Realistic Modeling and Rendering of Plant Ecosystems

Oliver Deussen (The University of Magdeburg)
Patrick Hanrahan (Stanford University)
Bernd Lintermann (The ZKM Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe)
Radomir Mech (The University of Calgary)
Matt Pharr (Stanford University)
Przemyslaw Prusinkiewicz (The University of Calgary)

To Appear in Proceedings of SIGGRAPH '98


Modeling and rendering of natural scenes with thousands of plants poses a number of problems. The terrain must be modeled and plants must be distributed throughout it in a realistic manner, reflecting the interactions of plants with each other and with their environment. Geometric models of individual plants, consistent with their positions within the ecosystem, must be synthesized to populate the scene. The scene, which may consist of billions of primitives, must be rendered efficiently while incorporating the subtleties of lighting in a natural environment.

We have developed a system built around a pipeline of tools that address these tasks. The terrain is designed using an interactive graphical editor. Plant distribution is determined by hand (as one would do when designing a garden), by ecosystem simulation, or by a combination of both techniques. Given parametrized procedural models of individual plants, the geometric complexity of the scene is reduced by approximate instancing, in which similar plants, groups of plants, or plant organs are replaced by instances of representative objects before the scene is rendered. The paper includes examples of visually rich scenes synthesized using the system.


realistic image synthesis, modeling of natural phenomena, ecosystem simulation, self-thinning, plant model, vector quantization, approximate instancing.

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