in beta, and currently lacks the interactive editing tools of the Blender plugin.

For Blender users, benefits of the new architecture include performance improvements of “anywhere from 5 to 20 times”, and the fact that simulations are now portable.

Simulations are saved to the working .blend or .hip file, and move with that file.

Updates to growth simulation, and new controls for editing and texturing trees
The update also reworks the way that bending of branches is simulated, causing trees to respond more naturally to gravity, and dispensing with the old Solidify and Fatigue controls.

The Grove also now more accurately mimics the way that trees shed their lower branches as they mature.

New tree-editing tools include Stake, which keeps trees upright until a specified height; and there have been updates to the Auto Prune system and the Attract and Deflect forces.

Other changes include a new system of UV islands for painting unique details onto tree bark, supplementing The Grove’s existing seamlessly repeating bark textures.

New €89 Starter licence for indie artists
The Grove’s pricing structure has also changed, with a new €89 Starter licence that lacks some of the advanced tools, and the price of the Indie licence rising slightly, from €140 to €149.

Both include the Blender add-on; the new Houdini add-on is only available with the Studio licence, the price of which is unchanged at €720.

Pricing and availability
The Grove 2.0 is compatible with Blender 2.80+ and Houdini 19.5, running on Windows, Linux and macOS.

The Starter edition has a MSRP of €89 (around $97). The Indie edition has a MSRP of €149 (around $162). The Studio edition has a MSRP of €720 ($783). Individual Twigs cost €9 ($10).

Read a full list of new features in The Grove 2.0 on the product website