Alpha Trees - Render massive forests, fast

I’m a wee bit late, but Alpha Trees is 25% off at the moment on Blender Market!

summer sale

Also, There’s a big update coming soon, and the price may or may not be increasing… and totally unrelatedly, if you buy it now, all updates are free :wink:

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Hi,
is it planned a new version with the incoming blender 3.0 release?

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Hi marcatore,

Yes, I’m aiming to get this new version out sometime soon after the 3.0 release. I had aimed to release this a lot sooner, but this year has been pretty intense for me, and the addon’s had to take a bit of a back seat.

However, I think things have calmed down now, so I should be able to devote a lot more time to developing the addon. Sorry for the wait, it should be out soon :slight_smile:

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I’ve just updated my other addon Weight layers to Blender 3.0!

This is important for Alpha Trees because Weight Layers is going to come packaged with it, and will be used to control density and scaling of trees (this will be automatic, you won’t have to install anything other than the base Alpha Trees addon).
It will mean that you will be able to create complex and realistic distributions easily in the form of layers.

Here’s a couple of demos of it working:

If you want to try it out before then, you can get it here (it’s free!):

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The new update is getting close to being done!
All I have left to do is implement automatically updating old particle systems to geometry nodes, and some odd jobs.

So to put it through it’s paces a bit, I did this speed art in just one hour:

It’s a bit rough, but for the time, I think it’s pretty good.

The best part is that this whole scene has around 250k particles, but still renders in just 59s on my 3-year-old laptop GPU, with just 2GB of VRAM (a.k.a the minimum requirement suggested by the Blender Foundation.)

Here’s the viewport:



It got pretty slow after a bit, but it was really easy to just lower the viewport percentage to speed it up.

After using this method, just the thought of trying a challenge like this using real tree models gives me nightmares xD

I’m hoping to release this to existing customers at some point in the next week, without an announcement (think of it as a beta), and then spend awhile working on marketing before I release it properly.

This is starting to get exiting :smiley:

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What are the max particles you can fit? for me a 20million scatter with highpoly tree is top i can reach

To be honest, It’s pretty hard for me to tell, because my laptop is the limiting factor.

I can also get up to just under 20 million trees, before blender uses all of my 16 GB of memory and crashes. In that case, it takes about 5 minutes to initialize before it starts rendering, and is then very fast.

I’m pretty certain that if you had a system with better specs, you could go a lot further with the number of trees before blender gave up.

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Ok, I spent a couple more hours animating that scene yesterday, and rendered it overnight into this:

In total, there are about 1,250,000 trees in the scene, but incredibly, it still manages to render in just 1m25s per frame (with motion blur as well)!

It makes use of camera culling, so the actual number at any one time is probably around half of that number:

The distribution of the trees was also completely procedural, using Weight Layers, and is based on the slope of the terrain and distance from the camera:

It is quite amazing how just adding these trees can change a pretty bland looking environment into something that really looks pretty good!

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that is a nice result,
I’m only a bit bothered by the edge of freestanding trees that lie on the background, the edge burns out a bit, is that due to too strong subsurface or is the alpha in the texture not correct.
Otherwise super

rim

it’s really great.
Do you think it will have also the feature to face billboard to the active camera?
As I’ve requested in the Geometry Nodes thread, I’d like to have an automatic system that face the billboard according to the camera binded with the timeline markers.
In that thread you reply me (if I remember correctly) suggesting me a script that should do it.
Are you planning to add in this addon?

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Ah good point, that’s not actually caused by the trees, instead it’s a compositing mistake that I made, you can see it’s also happening on the bright parts of the rock as well.
Thanks for pointing it out, though, I’m not sure how I missed that :sweat_smile:
I’ll fix it now.

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I know you have mentioned it before but do you have any plans to extend this addon to create proper “imposters”? This addon worked once for me then stopped working and now it seems development is stalled. I tend to think even two axis imposters would be super handy!

Yep, that’s already in the new version, there’s a toggle to use the active camera out of the box!

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I have thought about it in the past, but in the end I decided that imposters probably aren’t worth adding because of these reasons:

  • They require much larger file sizes to get the same resolution of tree (which leads to more memory etc. etc.)
  • The material setup in blender isn’t especially convincing when the camera is moving around the object, and if it stops in the wrong spot, you can get artefacts where half the tree is showing one viewpoint, and the other half is showing another.
  • They can take much longer to render as they add a lot of unnecessary transparency, which Cycles is very bad a handling. The same applies to Eevee.
  • They take longer to make.
  • Pretty much all of these issues are solved by only having one perspective, and rotating it towards the camera. The only downside is that you might notice that the tree looks the same from all angles, but I’ve found that this is usually pretty hard to notice.

That being said, In the future I might add a top-down view that works in much the same way as the imposters, but only shows when you are looking at them straight down.

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Well articulated! I guess at some point as you ramp up the complexity of the imposter you might be better off using a low poly tree. The only other question I would ask is if you had considered reducing the price of the addon to “impulse” purchase mass market levels (its a bit boutique currently and I missed any BF sales). Much respect for your work - just want to try it and can’t justify the cost currently!

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Thanks! That’s really useful to hear your thoughts on the price. I think that at some point I probably will release a version that’s a bit cheaper, and just has the addon and a couple of trees, and would leave the user to make their own trees.
I understand that the addon can seem a bit pricey, but I have put a lot of work into it, and it’s my only commercial addon (the others are free). Also, when compared to similar add-ons, I think that it strikes a nice balance between a really high-end tool like Scatter or Graswald ($79 and $99 respectively), and a more simple one off tool you might get for $15 to $20.

That being said, currently the plan is for the price to go up to $45 when this new update launches (It will also have a tree library with ~150 trees), but the update is free to all existing customers.

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That splitting into core functionality and the library would be a great way to get people the value they need. Ofc I’m sure some of those who bought the core functionality would want a way to “upgrade” - hopefully that wouldn’t be too messy implementation wise.

Thank you for hearing me out!! Its clear you are thinking deeply at every juncture.

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Yeah, I think it should be fairly easy to add a way for people to upgrade to a better version (or at least I’ve seen some other products on BM that do it). Not sure about Gumroad though.

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Alpha Trees now has a dedicated channel in the 3Dialogue Discord server, so If you prefer Discord, you can now also contact me there!

Just finishing up the new tree library, it’s pretty big…

In total, there are 142 individual trees:

  • 70 deciduous trees
  • 40 coniferous (evergreen) trees
  • 22 shrubs

With this library, you will probably never need to make your own trees again!

As well as that, each tree has various metadata associated with it:

  • height
  • species
  • type (deciduous, etc.)
  • tags (size, flowering etc.)

which are used to help to search for trees:

Meaning that you don’t have to scroll through a thousand trees to find the one you’re looking for.

Overall, the addon is pretty much finished, and the plan currently is to release it tomorrow for existing customers. I’ll then work on marketing, documentation and any bugs that pop up for about a week, before the official launch!

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