New Trees Thursday – 3 New UE4 Models on Our Store

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We’re always adding new Unreal Engine 4 tree models to the SpeedTree Library, allowing UE4.3 or higher users to create even more varied environments.  See our three new models on sale at 33% off – for a limited time.

Wheat SpeedTree package for Unreal Engine 4.3 or higher users added to our store.

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Palm SpeedTree package for Unreal Engine 4.3 or higher users added to our store.

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Bald Cypress SpeedTree package for Unreal Engine 4.3 or higher users added to our store.

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Unreal Engine 4.7 Makes Huge Forests Easier Than Ever

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In case you haven’t noticed, games and the tools used to make them are not getting any smaller. From upcoming games like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, which shows off a world size that is 20% larger than the thumb-numbing blissful world trek that was Skyrim, to Far Cry 4, which demonstrated that a linear plot is less important than an enormous open world with dynamic systems to keep you occupied. But this trend isn’t restricted to AAA blockbusters. The Steam marketplace is full of indie games (The Forest, Rust, Firewatch, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter) that take place in worlds where the open environment sets the tone and is a core element of the gameplay.  However, creating these worlds is typically a time-consuming and tedious task, one that has just become more approachable.

UE4 has made a major leap in how it handles foliage rendering  in their 4.7 release that allows creating scenes with huge amounts of vegetation more feasible.  This is where Ben Burkart’s weekend project comes in.

Ben has been working with the new 4.7 release of UE4 and using SpeedTree to create a test of the new rendering method:

“In the end the level had over 900,000 foliage instances in it with 100% dynamic lighting and shadows with the dynamic lighting distance pushed up from the default 20,000 to 200,000 and I could not get the frame rate to drop below 30fps.”  

The 4.7 update has altered the way foliage is batched for rendering to allow for a massive increase in the amount instances allowed in one scene before making it unusable.  To the tune of many hundreds of thousands more.  In one sq. mile, Ben filled the entire landscape with foliage and most of the ground cover in a very thick grass.

Oh, did we mention that Ben also completed all of this in about 20 hours over a weekend using only our sample trees? If you look close, you’ll notice that many of the trees look somewhat similar. In fact, all the tree assets were the samples that can be found in the UE4 asset store simply rotated and scaled to make it appear like a diverse forest.

 “Just preparing for a project this large normally takes a lot of manpower but with SpeedTree all I had to do was import them and everything I needed was setup automatically for me from wind shaders, to automatic color variation, LODs, collisions, billboards, etc…  This allowed me to take what is normally hours if not days of preparing and setting up all of the technical stuff for the level to simply importing and having it all just be ready for me so that I could spend my time on the actual environment.”

Making excellent use of just the samples, Ben created an impressive world in a very short time, which is one of the reasons we’re excited to have SpeedTree as a part of UE4 and Unity giving people more freedom to create their vision without the need for large staffs or months of tedious asset creation.  Ben has continued working on this project since first uploading this test video hoping to use it as a benchmarking tool in the future. Be sure to check out the latest screenshots below.

Take a look at our product page for more information on SpeedTree for UE4 and the upcoming Unity 5 release as well as our standalone products.  If you’ve got a great example of what SpeedTree can do head over to our forum and share it with us, we love to see how people are using SpeedTree.

Check out more screenshots below:
Ben Burkart’s Portfolio 
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Indie Showcase-Koola and Adam Goodrich

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Integration of SpeedTree into UE4 and Unity 5 has allowed thousands of developers to access the Academy Award winning tools used by AAA developers and major VFX studios and the results have been amazing.  We want to take a moment to highlight some of great work coming out of these communities and show off what SpeedTree can do in very talented hands:

Koola- Unreal Engine 4 and SpeedTree

Using a keen eye for tone, lighting, and composition, veteran UE4 forum poster Koola continues to release stunning landscapes using SpeedTree. Working out of the latest 4.7 preview, each of Koola’s scenes ratchet up the realism and complexity,  and every time he releases a new screenshot or video it lights up Twitter feeds across the globe.  Visit the forum thread here to find out more about his work.

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Koola’s Flickr

Koola’s YouTube

Adam Goodrich-Unity 5 and SpeedTree

Adam’s work came to light after he won two screenshot contests at once for his experimentation with procedurally generated scenes within Unity 5 and his work keeps getting more impressive.  We can’t wait to see what comes out of Unity 5 once it’s finally out of beta.  In the mean time, check out his work below and keep your eye out for more SpeedTree and Unity 5 in the future.

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Adam Goodrich Twitter

 

New Trees Tuesday – 3 New Unity Models on Our Store

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We’re always adding new Unity tree models to the SpeedTree Library, allowing Unity 5 Beta users to create even more varied environments. See our three new models on sale at 33% off – for a limited time.

Wheat for SpeedTree for Unity 5 Beta users has been added to our store, on sale now at 33% off!

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Palm for SpeedTree for Unity 5 Beta users has been added to our store, on sale now at 33% off!

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Bald Cypress for SpeedTree for Unity 5 Beta users has been added to our store, on sale now at 33% off!

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SpeedTree and The Order: 1886

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The Order: 1886 has finally arrived, and it is without a doubt one of the most impressive looking games ever made, setting a new standard for graphics in console games. California-based studio Ready at Dawn has been spending the last four years creating an exquisitely detailed Victorian London, albeit an alternate history London replete with Werewolves, Steampunk airships, and Arthurian knights of the round table. Although much of the action takes place in zeppelins or dark urban streets, Ready at Dawn chose SpeedTree to create the trees and plant life that stand out against the bleak city landscape.

Pushing back against the trend of open world games with endless side missions, The Order: 1886 is a third-person shooter intended to be a guided cinematic experience in the storytelling vein of the Uncharted series. The player is taken on a ride through a gritty dystopian underworld as the action seamlessly transitions from cover shooter gameplay to cutscenes and quick time events, giving the player plenty of time to admire the scenery.  Despite all the controversy that surrounds this release, it has set the bar high for every title that will follow in 2015.

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SpeedTree’s Animated Growth Featured in ILM’s ‘Behind The Magic’

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One of the decisive moments in Darren Aronofsky’s Noah is created when a barren tundra miraculously gives birth to a lush forest in the span of one sweeping camera movement. This one shot needed to meet the visual demands of the director as well as bridge two film sets that were on two different continents. When Industrial Light & Magic needed a tool to enact this scene, they turned to SpeedTree to help meet their specific needs. Working with the team, we added a new feature  to SpeedTree Cinema to facilitate the animating of tree growth.  To do this, we added a timeline to the Modeler as well as the ability to control variables such as rate of growth, how welds work to maintain realistic seams where the branches meet the trunk, and the ability to export these models in a format ready for animation. These tools gave the artists the ability to create a tree quickly and intuitively while still having full control of how the branches move and interact with each other at every stage of growth. ILM produces a series of “Behind The Magic” YouTube videos and in a recent upload Ben Snow talks about the process behind and the challenges of creating this scene:

Our collaboration with our partners at ILM is one of the factors that was considered in awarding the IDV, Inc. with a Sci-Tech Academy Award. Our job isn’t just to create a product that makes great trees, but to create a solution that allows both large and small studios and individuals to intuitively create trees to match their vision. SpeedTree has always evolved to meet the needs of its users, changing with each release in response to the valuable feedback of designers and programmers that allows us to grow, which is why we never back down from a challenge and love to be a part of great projects coming to life.

If you’re interested in using SpeedTree in your project be sure to check out the different options we have available.  SpeedTree Cinema is the option that allows for animated growth and is available as a free trial for you to experiment with while our SpeedTree products for games available for Unity 5 , UE4,  and as a standalone product which shares 95% of the same DNA  of the software that has been used 2014’s major blockbuster and AAA Games.

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Collision Objects Galore! – Sample SpeedTrees Reworked

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Thanks to a forum post from a vigilant Unity user we were made aware of a bit of a slip up on our part. We found that we shipped sample trees with far too many and incorrectly placed collision objects in the subscription SpeedTree Modeler. One of the models was even shifted after the collision objects were placed! The issue has been addressed and we can assure you that future releases of the Modelers will ship with sample trees with less and better-tuned collision objects.

If you have the old SpeedTree samples and a subscription version of SpeedTree, you can easily edit the collision objects to your liking. If you need it, the documentation is here. If you don’t have the Modeler, or if you do and you simply don’t want to edit the trees, you can access both the Unity and UE4 versions of the updated sample SpeedTrees for free on our store.

SpeedTree® Heads West for Academy Accolades

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In a few days, the SpeedTree team, along with spouses, friends & family, will jet off to Southern California to pick up our Technical Achievement Academy Award®.

The presentation will take place at a black tie dinner Saturday night at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, a few steps from the famed Rodeo Drive and what feels like a world away from SpeedTree’s birthplace 15 years ago in Columbia, South Carolina.

BeverlyWilshirePorticoSpeedTree started out in 2000 as a quick hack to get some wind-blown trees into a virtual golf course. The golf course never saw the light of day, but our trees got used in a few more visualization projects and suddenly emerged as a force in their own right. A decade and a half later, we couldn’t be prouder of our teenager, featured in more video games than we can count, 13 major movies in 2014 alone, and now recognized among the industry’s most respected cinematic technologies.

The Academy’s Scientific and Technical Awards will be hosted by Margot Robbie and Miles Teller. Ms. Robbie, incidentally, is one of a long and growing list of actors and actresses who have shared the stage with SpeedTree. Our trees were featured in several scenes in The Wolf of Wall Street, a film for which Ms. Robbie received considerable recognition, including an Empire Award for Best Newcomer.

Congratulations to SpeedTree’s lead developers, Michael Sechrest, Chris King and Greg Croft, who each will share in SpeedTree’s glory Saturday night with individual Technical Achievement Awards. And tremendous credit goes as well to the rest of the SpeedTree team, past and present, and SpeedTree’s entire user base, who have offered insight and guidance, and used it to create beautiful things.

New Trees Thursday – 3 New UE4 Models on Our Store

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We’re always adding new Unreal Engine 4 tree models to the SpeedTree Library, allowing UE4.3 or higher users to create even more varied environments.  See our three new models on sale at 33% off – for a limited time.

Amur Cork SpeedTree package for Unreal Engine 4.3 or higher users added to our store.

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Pondweed SpeedTree package for Unreal Engine 4.3 or higher users added to our store.

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Elderberry SpeedTree package for Unreal Engine 4.3 or higher users added to our store.

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Confessions of an Onsite SpeedTree Trainer

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Least Used/Understood Modeling Features

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Sonia Piasecki, SpeedTree trainer

As we have added features and capabilities to the SpeedTree Modeler through the years, an increasing number of customers have asked for help in getting the most out of our software.

Some users want to create that one perfect tree from concept art. Others want to reduce polys, make initial tree design more efficient, or move assets through the pipeline more quickly.

For whatever reason, demand for onsite SpeedTree training and consultation is on the rise, and in just the last few months I’ve been to Europe and across the United States providing guidance, tips & tricks, and a sounding board to artists working with SpeedTree. As I’ve visited game and animation studios, a number of common themes have emerged:

Curves. Many users have a general understanding of how to use curves in the modeler, for example, to make the radius of a trunk/branch thinner or branches and leaves shorter in specific areas. However, as many will notice when using the program, curve functions are implemented on almost every property. The profile (blue) and parent (green) curves can control leaf collision, segment count, LOD, the amount of branches or leaves, etc. Also, the curves can be set to affect different levels of the generators, for example, to control pruning from not only the branch’s base to tip but also from the trunk’s base to tip.

The combination of ‘Leaf Collision’ with ‘Cull’ curves under ‘Segments.’ By using the green curve and adjusting which level to apply to the curve, you can control how much of the cull value to apply. ‘Leaf Collision’ can affect not only the leaves on the branch it’s growing from, but on the parent of that branch and so on. By setting these levels, the user can control the amount of leaf collision applied on the base of the trunk to the top of the tree.

Generation Styles. It’s easy to get caught up with using the original ‘Classic’ mode, but tree creation can be more effective, faster and a lot easier by using the generation modes added as of version 7.0.  The new modes (Proportional, Proportional Steps, Absolute, and Absolute Steps) often provide a simpler interface and easier control over node placement.  You can access them by editing the “Mode” property in the “Generation” group.

Fantasy vs. Reality. SpeedTree is usually used to generate realistic vegetation, but the modeler can be used to create unique and beautifully stylized trees as well. One approach is using geometric or organic shapes to get either a cartoon-ish or out-of-this-world look. Users can also bring their own textures and meshes into the Modeler.

Interested in customized onsite training and consultation for your SpeedTree Modeler team? Contact sales@speedtree.com about scheduling a visit.