Category Archives: Tips

Deep Chains on top of Brokat3D

Andreas Maschke’s Brokat3D script is a great script to create a very beautiful type of fractal that resembles cloth brocade patterns.

With FA4, you can create a Variant script list that is applied to every fractal created by the main script.

Lets see what this Variant script list does on top of the Brokat3D main script:

  • prependNewPreGroup
  • addPreLinear
  • prependNewPreGroup
  • addPreLoonie

A script list is a list of 1 or more variant scripts that will all be applied (in order) to the fractals created by the main script.

The script list is easily created by simply selecting a script in the table and clicking the Add script to List button.

This script list randomly adds (66% chance) 2 Pre variation groups to some of the transforms created by the main script.

You can see that the Deep chain approach, using Variant script lists, is a simple, easy way to get exciting new fractals based on other random fractal creation scripts.

Power of Lua Variant Script Lists

Its so easy to explore Deep variation chains, by using a Custom Lua script list.

Pick a handful of variant scripts and just add them to the Script list. The variant scripts will be run from top-to-bottom.

To add a script to the list, select the script name to add, then click the Add Selected Script to List button.

See how I have created a list of 7 scripts to apply to every fractal produced by the main Lua script.

You will be amazed how powerful this technique is.


The coup-de-grace is to add a randomizeChains script to the end of the list. This script scrambles the variation group chain and can find some really different fractals.

With this fractal:


I ran some variants using Color gradient and the randomizeChains script. Result:


Matrix Variations

Matrix variations work just like ordinary transform Pre and Post transformation matrixes. They allow you to avoid linked transforms. Linked transforms require special Xaos matrix configuration, which is so easy to mess up in practice.

Special Support in Triangle Editor

If you select Variation for Which Matrix, and select the matrix variation instance in the Variations table, you can manipulate the Triangle representing that matrix variation.

Matrix Variation Types

  • matrix2d – embed in its own group
  • pre_matrix2d – embed in group containing other variations
  • post_matrix2d – embed in group containing other variations

For 3D variation sets, these are available:

  • matrix3d, pre_matrix3d, post_matrix3d

No special transform editing support in the Triangle editor  is available yet for the 3D matrix variations.

The best way to use matrix2d variations is to embed them in their own variation group and insert them between two other variation groups.


As you can see in this image, the second transform has a chain of 5 variation groups.

The Post #1 group has a transformation Matrix variation, matrix2d.

Note how the Triangle editor allows you to manipulate that matrix variation just like a standard Pre or Post transformation matrix.

Using these inline transform matrixes is so much simpler, than traditional linked transforms.



Render Performance comparison across different Mac models

One of the minor changes in FA 4 is that it reports render performance in a manner that allows you to compare the performance between CPU and GPU and between different Mac models. The app reports performance in Mips (millions of iterations per second) which is  the number of iterations per second done by the outermost loop in the Fractal flame algorithm. It measures the render time only during histogram construction, as that is the performance bottleneck in flame fractal rendering. I hope other flame fractal products report this figure in the future.

You can find the render performance in the Window > Render Status Log menu after a render to file is finished.

I have been using the Worlds Gallery fractal as the basis of comparison. I always render it at 1440 x 900 pixels at quality 3000.

There is a huge difference in render performance across different Mac models from the same model year.

A 2013 Macbook Air with 1.3 GHz Intel Core i5 CPU achieves 9.71 mips (400.61 secs to render the final image with FA 4 v 4.0.1 Yosemite 10.10.3).

A 2013 Mac Pro with upgraded twin D700 GPUs and Intel(R) Xeon(R) CPU E5-1650 v2 @ 3.50GHz – 6 core CPU achieves 778.22 Mips (5.00 sec to renderr the final image with FA 4 v 4.0.1 Yosemite 10.10.3).

Rendering with just the CPU on the 2013 Mac Pro achieves 37.72 Mips (103.13 sec to renderr the final image with FA 4 v 4.0.1 Yosemite 10.10.3). . On this Mac Pro, the twin GPU rendering time is 20.6X faster than on its CPU.

So the Mac Pro renders  over 80X faster than the Macbook Air (same year model)!

Even using its CPUs alone, it is almost 4X faster rendering than the 2013 Macbook Air.

For single image renders, FA 4 on a 2013 Macbook Air has reasonable performance during a typical editing session.  But movie rendering will be painfully slow.

Apple’s 2013 Mac Pro is a spectacular rendering workhorse. And the price difference over 2013 Macbook Airs is very reasonable (about 3.5X higher cost for 80X rendering performance).

Note: 2015 Macbook Airs are faster than 2013 ones at the same price point – but I did not want to compare Macs across different model years.

Way to go Apple!

Lion 10.7.5 update side effects

There have been a lot of changes to OpenCL in this Lion release. One of them prevents the app from starting after installing the Lion 10.7.5 update.

You will need to use the Mac Finder to do this:

  1. Open the Finder.
  2. Using the Finder menu, click on this menu item:   Go > Go to Folder …
  3. Enter:        ~/Library/Containers
  4. Move the folder com.centcom.FractalArchitect2 to the Trash.
  5. Restart the application.

Performance on MacBook Pro 2012

Update (10/16/2012)

Version 2.3.2 on either Lion 10.7.5 or Mountain Lion 10.8.2 now supports OpenCL rendering using the Nvidia GT 650M GPU. This runs 5.5X faster than rendering with the CPU. (measured on Retina Macbook Pro on Mountain Lion 10.8.2)

Using CUDA rendering, on a non-sandboxed app (on Mac Lion), the GPU rendering performance is the best yet seen on Macs.

The CUDA render runs 7.2X faster than the OpenCL render on the Intel CPU on a Macbook Pro 2012.

OpenCL rendering on Intel CPU is 38% faster compared to last years 2011 Macbook Pro. CUDA rendering on Nvidia GT 650M is 2.78X faster than OpenCL rendering on ATI 6750M with last year’s 2011 Macbook Pro.

OpenCL rendering on Intel CPU (Macbook Pro 2012) is 2.6x slower than OpenCL rendering on ATI 6750M (Macbook Pro 2011).

On Mac Lion, you have to have a non-sandboxed app to run CUDA. Apps on the Mac App store have to be sandboxed and can’t run CUDA.

Special Problems on a Couple Mac Models

2009-2010 iMacs with ATI 4xxx GPUs

Fixed in version 2.2. Finder quicklook plugin did not work. This ATI GPU generation was not suitable for high-performance OpenCL rendering. (ATI 5xxx and later generations are fine.)

Plugin no longer uses GPU for rendering.

2008 Model Dual CPU Mac Pro

Color gradient editor does not work. This turned out to NOT be a bug.

Resolved: This was due to a corrupted User Preference file. Deleting the user preference file for Fractal Architect fixed the problem.


Smultron – the Fractal Editor – Not!!

Smultron - the Fractal editor Smultron, the little Text editor that you could edit fractals with.

You can open Flame files, edit the text inside, save the files, and Smultron will update the Fractal image for you.

But Smultron knows nothing about fractals. How does this work?

Its a Quicklook aware application, that can use other applications’ Quicklook plugins to render large thumbnail images with. Smultron is using Fractal Architect’s Quicklook plugin to render those thumbnails.