Exlevel’s Grow FX

I’m currently working on a project in my spare time wich involves animation of trees. It’s not the main focus of the project but I felt like it would be an absolutely necessity, having the vegetation looking right. whenever I see animations with static vegetation, it just brakes the immersion. No matter how suddle the wind is, the vegetation will always sway a tiny bit. I tried numerous way of getting my trees and plants to sway, but I just couldn’t get it to look right. Finally I started looking for 3rd party solutions to get my trees windy and I stumpled upon Grow Fx.

I ended up investing in this plugin, thou It felt like a lot of money to spend. I can now say that it was money well spend. I thought I would give a tiny review of the product if anyone has any doubt about it’s usefulness.

Instead of giving you the whole sales pitch with all the features, I’ll just go over the things that I find the most valuable and unique about Grow Fx.
If you want to get a look of the features, take a look here: http://exlevel.com/features/

I – Endless Variation

With Grow Fx you get endless variations of the plants because of it’s parametric nature wich is controlled by a master seed-value. You simply change the seed-value and you got a new variation of your tree. Brilliant!

II – Animation

Every parameter can be animated (I think). On top of that, Grow Fx has its own animation system build on a physical simulation of wind. This has it’s pros and cons.

– It looks super realistic!
– Very easy to setup

– It is hard to use the animation-feature if you have tree’s with custom instanced meshes as leaves (to heavy to make point cache or VrayProxy) BUT! I have found a workaround.
– A few bugs that need fixing, but The next version to be released should focus on just that.
– You can’t bake your animation down into keys!! 

III – The workaround

It can be a bit of a pain in the ass to get your animation to work if you have high detail leaves instead of the classic one-faced leaves. They are way to heavy to make into VrayProxy’s or Point Cache’s. I have found that if you go with the one-faced trees for background and middleground, you can get them to work with Point Cache and convert them to meshes. This will also enable you to use them in a Forest Pack system. If you use the Grow Fx object inside a Forest Pack system your max will probably stall or crash. I Have found that they dont go well together if you have more than 10-15 trees. Only use the Grow Fx object for the foreground objects that are closest to the camera.
Now if Exlevel could make a feature to bake all the animation down into keys in the time line (just like the MassFx tool inside 3ds Max, all these problems would be solved.

IIII – Conclusion

To sum up it is a very intuitive way of making endless amounts of vegetation with just as many variations. Thou it lags some features, I’m confident that the Exlevel-team are working hard on improving their amazing sofware to fit their costumers needs.

Here is the first tree I made with the plugin in under 2 hours:

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