Introduction

Welcome to the home page of Forester.

Forester is a complete 3Dlandscape generation and visualisation tool. It creates scene description files that are renderedusing POV-Ray (an excellent freeware ray-tracing program).

Forester uses a number of object placement algorithms to position hundreds or thousands ofobjects onto the landscape terrain, each one rotated and/or scaled differently to help hide the factthat the same objects are being used repeatedly. For example, a dense forest could quickly be placedover a hillside, using a series of basic probability tests to define the location of each tree. Itwill prevent trees from growing underwater or on steep slopes, and can position them so that theydon't grow too close together or too far apart. It can also take into account the altitude to reducethe chances of trees growing higher up the slopes.

Objects can also be placed using an 'Image Map', which allows third-party graphics tools to beused to 'paint' objects onto the landscape. The image map takes the form of a Windows Bitmap file,where the colour of each pixel in the image defines which object(s) are located at the correspondinglocation on the landscape.

A water layer can be defined in the scene, with control over its colour, reflection, murkinessand wave size. A 3D cloud layer and fog/haze layers can also be included for more realism. The scenecan quickly be altered by changing the Season - objects can be defined with multiple textures sothat, for example, a tree in winter would be white with snow, whereas in summer the same tree wouldbe green and leafy.

Forester will also produce animations - the camera and objects can be animated along predefinedflight-paths, and the clouds and water can also have a simulated animation effect. The use of MotionBlur greatly enhances the animated movement. The animation can be viewed in the DirectX previewwindow prior to being sent to POV-Ray for rendering (which can be pretty time-consuming!).

Feature List

Screenshot

Example Images

There are some example images and animations created using Forester v1 and POV-Ray in the ForesterGallery.

Landscape Source

Forester uses the native terrain file format of Terragen,an excellent landscape renderer by Matt Fairclough. There are a number of third party applicationsthat can create Terragen terrain files, including 3DEMby Richard Horne and Firmament by John McLusky.These both allow the conversion of USGS DEM/STDS file formats, which are available free from the USGSweb site.

Requirements

Forester has been tested on Windows 95/98 and it should also run on Windows ME and Windows 2000(unfortunately the DirectX preview and sound studio is not available for NT users). As with all 3Dgraphics software, it benefits greatly from a fast processor and lots of memory, so I wouldrecommend at least 64Mb of RAM, and ideally a Pentium III processor. A display resolution of atleast 1024x768 is useful, but not essential. You will also need a fair amount of free hard drivespace to hold the POV-Ray scene files and images. Animations require significantly more space sincethe individual frame scene files are stored separately (quite a lot for a 500 frame animation!). Ahardware accelerated 3D card is also useful for the DirectX preview, but not essential. Forcomparison, I am using a Pentium III 500Mhz PC with 128Mb RAM, a 25Gb hard drive and an ATI RageFury graphics card.

POV-Ray v3.1g

To render the scene files created by Forester you will need to have installed POV-Ray (latestversion: 3.1g). This is available free from the POV-Ray Website.POV-Ray uses a proprietary scene description language that can become quite involved. To use thebasic features of Forester you don't have to have any knowledge of using POV-Ray or its scenelanguage, but this will be useful if you want to create your own objects. POV-Ray comes with a verycomprehensive help system, example files and tutorials, which I recommend highly to anyone who wantsto learn more about this program.

DirectX7

The new 3D preview window uses the Direct3D components from Microsoft DirectX7, which can bedownloaded from the Microsoft web-site. (Notavailable for Windows NT).
NOTE: Microsoft have recently released DirectX8 - this should work fine with Forester.

Objects

The basic Forester download package only comes with a single Pine Tree object. You can downloadfurther objects from the Forester Object Library. I will be addingmore objects to the library as I create them, and welcome submissions from other users (please seethe details on the Object Library page for more information).

Terragen

Forester can also merge POV-Ray objects with Terragen landscapes. Terragen has a very specialisedatmospheric rendering engine which creates extremely realistic images. However, on its own Terragencan not include objects in the scene, which is where Forester and POV-Ray can come in useful. Youcan download Terragen v0.8 from the Planetside website.

Forester Registration

Some of the features of Forester are unlocked when the software is registered. Registration alsoentitles the program to be used for commercial use. Registration currently costs £20. Please see the Registration page for more information.

Download Forester

Click here to go to the Forester download page.