Vol Libre by Loren Carpenter
About this video
The world's first fractal movie that paved the way for modern computer animation.
This animation was recently featured on the BBC Two series, The Code, and we've tracked down the original sequence posted by the animator himself, Loren Carpenter.
It may not seem like much compared to today's standards but this two-minute film represented a watershed in computer animation.
Made in 1979-80 the film utilizes 8-10 different fractal generating algorithms to synthesize the fractal geometry found in nature. It was the world's first fractal movie and enabled computer programs to simulate the seemingly random large- and small-scale patterns found in the natural world – from trees and leaves to mountains and planets.
We weren't sure why it starts with a teapot until one of our users pointed us to the Utah teapot.
For all the sci-fi geeks out there, an anti-aliased version of the Vol Libre software was used in 1982 to create the fractal planet in the Genesis Sequence of Star Trek 2, the Wrath of Khan.
Carpenter was instrumental in Pixar's development from the computer division of LucasFilm and he has been at the forefront of some other groundbreaking technologies. With his wife Rachel he ran an amazing experiment in Las Vegas in 1991 involving shared technology, crowd-sourcing and the computer game Pong. Here's some ropey footage from a BBC doc: and more from Kevin Kelly's book Out of Control.
Licence: © Loren Carpenter