While this article is helpful it was written with an ancient release of Oxidizer and things have changed dramatically over time. With that in mind we’re keeping the article online for historical purposes; please take a detour over to our Introduction to Oxidizer tutorial over in the wiki — you’ll find up to date info on using Oxidizer in it’s present state.
Back in mid February of 2007 I took a brief look at Oxidizer as a Quick Review to share my excitement for what appeared to be a relatively unknown native Mac OS X application for rendering fractal flames. Now, several weeks later, and with a good number of nice flames rendered, the time is right for a follow up report. The primary idea for this tutorial is to pass on what I’ve learned, which admittedly, just covers some basic procedures. This article does not document the full range of Oxidizer’s capabilities; it does however, give one a good point from which to start exploring.
Before you get started.
The most important piece of information you need to know up front is Oxidizer requires a two part file save process; flame and image. The end result is a beautifully rendered fractal flame saved as a Photoshop file. But that’s putting the horse ahead of the cart. Just as critical, and even more so, is saving the native flame file before the image is rendered; the extension is .flam3. So, save as flam3, then save (render) the flame to one of the available image formats. Don’t skip saving the flam3 file — two solid days of program crashes taught me that lesson very well. Once I started saving, crashes have been almost non-existent.
Another thing one needs to be prepared for is lengthy render times. Depending on image size, complexity and quality settings a fractal flame can take several hours or several days to completely write. Patience Grasshopper; let Oxidizer run in the background while you mess around in Photoshop.
If you’d like to learn about the math concepts behind flam3 files be sure to check out the documentation links at Flam3.com.
Launch Oxidizer and have a quick look at the toolbar and other items in the primary window.
- Open and Save. Open an existing flam3 file; save a flam3 file.
- Render. Export flam3 file as a static image.
- Animate. Export flam3 file as a movie.
- Breeder. Powerful tool for cross-breeding and mutating flam3 files.
- Gene Pool. Create and cross-breed up to sixteen fractal flames.
figure 1, Primary Window.
There are two fields below the toolbar.
- On the left, a column for displaying open flames along with buttons at the bottom for adding, editing, or deleting selected flames from the list.
- On the right, are the environmental controls; I have not made any alterations to those default settings in my current explorations of Oxidizer.
Wading in the Gene Pool.
There are three places one can generate basic fractal flames in Oxidizer; the primary window, Breeder, and Gene Pool. Of these options, the Gene Pool is the best place to start as it has sixteen image wells. Just hit the ‘Fill’ button to get the process rolling. See all those pretty flames, nice!
figure 2, Gene Pool.
Now, select two or more flames and hit ‘Breed’ to fill the image wells with cross-bred variants of your selected flames; more selections = more variety. Repeat as many times as you like or ‘Toggle’ all wells and ‘Fill’ them again to start from square one.
figure 3, Gene Pool with selected Flames.
Once you have a flame that trips your fancy, select it and send it to the primary window via the ‘Editor’ button. Switch to the primary window and save your flam3 file. Now it’s time to go in and make some big changes; select your flame and open it using the ‘Edit’ button at the bottom of the list area.
Lighting the flame.
The ‘Flame’ window has five tabs, each with a specific job to do.
- Image. Settings for dimensions, rotation, symmetry and more.
- Colour. Choose a gradient to apply to your flame; settings to control brightness, gamma, background colour and more.
- Render. Quality, filtering and a lot of other options I haven’t toyed with.
- XForms. Select and edit the various fractal components of your flame. Powerful stuff, this is a fun playground for mathemagicians.
- Edit. Access point for editing XML information for your flame. Can also be set globally in Oxidizer’s prefences.
figure 4, Flame Window Tabs.
What’s the best way to determine image size for rendering fractal flames? If the intended use is for desktop pictures, then the very least one should do is make an image that matches current monitor settings. If the rendered flame will be shared with others via web site downloads one should think big — really big. Just about anything I put up here at the Rampant Ranch™ has a native resolution of 2800×2100 pixels. This allows images to be scaled down or cropped to a nice array of widescreen, 4:3, or any other custom dimesion that may be needed.
figure 5, Flame Window Image Tab.
It will be necessary to adjust the ‘Zoom’ setting in order to fill the working canvas once the image size has been altered so dramatically from the 128×128 default. Zooming somewhere between 3.4 – 4.2 has worked very well for my renders, but don’t let that limit your explorations of how much or how little zoom to use.
* * * NOTE * * *
Position, rotation and symmetry are subjective in nature. Each of us will see those things differently and that’s exactly how it should be. Self-appointed gurus shouldn’t dictate a fixed notion of what is or isn’t acceptable. Let the artist decide!
And the same principals apply to choosing the colour palette for a flame. From what I’ve seen the default color usually makes for a great starting point but it’s always fun to experiment with colours. Save the default flam3 file, then tweak the colour and save again as a variant of the first. Heck, save an abundance of variants — the thumbnails make a nice a little tool for comparing flames in the Finder.
figure 6, Flame Window Colour Tab.
figure 7, Flame Colour Variants.
There are five optional settings to mess with in the Colour tab; Brightness, Vibrancy, Gamma, Gamma Threshold, Background Colour. You’re on your own here — mess around and have some fun!
When a flame is first created the ‘Quality’ setting in the ‘Render’ tab defaults to 25. Being overly cautious to not err on the side of too little quality I tried some renders dialed all the way up to 800. Then, steadily dropping quality back down, I found that a setting of 100 had no discernable differences when compared to the same image rendered at 800.
figure 8, Flame Window Render Tab.
And again, other than ‘Filter Type’, there are many options on the ‘Render’ tab I haven’t explored.
Now that you’ve made some darn cool modifications to your fractal flame save the flam3 file and close the ‘Flame’ window. Time to render that magnificent creation as a static image! Hit the ‘Render’ button, choose a file type, file name and destination. Oxidizer will not add a file extension to the image so you’ll need to drop that on during the naming process.
Image formats are; SGI, Photoshop, BMP, JPEG, PICT, PNG, MacPaint, TIFF, TGA, JP2, QuickTime Image.
bring about, give rise to, produce, generate, stir up.
As noted above, Oxidizer has a stand alone ‘Breeder’ that is a powerful tool for cross-breeding and mutating flam3 files. The best way to use the Breeder is to load it up with existing flam3 files. While it is possible to generate and work with new flames in the Breeder my delvings been much more successful (and less crash prone) by loading from my little library of flam3 files.
This tool is pretty basic. Load a flame in left and right columns, then start punching buttons to see what each one does with the pair of flames. Buttons are; Alternate, Interpolate, Union, Mutate.
figure 9, Breeder Window.
Flames generated by cross-breeding take on a greater degree of complexity and form, and just might make your eyes pop in wonder with how cool the results are. Neat stuff happens in here! Hit the ‘Edit’ button to send that cross-bred monster to the primary window, save the flam3 file, and head back into the Breeder for more fun.
Post Processing Tips.
Fractal flame images generated by Oxidizer are quite beautiful and stand up on their own very easily. You can, however, take them up a notch or two by fine tuning colour and contrast in Photoshop or other image editing software.
Shout back at me in the article comments if you have any follow up questions, and be sure to share links for Oxidizer images you toss up out there on the internet dirt road™.
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