Is this the best 3D foliage plug-in?

Forester lets users create trees and plants easily, but does tricky lighting and rendering hold back this budding plug-in?

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Our Verdict

With an original release date set for summer 2014, Forester has been a long time coming. However the wait has been worth it thanks to a range of fantastic features that complete the package. Intuitive controls make Forester a pleaure to use, and it's easy to customise your creations with texture maps. An amazing first release with exciting developments to come.

For

  • Procedural tree and plant generator
  • Multicloner for object scattering
  • Dedicated rock generator
  • Hyperwind animation system
  • Includes dozens of preset models

Against

  • Spline intersection could be smoother
  • Trees are quite featureless

The title of this plug-in suggests that it will populate your landscapes or arch-viz scenes with trees and foliage. And indeed it does just that – but even as a version 1.0 release, Forester does a whole lot more besides.

Lebanese developer Charbel Koueik has distilled the patterns of nature into a series of mathematical formulae, which lets you design a practically limitless array of flora, from simple grasses and gnarled trees to the most complex of fantastical plants.

Intuitive software

Everything in Forester is procedurally generated, with a slider for every facet of the mesh. So not only do you get instant visual feedback as you alter values, you can also animate them – mainly for growth, but also for other effects.

All the controls
are pretty intuitive, but there's a whole heap of tutorials on Vimeo explaining every feature and function. And, failing everything else, you can just click on one of the many presets for an instant plant or tree.

Models appear with basic textures, but it's a simple case of adding materials to each one and then using selection tags such as petal, leaf, stem and so forth to differentiate each part. UVs are handled automatically, so it's a doddle to add a texture map and alpha from your collection and generate good-looking leaves or petals.

Also, because foliage is largely based on the same poly count, you can use C4D R17's new Variation shader to add diversity to grass or leaves for even more realistic results (although it would be nice to have this hardwired in).

For animated scenes, Forester features Hyperwind, which creates the effect of a breeze moving through your greenery. Again,
this previews in real-time in the main viewer (depending on the complexity of the model), and looks great. It can be a CPU-hog but the resulting animation can be cached for use in other scenes.

Room to experiment

We do have a few issues: trees are created as a collection of swept splines, but you don't get a nice smooth intersection at the joint.

Also, they're quite featureless – no lumps or knots or growths – and can't be pruned or displaced to suit, so if you need a hero model you're better off looking at the likes of SpeedTree. There are other minor quibbles, but these are largely personal preference.

Forester

Forester allows users to preview animations in real-time

Forester is a hugely impressive debut; brilliantly designed, easy to use and rock solid. With the right textures and lighting it's capable of producing lovely results – and we suspect that experimental C4D users will find ways of abusing it for more than just trees, flowers and rocks.

It sounds like the developer has plenty of features on his to-do list, so we look forward to seeing how this budding plug-in matures over the coming seasons.

Words: Steve Jarratt

Steve has been interested in CG for many years. He's a regular contributor to 3D World and edited the magazine for two years.

The Verdict

10

out of 10

Forester

With an original release date set for summer 2014, Forester has been a long time coming. However the wait has been worth it thanks to a range of fantastic features that complete the package. Intuitive controls make Forester a pleaure to use, and it's easy to customise your creations with texture maps. An amazing first release with exciting developments to come.