Who is Jo Meder and what does he do?
I live in New Zealand, on a smallish island called Waiheke, about 1/2 an hour by fast ferry from downtown Auckland, which is the largest city in New Zealand.
I had to leave my original profession some years back due to ill health and, having just got my first Mac, I decided to learn to program for the Mac. I had first started programming with BASIC on the C64 way back in the day, I suppose I was around 7 or 8, and it was interesting to get back into programming on a vastly more capable machine ( somewhat of an understatement ). These days I spend most of my time doing Mac development. I worked a while last year for Pandromeda ( www.pandromeda.com ) getting the Mac version of MojoWorld, a landscape application similar to Terragen, up and running.
I can guess Jo Meder uses Macintosh beyond Terragen development? What?s the main use of your Mac?
Actually, my main Mac is primarily used for development and Terragen related things, although it is also used for heavy duty Photoshop work and other graphics tasks when needed. I have an old 604/166 which is used a lot for Freehand work, and an iBook which is used for working on Terragen related stuff outside in the sun.
When someone thinks about developing 3D software, it's usually believed that a lot of money is involved. I think this is not true in this occasion? Why did you get into this project?
It?s true that money has not been the motivating factor for my work on Terragen at all. Largely due to the fact I?ve been sick, I haven?t needed to support myself through work, so I?ve been able to spend a lot of time on Terragen Mac and Terragen related things. I must say it would have been impractical to have spent so much time on Terragen Mac with no remuneration if I was able to be in regular employment. These days I do get paid for working on it, but for the time being it isn?t exactly unspeakable wealth and money still isn?t a prime motivating factor in my work.
The primary reason I started working on Terragen Mac was because I thought that Terragen was so good that it simply had to run on the Mac, even if it was only for my sake ( purely selfish... ). At the time I first started using Terragen, I was using it in Virtual PC 2.0 on a computer with a PPC 604/166. As you might imagine, this was a frustrating experience. I had played around with some other Mac landscape applications, and either their results were disappointing or I disliked the interfaces ( or in some cases both ). Terragen impressed me so much that I wanted to be able to use it at native speeds on my Mac, with a Mac interface. Of course I did also think that Terragen would probably be well received by other Mac users.
How is the behavior of the original developers of Terragen PC version? Do they support you in any way?
I?m part of Planetside Software, and my main income now comes from Terragen, so yes they certainly do support me. As well as being the ?Mac guy? I?m also involved with moving Terragen as a whole forward. I will be contributing to the PC version. You could say my relationship with the original developer is very good. Matt Fairclough, the original and primary developer of Terragen, helped me to buy a new Mac last year ( the 604/166 was becoming impractical ), without which Terragen Mac would have been in a sorry state by now.
Have you received any support from any Mac enthusiast? And any financial or material support or offer from a Mac developer?
I?ve certainly received very valuable assistance from my core team of beta testers, some of whom have been testing for me for a long time now. I haven?t received any financial or material support from other Mac developers, but I have received support, mostly indirectly, from the very good online Mac development community. A number of the Apple run developer mailing lists have been very helpful.
What have you missed most in this process?
I can?t think of anything I?ve particularly missed in the development process. Free updates of CodeWarrior maybe !
How do you feel now, after working so hard in this project: very tired or still so excited as in the beginning?
I am tired, but still very excited, I have to say. I think Terragen has the potential to be the best landscape application available, which is the main reason I?ve put so much effort into it so far. The current public version of Terragen is really just scratching the surface of what is possible, and there is so much further to take it. The thing that keeps me motivated is that even though Terragen is only a short way along what you might call it?s evolutionary path, it is already capable of results which surpass other applications that have been around for a long time, and which have had many, many times more resources poured into them. I also believe that Matt Fairclough, who is the original and main developer of Terragen, is amongst the very few people who are progressing the state of the art in landscape visualisation.
There have been ups and downs, but in general I?m very positive about Terragen and it?s future. I think ( and hope ! ) that Terragen Mac will be an asset to Mac users who are interested in landscape visualisation, especially realistic landscape visualisation, from high end users down to casual hobbyists.
Do you hope to get something with all the time and resources you?ve spent in his project?
Apart from the great satisfaction of bringing Terragen to Mac users, it would be nice to be able to make a modest living from Terragen in the future.
After finishing this adventure, will you develop other software titles as you?re doing in Terragen?
Ideally the first release of Terragen Mac will just be the beginning of the adventure. However, if Terragen were to vanish off the face of the planet tomorrow, I would turn to my other major interest, which is boat design. As far as I?m aware there is no longer any professional quality boat design software available for the Mac, since the demise of the Mac version of Maxsurf. Although CAD software to complement a boat design application is also a bit scarce for the Mac, with one or two exceptions, my next project would be a boat design application.
Terragen is a near photorealistic landscape visualisation application. While not as fully featured as other more established applications, it is pretty much the best at what it does do.
What attracted you to Terragen that you didn?t see in other landscape packages?
Essentially it was the realism. Terragen has an excellent atmospheric model, which no other application has really approached, even though Terragen has been available for quite a few years now. I?ve looked at images from pretty much all of the landscape applications around, and it seems I?ve seen many more images from Terragen which could be mistaken for photos than I?ve seen from all the other applications put together. It is of course possible to make some very unrealistic images with Terragen.
Another thing I liked about Terragen on first use was that it had a very rational, easy to use native interface ( as opposed to a Bryce style custom interface ).
When will we enjoy Terragen? Could we see any different features in the Mac version than in the PC one? Which?
At this time, I would say the first full release of Terragen Mac will come toward the end of this year or in the early part of next year. I am going to be running a public beta test of Terragen Mac though, which will be available to anyone who is prepared to sign up to a mailing list for the test, and at the time of writing the first public beta is getting close to release. Possibly by the time this is published, it will be available. November 18th has been set as the public beta release date.
As to differences of features between the two versions, largely because there have been restrictions on when Terragen Mac could be released I was able to use the extra time to add or improve many features. Although I do envisage bringing a number of these features to the PC version in the future ( some will stay Mac only ), for the time being they are unique to the Mac version. You can actually find out more information about these features at the Terragen Mac website, but here?s a quick rundown :
QuickTime support. QT support lets you save images in any format that QT supports, as opposed to the PC version which just supports BMP files. It also lets you import images to be used as terrains from any format QT supports. Just recently I?ve added QTVR panorama generation, and you can now create both cylindrical and cubic panoramas directly within Terragen Mac. In the future I intend to add movie generation from animations as well.
OpenGL 3D Preview. When I first got the 3D Preview working it was like one hand had been untied from behind my back, it totally changes the way you use Terragen. It?s a lot more useful than the existing top down 2D previews. You can move around the terrain and get a much better impression of what it looks like. The 3D Preview also uses a skydome with cloud and atmosphere previews, and will soon give a preview of the surface map. It?s quite configurable, and although it certainly works best on newer Macs with graphics cards, you can also configure it so that it?s still interactive using software rendering on older machines ( such as my 604/166 ).
Occlusion culling. Occlusion culling removes all parts of the scene which will not show in the final image. Those who?ve used Terragen PC may have noticed that Terragen can spend a lot of time rendering parts of the sky or terrain which get covered up by terrain in the foreground. The occlusion culling prevents this and it can lead to dramatic improvements in rendering speed. I typically see a reduction in rendering time of 30% to 60%, and have seen up to 80% ( so the rendering only took 20% of the time of a render without occlusion culling ). It depends on the scene. This is especially valuable for rendering animations.
AppleScript support. Terragen Mac has pretty good basic AppleScript support. You can use this for batch rendering or for making animations. I?ve done several animations myself using AppleScript. One of the advantages of the AppleScript support is that it allows control over more parameters than Terragen?s native scripting system. The AppleScript support will continue to be expanded.
These are the main unique features of Terragen Mac, but there is a lot more which you can find out about on the Features page of the Terragen Mac website.
What do you think Terragen?s main virtue and drawback are? and What's it best suited for?
I think Terragen?s main virtue is its atmospheric system, which contributes greatly to the realism of it?s renderings. It?s probably the best around at the moment, and it?s only going to be getting better in future releases.
I would say the main lack at the moment is the lack of support for vegetation. Apart from being very important for anything rendering landscapes, vegetation would help to give a sense of scale to Terragen images. You could have two people looking at a Terragen image and if you asked them how big a person would be in a scene, you could easily get two radically different answers. The atmosphere helps a lot with this, however vegetation does provide a lot of visual cues. The good news is that we have recently started work on adding vegetation support.
As to it?s suitable purpose, it?s already used for a wide range of applications. We have a large number of hobbyist/casual users, no doubt helped by the fact that Terragen is free for noncommercial use and the fact that it?s pretty easy to get started with. At the other end of the scale, Terragen has been used in movies, TV programs and commercials, and music videos. It?s been used by architects. Terragen has also been used in game/interactive media applications. Possibly the most prominent use for those applications is for the background environments/skies in the Serious Sam series of games ( sadly not available for the Mac ), and it also seems popular with mod makers for various games. There?s a page at the Terragen website that details some of the projects Terragen has been used in commercially.
Can it be used with other 3D packages?
Excellent interoperability with other 3D packages is certainly high on the list of priorities for Terragen. I?ve written a plugin for both Mac and Windows which can export terrains in a few formats, such as OBJ, DXF and RIB, with 3DS support under development. I?ll be looking at adding EI FACT support once the Terragen Mac public beta has been released. A number of people in the user community have also written things to facilitate integration of Terragen with other applications. Mark Brown?s LW2TG, which helps to integrate Lightwave and Terragen, is an excellent example. Happily Mark just got a Mac himself, so hopefully we should see a Mac version of LW2TG.
Anyway, for more info about Terragen for Macintosh, please visit: http://www.planetside.co.uk/terragen/mac/