To illustrate the application of the Superformula, Albert Kiefer, 3D product specialist at Genicap, used the code to create naturally complex shell shapes that he calls Future Fossils. "I wanted to show the versatility of the Superformula, the infinite ways to vary shapes in 3D space," he explains. After mulling over several ideas about how to best explain this concept, he recalled a childhood friend's elaborate boxed insect collection that contained a variety of unique-looking creatures that belonged to the same species. This prompted Kiefer to digitally create a so-called species box, only this one comprises virtual shell-like shapes that evolved from the same family.
"Symbolically, the shells display digital diversity," Kiefer points out, "even though they share the same 'genetic' digital code."
As Kiefer explains, shells are usually too complex to create with a standard 3D modeling program because they are asymmetrical, and they spiral and twist while changing width and height. However, he was able to generate dozens of unique shapes using the spherical variation feature in the software's 3D Shape Explorer. "With a typical 3D application, you would create a form and then, by tweaking the mesh, vary the shape in certain places to create new versions, but they still look like a variation of the original mesh," he says. "Conversely, the 3D Shape Explorer generates a variety of these shapes that look nothing like any other shape, using the built-in Superformula algorithms."
After generating the raw geometry, Kiefer exported the data into Maxon's Cinema 4D, where he textured, lit, and rendered the objects, turning them into natural-looking seashells.
"I see the 3D Shape Explorer as an idea catalyst," Kiefer says. "I can best describe it by comparing it to the proverbial ink blot, the cloud in the sky that sparks an idea."
A sampling of the untitled images from Kiefer's virtual Future Fossil collection appears on these two pages. —Karen Moltenbrey