Click here to close now.

Welcome!

Java Authors: David Sprott, Elizabeth White, Carmen Gonzalez, Trevor Parsons, Martin Etmajer

Related Topics: Java

Java: Article

Casting Perlin's Movie Magic in Java3D

How Did They Do That?

Reach behind your television and yank the cable out of the wall. Do you hear that noise? Not the kids screaming about their movie. Look at the screen. What you see is white noise: random bits of white, black and gray changing constantly. What does this have to do with movie magic or Java3D? What if a spell could conjure roaring fires, fluffy clouds, rippling water, naturally grained wood, smooth marble and even realistic terrains? That spell is available to us thanks to the inventive mind of Dr. Ken Perlin.

Who Was That Math Man?
Ken Perlin is a professor in the department of computer science at New York University. In 1997 he won an Academy Award for Technical Achievement from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for his procedural texturing techniques, which are widely used in feature films and television. He also had a big part in the computer animation in the movie "TRON." The techniques pioneered by Dr. Perlin allow programs to generate a wide range of realistic special effects efficiently. The foundation for these effects is a mathematical function called Perlin noise.

What Was That Noise?
Procedural texturing is the art of using an algorithm to generate a texture. Procedural techniques are not limited to texturing and can be applied to geometry, motion, color or any other thing you can imagine. Procedural techniques abstract the details of a scene or sequence into an algorithm. Parameters on the algorithm allow a variety of results to be achieved with the same algorithm. An example of procedural geometry was in my last article ("When Mars Is Too Big to Download," JDJ, September 2004) where we used parameters to vary the detail and roughness of the generated terrain. The advantage of using procedural techniques is that the details are generated, saving the cost of explicitly storing and retrieving them.

To make realistic special effects, we need a way to generate natural looking randomness. You might think that random numbers would be sufficient to accomplish this, but you would only be partially right. (See Figure 1.) Random numbers are typically generated without regard to past values. This lack of correlation can lead to abrupt changes between adjacent values and an unnatural special effect. What we need is a repeatable, smooth, non-cyclic random function whose results vary with the parameters we provide. Perlin noise was designed to do just that.

While the implementation details of Perlin noise are beyond the scope of this article, we do need a conceptual model to use it. The noise function accepts a number of double parameters and returns a double value between +1 and -1. One-dimensional noise is the result of generating random numbers at regular intervals and smoothly interpolating noise values in between using a high-order polynomial. This can be represented by a smooth curve as shown in Figure 1.

Two-dimensional noise does the interpolation in two dimensions forming a wavy noise surface. The three-dimensional noise can't be depicted graphically, but its foundation is a lattice. The three parameters represent the three dimensions of the lattice from which the noise value is calculated. This lattice consists of 256 by 256 by 256 points representing random numbers between which values are smoothly interpolated to calculate the noise. The noise value at the integer lattice locations is zero, while the values between the locations follows the same high-order polynomial mentioned above. A Java reference implementation called ImprovedNoise is available from Dr. Perlin's home page and a modified version is included with the source code for this article.

This probably sounds pretty mysterious, so let's put this magic to work with a few examples.

Casting Our First Spell: Blur
In my last article, we generated terrains with colors assigned based solely on elevation. Looking closely at some of the resulting terrains, you may have noticed that the colors created a layered effect. For this article, the FractalWorld3 example uses your choice of random numbers or Perlin noise to blur the colors to eliminate the layered affect. Have a look at Figure 2 to see this example in action.

In this example, the noise function is used to blur the boundaries between colors to make the transitions less apparent. The effect is implemented by nudging the color index with the noise function as shown in part in Listing 1.

The color index is determined normally and then a delta value is calculated with the noise function. The sum of the index and the delta value is rounded and clamped to create the new color index. This method uses the row, column and elevation as arguments to the noise function. All three are scaled down to focus the noise based on trial and error. You can think of the divisors as a zoom function into the noise. Because the noise is defined in a limited-size lattice, the zoom factor focuses the range: higher zoom results in less noise range. Finding the right recipe for an effect is mostly an art but luckily others have shared their recipes.

Texturing with Noise
A popular use for noise is to generate the colors on a texture. We can apply the texture to a shape, giving the appearance of natural materials like wood or marble. Have a look at Figure 3 for an example of an image produced by the PerlinNoiseSphere.

Java3D supports texturing of a shape by setting the texture image on the appearance object. The PerlinNoiseSphere example uses a Java3D Sphere primitive as the shape and Perlin noise to generate the texture. The Sphere primitive is used in this example so some texturing details can be automatically done for us. Setting up the texture on the appearance is shown in part in Listing 2. The getImage() method is where the magic happens. The recipe is used to determine the noise values and the PerlinNoiseSphere example interprets the values as colors. Before I disclose the secret to this trick, I should mention that there's no relationship between how the recipe creates the texture and how nature creates the material. These recipes have been arrived at through trial and error and bit of luck. The results look amazingly close to the real thing, which teaches us that: In 3D graphics, there's nothing like a great fake.

The recipe for the wood texture in Listing 3 is decidedly simple.

The grain value is determined by the noise method using the image row and column as parameters. The color for the image pixel is based on the red, green and blue values calculated with the grain. Creating static texture images with noise is interesting, but the power of noise is even greater when combined with animation.

Animated Behavior
A Java3D behavior links keyboard, mouse or temporal events with changes to the scene or view. For example, the keyboard or mouse can be used to update the view allowing us to move the virtual camera through the scene. Java3D includes this support with the KeyNavigatorBehavior, MouseRotate, MouseTranslate and MouseZoom behaviors. Time can be used to animate the movement or morph the shape attributes in our scene and Java3D includes subclasses of Interpolator for this as well. While there are a number of behaviors available in Java3D, it's likely you'll eventually need to create your own behavior and Java3D is designed for that.

When a behavior is created, the constructor typically defines the triggering or wake-up condition such as a keyboard or mouse event, a number of frames or the passage of time. Behaviors are added to the scene like any other Java3D object.

When your scene is initially rendered, Java3D calls the initialize() method where your implementation should set the trigger. When Java3D detects the triggering event, it calls the processStimulus() method on your behavior. Your implementation of this method does its thing and then must reset the trigger. The documentation for the Behavior class is excellent, so refer to it for more details.

The ElapsedTimeBehavior example is the basis for the animation examples in this article. When triggered, this behavior calls the tick() method on the configured listener after the specified number of milliseconds has passed. Milliseconds are used as the trigger rather than the number of frames so it runs consistently across different computers. Let's use this behavior to recreate the animation of a movie special effect in Java3D.

More Stories By Mike Jacobs

Mike Jacobs is technology architect and Technology Fellow focused on using technology to improve health care.

Comments (2) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
Charles W. Neville 04/01/05 06:13:34 PM EST

WONDERFUL ARTICLE!

Mike Jacobs 03/09/05 08:28:35 PM EST

Stop by at http://mnjacobs.javadevelopersjournal.com/ to help influence future Java3D articles and see what's in the works for next time (assuming JDJ will have me).

@ThingsExpo Stories
Docker is an excellent platform for organizations interested in running microservices. It offers portability and consistency between development and production environments, quick provisioning times, and a simple way to isolate services. In his session at DevOps Summit at 16th Cloud Expo, Shannon Williams, co-founder of Rancher Labs, will walk through these and other benefits of using Docker to run microservices, and provide an overview of RancherOS, a minimalist distribution of Linux designed expressly to run Docker. He will also discuss Rancher, an orchestration and service discovery platf...
The explosion of connected devices / sensors is creating an ever-expanding set of new and valuable data. In parallel the emerging capability of Big Data technologies to store, access, analyze, and react to this data is producing changes in business models under the umbrella of the Internet of Things (IoT). In particular within the Insurance industry, IoT appears positioned to enable deep changes by altering relationships between insurers, distributors, and the insured. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Sick, a Senior Manager and Big Data Architect within Ernst and Young's Financial Servi...
PubNub on Monday has announced that it is partnering with IBM to bring its sophisticated real-time data streaming and messaging capabilities to Bluemix, IBM’s cloud development platform. “Today’s app and connected devices require an always-on connection, but building a secure, scalable solution from the ground up is time consuming, resource intensive, and error-prone,” said Todd Greene, CEO of PubNub. “PubNub enables web, mobile and IoT developers building apps on IBM Bluemix to quickly add scalable realtime functionality with minimal effort and cost.”
The Internet of Things (IoT) is rapidly in the process of breaking from its heretofore relatively obscure enterprise applications (such as plant floor control and supply chain management) and going mainstream into the consumer space. More and more creative folks are interconnecting everyday products such as household items, mobile devices, appliances and cars, and unleashing new and imaginative scenarios. We are seeing a lot of excitement around applications in home automation, personal fitness, and in-car entertainment and this excitement will bleed into other areas. On the commercial side, m...
Sensor-enabled things are becoming more commonplace, precursors to a larger and more complex framework that most consider the ultimate promise of the IoT: things connecting, interacting, sharing, storing, and over time perhaps learning and predicting based on habits, behaviors, location, preferences, purchases and more. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tom Wesselman, Director of Communications Ecosystem Architecture at Plantronics, will examine the still nascent IoT as it is coalescing, including what it is today, what it might ultimately be, the role of wearable tech, and technology gaps stil...
Every innovation or invention was originally a daydream. You like to imagine a “what-if” scenario. And with all the attention being paid to the so-called Internet of Things (IoT) you don’t have to stretch the imagination too much to see how this may impact commercial and homeowners insurance. We’re beyond the point of accepting this as a leap of faith. The groundwork is laid. Now it’s just a matter of time. We can thank the inventors of smart thermostats for developing a practical business application that everyone can relate to. Gone are the salad days of smart home apps, the early chalkb...
In the consumer IoT, everything is new, and the IT world of bits and bytes holds sway. But industrial and commercial realms encompass operational technology (OT) that has been around for 25 or 50 years. This grittier, pre-IP, more hands-on world has much to gain from Industrial IoT (IIoT) applications and principles. But adding sensors and wireless connectivity won’t work in environments that demand unwavering reliability and performance. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ron Sege, CEO of Echelon, will discuss how as enterprise IT embraces other IoT-related technology trends, enterprises with i...
When it comes to the Internet of Things, hooking up will get you only so far. If you want customers to commit, you need to go beyond simply connecting products. You need to use the devices themselves to transform how you engage with every customer and how you manage the entire product lifecycle. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sean Lorenz, Technical Product Manager for Xively at LogMeIn, will show how “product relationship management” can help you leverage your connected devices and the data they generate about customer usage and product performance to deliver extremely compelling and reliabl...
The Internet of Things (IoT) is causing data centers to become radically decentralized and atomized within a new paradigm known as “fog computing.” To support IoT applications, such as connected cars and smart grids, data centers' core functions will be decentralized out to the network's edges and endpoints (aka “fogs”). As this trend takes hold, Big Data analytics platforms will focus on high-volume log analysis (aka “logs”) and rely heavily on cognitive-computing algorithms (aka “cogs”) to make sense of it all.
With several hundred implementations of IoT-enabled solutions in the past 12 months alone, this session will focus on experience over the art of the possible. Many can only imagine the most advanced telematics platform ever deployed, supporting millions of customers, producing tens of thousands events or GBs per trip, and hundreds of TBs per month. With the ability to support a billion sensor events per second, over 30PB of warm data for analytics, and hundreds of PBs for an data analytics archive, in his session at @ThingsExpo, Jim Kaskade, Vice President and General Manager, Big Data & Ana...
One of the biggest impacts of the Internet of Things is and will continue to be on data; specifically data volume, management and usage. Companies are scrambling to adapt to this new and unpredictable data reality with legacy infrastructure that cannot handle the speed and volume of data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Don DeLoach, CEO and president of Infobright, will discuss how companies need to rethink their data infrastructure to participate in the IoT, including: Data storage: Understanding the kinds of data: structured, unstructured, big/small? Analytics: What kinds and how responsiv...
The Workspace-as-a-Service (WaaS) market will grow to $6.4B by 2018. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Seth Bostock, CEO of IndependenceIT, will begin by walking the audience through the evolution of Workspace as-a-Service, where it is now vs. where it going. To look beyond the desktop we must understand exactly what WaaS is, who the users are, and where it is going in the future. IT departments, ISVs and service providers must look to workflow and automation capabilities to adapt to growing demand and the rapidly changing workspace model.
Since 2008 and for the first time in history, more than half of humans live in urban areas, urging cities to become “smart.” Today, cities can leverage the wide availability of smartphones combined with new technologies such as Beacons or NFC to connect their urban furniture and environment to create citizen-first services that improve transportation, way-finding and information delivery. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Laetitia Gazel-Anthoine, CEO of Connecthings, will focus on successful use cases.
Sensor-enabled things are becoming more commonplace, precursors to a larger and more complex framework that most consider the ultimate promise of the IoT: things connecting, interacting, sharing, storing, and over time perhaps learning and predicting based on habits, behaviors, location, preferences, purchases and more. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tom Wesselman, Director of Communications Ecosystem Architecture at Plantronics, will examine the still nascent IoT as it is coalescing, including what it is today, what it might ultimately be, the role of wearable tech, and technology gaps stil...
Almost everyone sees the potential of Internet of Things but how can businesses truly unlock that potential. The key will be in the ability to discover business insight in the midst of an ocean of Big Data generated from billions of embedded devices via Systems of Discover. Businesses will also need to ensure that they can sustain that insight by leveraging the cloud for global reach, scale and elasticity.
The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to evolve the way the world does business; however, understanding how to apply it to your company can be a mystery. Most people struggle with understanding the potential business uses or tend to get caught up in the technology, resulting in solutions that fail to meet even minimum business goals. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO / President / Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., showed what is needed to leverage the IoT to transform your business. He discussed opportunities and challenges ahead for the IoT from a market and technical point of vie...
IoT is still a vague buzzword for many people. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mike Kavis, Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Partners, discussed the business value of IoT that goes far beyond the general public's perception that IoT is all about wearables and home consumer services. He also discussed how IoT is perceived by investors and how venture capitalist access this space. Other topics discussed were barriers to success, what is new, what is old, and what the future may hold. Mike Kavis is Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Pa...
Hadoop as a Service (as offered by handful of niche vendors now) is a cloud computing solution that makes medium and large-scale data processing accessible, easy, fast and inexpensive. In his session at Big Data Expo, Kumar Ramamurthy, Vice President and Chief Technologist, EIM & Big Data, at Virtusa, will discuss how this is achieved by eliminating the operational challenges of running Hadoop, so one can focus on business growth. The fragmented Hadoop distribution world and various PaaS solutions that provide a Hadoop flavor either make choices for customers very flexible in the name of opti...
The true value of the Internet of Things (IoT) lies not just in the data, but through the services that protect the data, perform the analysis and present findings in a usable way. With many IoT elements rooted in traditional IT components, Big Data and IoT isn’t just a play for enterprise. In fact, the IoT presents SMBs with the prospect of launching entirely new activities and exploring innovative areas. CompTIA research identifies several areas where IoT is expected to have the greatest impact.
Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) are increasing at an unprecedented rate. The threat landscape of today is drastically different than just a few years ago. Attacks are much more organized and sophisticated. They are harder to detect and even harder to anticipate. In the foreseeable future it's going to get a whole lot harder. Everything you know today will change. Keeping up with this changing landscape is already a daunting task. Your organization needs to use the latest tools, methods and expertise to guard against those threats. But will that be enough? In the foreseeable future attacks w...