Click here to close now.


Java IoT Authors: Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, AppDynamics Blog, Pat Romanski, Ed Featherston

Related Topics: Java IoT

Java IoT: 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


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

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

@ThingsExpo Stories
Today’s connected world is moving from devices towards things, what this means is that by using increasingly low cost sensors embedded in devices we can create many new use cases. These span across use cases in cities, vehicles, home, offices, factories, retail environments, worksites, health, logistics, and health. These use cases rely on ubiquitous connectivity and generate massive amounts of data at scale. These technologies enable new business opportunities, ways to optimize and automate, along with new ways to engage with users.
There are so many tools and techniques for data analytics that even for a data scientist the choices, possible systems, and even the types of data can be daunting. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Harrold, Global CTO for Big Data Solutions for EMC Corporation, will show how to perform a simple, but meaningful analysis of social sentiment data using freely available tools that take only minutes to download and install. Participants will get the download information, scripts, and complete end-to-end walkthrough of the analysis from start to finish. Participants will also be given the pract...
The IoT market is on track to hit $7.1 trillion in 2020. The reality is that only a handful of companies are ready for this massive demand. There are a lot of barriers, paint points, traps, and hidden roadblocks. How can we deal with these issues and challenges? The paradigm has changed. Old-style ad-hoc trial-and-error ways will certainly lead you to the dead end. What is mandatory is an overarching and adaptive approach to effectively handle the rapid changes and exponential growth.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing rapidly by extending current technologies, products and networks. By 2020, Cisco estimates there will be 50 billion connected devices. Gartner has forecast revenues of over $300 billion, just to IoT suppliers. Now is the time to figure out how you’ll make money – not just create innovative products. With hundreds of new products and companies jumping into the IoT fray every month, there’s no shortage of innovation. Despite this, McKinsey/VisionMobile data shows "less than 10 percent of IoT developers are making enough to support a reasonably sized team....
Internet of Things (IoT) will be a hybrid ecosystem of diverse devices and sensors collaborating with operational and enterprise systems to create the next big application. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Bramh Gupta, founder and CEO of, and Fred Yatzeck, principal architect leading product development at, discussed how choosing the right middleware and integration strategy from the get-go will enable IoT solution developers to adapt and grow with the industry, while at the same time reduce Time to Market (TTM) by using plug and play capabilities offered by a robust IoT ...
The buzz continues for cloud, data analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) and their collective impact across all industries. But a new conversation is emerging - how do companies use industry disruption and technology enablers to lead in markets undergoing change, uncertainty and ambiguity? Organizations of all sizes need to evolve and transform, often under massive pressure, as industry lines blur and merge and traditional business models are assaulted and turned upside down. In this new data-driven world, marketplaces reign supreme while interoperability, APIs and applications deliver un...
Mobile messaging has been a popular communication channel for more than 20 years. Finnish engineer Matti Makkonen invented the idea for SMS (Short Message Service) in 1984, making his vision a reality on December 3, 1992 by sending the first message ("Happy Christmas") from a PC to a cell phone. Since then, the technology has evolved immensely, from both a technology standpoint, and in our everyday uses for it. Originally used for person-to-person (P2P) communication, i.e., Sally sends a text message to Betty – mobile messaging now offers tremendous value to businesses for customer and empl...
Can call centers hang up the phones for good? Intuitive Solutions did. WebRTC enabled this contact center provider to eliminate antiquated telephony and desktop phone infrastructure with a pure web-based solution, allowing them to expand beyond brick-and-mortar confines to a home-based agent model. It also ensured scalability and better service for customers, including MUY! Companies, one of the country's largest franchise restaurant companies with 232 Pizza Hut locations. This is one example of WebRTC adoption today, but the potential is limitless when powered by IoT.
You have your devices and your data, but what about the rest of your Internet of Things story? Two popular classes of technologies that nicely handle the Big Data analytics for Internet of Things are Apache Hadoop and NoSQL. Hadoop is designed for parallelizing analytical work across many servers and is ideal for the massive data volumes you create with IoT devices. NoSQL databases such as Apache HBase are ideal for storing and retrieving IoT data as “time series data.”
Clearly the way forward is to move to cloud be it bare metal, VMs or containers. One aspect of the current public clouds that is slowing this cloud migration is cloud lock-in. Every cloud vendor is trying to make it very difficult to move out once a customer has chosen their cloud. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Naveen Nimmu, CEO of Clouber, Inc., will advocate that making the inter-cloud migration as simple as changing airlines would help the entire industry to quickly adopt the cloud without worrying about any lock-in fears. In fact by having standard APIs for IaaS would help PaaS expl...
SYS-CON Events announced today that ProfitBricks, the provider of painless cloud infrastructure, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. ProfitBricks is the IaaS provider that offers a painless cloud experience for all IT users, with no learning curve. ProfitBricks boasts flexible cloud servers and networking, an integrated Data Center Designer tool for visual control over the cloud and the best price/performance value available. ProfitBricks was named one of the coolest Clo...
Organizations already struggle with the simple collection of data resulting from the proliferation of IoT, lacking the right infrastructure to manage it. They can't only rely on the cloud to collect and utilize this data because many applications still require dedicated infrastructure for security, redundancy, performance, etc. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Emil Sayegh, CEO of Codero Hosting, will discuss how in order to resolve the inherent issues, companies need to combine dedicated and cloud solutions through hybrid hosting – a sustainable solution for the data required to manage I...
NHK, Japan Broadcasting, will feature the upcoming @ThingsExpo Silicon Valley in a special 'Internet of Things' and smart technology documentary that will be filmed on the expo floor between November 3 to 5, 2015, in Santa Clara. NHK is the sole public TV network in Japan equivalent to the BBC in the UK and the largest in Asia with many award-winning science and technology programs. Japanese TV is producing a documentary about IoT and Smart technology and will be covering @ThingsExpo Silicon Valley. The program, to be aired during the peak viewership season of the year, will have a major impac...
Apps and devices shouldn't stop working when there's limited or no network connectivity. Learn how to bring data stored in a cloud database to the edge of the network (and back again) whenever an Internet connection is available. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bradley Holt, Developer Advocate at IBM Cloud Data Services, will demonstrate techniques for replicating cloud databases with devices in order to build offline-first mobile or Internet of Things (IoT) apps that can provide a better, faster user experience, both offline and online. The focus of this talk will be on IBM Cloudant, Apa...
WebRTC is about the data channel as much as about video and audio conferencing. However, basically all commercial WebRTC applications have been built with a focus on audio and video. The handling of “data” has been limited to text chat and file download – all other data sharing seems to end with screensharing. What is holding back a more intensive use of peer-to-peer data? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Dr Silvia Pfeiffer, WebRTC Applications Team Lead at National ICT Australia, will look at different existing uses of peer-to-peer data sharing and how it can become useful in a live session to...
As a company adopts a DevOps approach to software development, what are key things that both the Dev and Ops side of the business must keep in mind to ensure effective continuous delivery? In his session at DevOps Summit, Mark Hydar, Head of DevOps, Ericsson TV Platforms, will share best practices and provide helpful tips for Ops teams to adopt an open line of communication with the development side of the house to ensure success between the two sides.
SYS-CON Events announced today that IBM Cloud Data Services has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. IBM Cloud Data Services offers a portfolio of integrated, best-of-breed cloud data services for developers focused on mobile computing and analytics use cases.
"Matrix is an ambitious open standard and implementation that's set up to break down the fragmentation problems that exist in IP messaging and VoIP communication," explained John Woolf, Technical Evangelist at Matrix, in this interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
WebRTC has had a real tough three or four years, and so have those working with it. Only a few short years ago, the development world were excited about WebRTC and proclaiming how awesome it was. You might have played with the technology a couple of years ago, only to find the extra infrastructure requirements were painful to implement and poorly documented. This probably left a bitter taste in your mouth, especially when things went wrong.
The broad selection of hardware, the rapid evolution of operating systems and the time-to-market for mobile apps has been so rapid that new challenges for developers and engineers arise every day. Security, testing, hosting, and other metrics have to be considered through the process. In his session at Big Data Expo, Walter Maguire, Chief Field Technologist, HP Big Data Group, at Hewlett-Packard, will discuss the challenges faced by developers and a composite Big Data applications builder, focusing on how to help solve the problems that developers are continuously battling.