The Application of L-systems and Developmental Models to Computer Art, Animation and Music Synthesis

Jon McCormack, PhD thesis 2003



This thesis addresses the development of Lindenmayer systems (L-systems) and associated developmental models for the purposes of creating generative art, animation, and music. The research presented takes formalisms initially developed for the modelling and visualisation of biological systems and extends them as a creative tool for the generation of time-based visual and sonic structures.

New techniques for the geometric interpretation of produced strings are introduced. These techniques improve over previous methods in their flexi-bility and scope in modelling organic form. Extensions introduced include: the use of generalised cylinders as a biologically inspired modelling tool, a variety of stochastic basis functions, and communication functions that connect the developing grammar with external events and environments. New developments are illustrated by applying them to modelling phyllotaxis, surfaces representing landscapes, and population distribution models over such surfaces. An analytical method for modelling phyllotaxis over arbitrary surfaces of revolution is presented. Temporal and developmental extensions specific to the generation of animated visual models and musical events are discussed in relation to L-systems. A number of related extensions are combined to form a generalised developmental model suited for hierarchical specification of both morphogenetic geometric models and musical events. Examples illustrate the application to the animation of articulated legged figures and the growth and development of plant models. Aesthetic evolution techniques for L-systems, and the application of object-oriented methods suited to synchronisation and real-time performance in practical implementations, are also described.

These technical developments are placed in context historically by examining previous attempts at applying formal systems to artistic applications, and the use of botanical and biological visualisation in creative and scientific contexts. Specific topics on realism and mimesis in relation to computer graphics and views of nature and natural systems are considered. In particular, the concept of emergence is discussed in relation to generative art such as that produced by the formal systems detailed in this thesis.

You can download a low-resolution copy of my thesis here. Please contact me directly if you would like a full pdf copy (the size is about 150Mb which is why its not on-line).


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