Gaea EAP 2480

Major update with new Erosion, node updates, several convenience updates, and more.

This is one of our biggest updates in recent times. With the previous build addressing the critical bottlenecks in performance, we focused on bringing feature parity in many of the other areas that have not received enough attention over the past few weeks.

This post outlines the major changes in EAP 2480, which has just been released.

New Erosion

Gaea 2480 introduces a comprehensive erosion node, simply called Erosion. It provides sophisticated erosion with a very easy to use interface. The Erosion node provides control over the scale, where you can choose the size of the largest erosion feature, as well as the overall scale of the terrain.

2048 x 2048 heightfield created in Gaea, rendered in 3dsmax with Corona Renderer

The Erosion node’s algorithm addresses one of the biggest problems in digital erosion: it preserves features across different resolutions. This means that a 512 x 512 preview build will maintain essential parity for all major erosion features with a high resolution 4K or 8K build. You no longer need to guess the output type.

The algorithm also creates exquisite flows with naturalistic curves that have never been seen in digital erosion before.

This is the first iteration of the Erosion node in Gaea. Expect many improvements over the next few builds. Also see the known issues at the bottom of this post for using the Erosion node.

Node Updates

Name Updates

Some nodes still carried their prototype names, which were not truly descriptive of their function, and as such have been renamed.

  • JErosion is now called Fluvial.
  • SErosion is now called Alluvium.
  • Talus is now Deposits.

Soil Map

Soil Map is the first of a slew of new texturing nodes we are working. Soil Maps, like all Gaea Data Map nodes, can be used at any point of the graph and can create erosion data without requiring an erosion node.

Soil Map creates a soil mask, with increased density in crevices or other areas where the slope allows for soil to settle. By increasing the number of power, a higher number of soil settling cycles are simulated. A low value provides a “fresh” sprinkling of dust with very little wind and other simulations to “move” the dust afterwards. High values perform more simulation cycles to sprinkle dust but also move it around (repeatedly).

Soil Map at increasing power values.

You can combine different Soil Maps using the Combine node set to Max, and even combine with other Data Maps such as Flow or Velocity, to create a texture mask upon which color production can take place.

(Color production nodes will ship in the next build.)

Apex and Pyramids

These nodes both provide similar functionality. So to reduce cluttering, we have subsumed Pyramids inside Apex. The new Mode property lets you select between Distance (Apex) and Slant (Pyramids).

Flow Map

The Flow data map now has an option to simulate constant rainfall as opposed to a weighted average. Previously, a total “amount” of rain was calculated for the simulation. The new option keeps adding new rainwater to the simulation.

Left: Average rainfall; Right: Constant Rainfall

There are advantages to both options. Average rainfall can be used to highlight stronger flow areas, while Constant rainfall can be used to highlight all flow areas. Combining both can be useful for texture creation.

With this update, Flow map is also able to perform 10x simulation cycles.

Convector

Convector is an exaggerated form of thermal erosion with a bit of tweaks thrown in for stylized output. It creates strong slopes and terraces at the same time, giving you a unique flavor of erosion.

The delicate terracing can be very useful as a base for the new Erosion node. As you can see in the second screenshot, these terraces help mimick a big mountain — especially for snow accumulation purposes.

Sediment

The Sediment node gets a big new overhaul in this version. The processing is a bit faster, and now can go to much higher values.

The new Drift mode creates an extremely large buildup of sedimentation (be it snow, sand, etc.) offset to the main terrain. This can be great for creating snow buildup, glaciers, etc.

Use the Strength and Seed properties to fine tune.

This is a preliminary update to Sediments. Additional functionality and tweaks will be added over the next couple of builds.

Interface Updates

Manual Update for Heavy Nodes

Use the Apply button to update a heavy node after modifications.

We have classified some nodes, such as Erosion, Fluvial, etc. as “Heavy” nodes — meaning, they can take a long time to process, and sometimes cannot be cancelled mid-process. Updating multiple settings on such a node can slow down or even freeze up the application.

When you modify a Heavy node, it will not update automatically anymore. It will instead show an Apply button, which you can click when you have made your changes.

If you move away from the node, or select another node, changes will be applied automatically, so you won’t lose any modifications.

You can optionally turn on the manual node update for all nodes if you prefer, by turning off “Automatically apply Node Modifications” in the Preferences. If the setting is turned on, which is the default, only Heavy nodes will require manual updates.

Search Nodes

The new Search box in the Graph allows you to search for nodes. You can also access it quickly by pressing Ctrl+Tab while in the graph.

Drag and drop nodes from the resulting search on to the graph to instantiate.

This is a preliminary feature update. The next build will feature a GeoGlyph style toolbox as well, and a more seamless search experience with autocomplete, in-place search popup, auto-connect to node, and more.

New Icons

We have updated the node icons to reflect the general aesthetics of the application. The new icons take a metaphorical approach rather than a realistic one. We think these icons will be more memorable and easier to recognize in the long run.

In a future update, you will be able to choose between various different icon sets for the nodes, and even make your own!

Map Viewer

Visualizing secondary output from any node has always been a problem, and not just in Gaea. You would need to connect an Autolevel, BiasGain or some other node to see what was coming out of a node such as Erosion apart from the primary output.

2D mode, 2D mode with overlay, opening the Map Viewer.

This update adds the ability to select which output you want to visualize in the 2D view. You can further enhance your visualization by using the Autolevel toggle for maps or masks where the data is too fine to be seen by the human eye. This only performs a superficial auto levels on the visual; the actual data is not affected.

Additionally, the overlay mode creates a red mask of the 2D data and overlays it on the primary 3D view for better visualization and understanding.

Connection Menu

Dropping connections on a node is now much easier — especially when you are zoomed out. When you drop a connection on any node area that is not a port, you will see the connection menu pop up. Simply select the port you wish to connect to.

Connection Menu

It works even better when there are many ports on a single node, such as the new Erosion node.

Critical Fixes

Crash on exit

Since early EAP builds, Gaea would crash upon exit. This was caused by a very old, intrinsic problem in Windows’ TCP communication infrastructure. We have written new code to circumvent this flaw, so Gaea should shutdown properly this time.

Memory Leaks

Several memory leaks have been addressed, so you will see better performance, especially on limited amounts of RAM.

Major memory leaks were fixed in the Threshold, Contrast, Invert, Denoise, Gamma, and Sharpen nodes, as well as the 2D Map Viewer, Startup Screen, and some aspects of the 3D viewport.

Introducing Watson

WATSON: Gaea’s new diagnostics assistant

Starting with this build, Gaea ships with QuadSpinner Watson, a diagnostics tool that can ferret out problems our crash recovery module cannot. If you experience a bad crash, unexpected behavior, or need to provide diagnostics data to Technical Support for help, just run Watson, and send us the ZIP file it generates on your desktop.


How to update

Run Gaea to get an update prompt. Download the .exe file and run it.

You can also use the Download link your original order receipt email.


Changelog

Changes

NEW: Powerful new Erosion node.

NEW: New icons for all nodes.

NEW: Soil Map node.

NEW: Convector node.

NEW: Nodes renamed. See full list below.

NEW: Search nodes. Press Ctrl + Tab in the graph to activate.

NEW: Heavy nodes are updated on demand only. See the blog for details.

NEW: Connection menu for easily connecting nodes.

UPDATED: Map Viewer now shows overlay, performs autolevels, and can choose between 2D/3D.

UPDATED: Sediment has a new experimental Drift mode to create extreme sediment buildup.

UPDATED: Apex updated to include both Apex (Distance) and Pyramids (Slant) modes.

UPDATED: Pyramids is now retired.

UPDATED: Breaker secondary output for texturing.

UPDATED: Flow Map has new functionality, and extended calculation capacity.

UPDATED: Option to keep detached viewport on top of other windows.

UPDATED: Displace now has a custom input port.

UPDATED: Tabs now use icons instead of text.

UPDATED: Detached viewport can be set to show Always on top through Preferences.

FIX: Gaea will not crash upon exit.

FIX: Threshold was broken.

FIX: Memory leaks fixed in Threshold, Contrast, Invert, Denoise, Gamma, and Sharpen.

FIX: Autolevel strength was not working.

FIX: Add Node now parents to the selected node, and not the last node.

FIX: Blur showed Sigma slider unnecessarily for the Fast option.

FIX: Sine results are now consistent across different resolutions.

FIX: Mountain edge blending enhanced.

FIX: Connecting nodes from right to left forced unnecessary refresh of the left node.

FIX: Sediment mask output enhanced.

FIX: Viewport now clears if a node is unselected or deleted.

FIX: “High” viewport quality shows shadows. See blog post for details.

NAMING CHANGES

  • JErosion is Fluvial
  • SErosion is Alluvium
  • Talus is Deposits

KNOWN ISSUES

  • The new Erosion node can take a long time to calculate at resolutions above 512 x 512.
  • The new Erosion node does not report progress yet, so it will seem “stuck” but is not.
  • Some elements in the startup screen are disabled by design. They will become active in the next build.