ASCII: Wild Fractal Typewriter

Fractalforums.com has come to be the new and thriving venue for fractal software development.  I go there every day and I always find something worth writing about even though I rarely understand what’s being discussed.  If you’re interested in developing fractal software, or just listening in on enlightened conversations about it, then Fractalforums.com is the only place to do that these days.

Or you can just look at the pictures, like me, and see the results.  There’s been the birth of new programs like Krzysztof (buddhi) Marczak’s Mandelbulber and Jesse Dierk’s Mandelbulb 3d, and also the expansion of older programs like Ultra Fractal with Dave Makin’s MMFwip3D which incorporates, thanks to Dave’s persistent efforts, current 3D fractal innovations into UF’s existing repertoire.

So it wasn’t a surprise for me to stumble over this new and interesting program “yFractalExplorer” by “yv3”, a somewhat cryptic screen-name.  Yv3 had this to say about yFractalExplorer, his new program:

Hello.

I am proud to present you the alpha version of my realtime fractal rendering tool that i called yFractalExplorer. Damn it took me more than a year to complete the engine from 3rd scratch and then implement the Text User Interface and OpenGL Fractal rendering :)

Features:
– Unique and intuitive ASCII-Mode Text User Interface for all nerds out there that liked the old Fractint software
– Fast OpenGL rendering engine with hardware accelration to draw the final fractal with it. You can set them with a single key command as a wallpaper or save to a huge file to print them out in perfect quality as your own art
– There are not much Fractal types yet but yFractalExplorer provides already tons of Mandelbrot variations with its unique realtime fractal modification and random settings. There is no saving of fractal parameters to ensure that every time u use yFractalExplorer you will find a unique Fractal. Its not a typical fractal application, its art ;)
– Psychedelic Old School realtime color cycling in graphics mode
– 145 Palettes

[…]

You can download it at my Forums (http://yv3.bplaced.net/forum/index.php?topic=53.msg54#msg54) or directly from http://yv3.bplaced.net/files/yFractalExplorer.exe

Make sure you install it to a folder with admin rights (better installer will come soon). Please share your opinions and suggetions with me. have fun.

Screenshots?  He’s done better than that; he’s made a video:

I like the ascii “graphics” but I’m not enough of a “nerd” to have enjoyed using Fractint.  Here’s another ascii fractal example by another artist using different software, this time in black and white:

What I like about ascii art is the way your mind switches between text and graphics mode.  There’s words and then there’s the words forming pictures.  You can see both at almost the same time.

I know it’s kind of a cheap gimmicky thing, but some presentations of the ascii render are more effective than others so you need to check out a wider variety of ascii works before you (no pun intended) write it off.  I think the key to the art form is to view it close enough to see both the letters and the graphic they collectively render.  Viewed too far away and the image is no different than any regular, pixel-based image.  The ascii characters are really just bigger “pixels” and form, like pixels, a mosaic.

What’s interesting, and very apparent in the above video, is that ascii renderings are even more impressive as moving images.  I generally find that the best fractal art and even the best photographic art is found as still images.  Perhaps video is a more narrative art form and things which are graphically impressive (look good) don’t gain much by being animated because they don’t tell a story so much as they just make a statement.  Or maybe video is just a harder medium to work with?

Anyhow, ascii seems to gain something when animated.  Maybe it’s the changing gibberish of the letters?  There’s a sort of verbal effervescence that takes place as the image changes which adds to the show.  Sand animation is the same too,  suggesting that maybe renderings made up of particles like letters or sand take on an extra dimension, a flow, when animated.  Other things ooze, but ascii flows.

I wish this one was clearer because it really shows the “particle shower” effect but it’s still impressive.  Scibot9000 in the notes to this video says:

I was digging through my files and folders from high school when I found this thing.

I dusted off the code a bit and recorded the results, then added some music that I also made in high school.

The video is not the best, but please note that this was all html that only worked in Internet Explorer. Jittery animation is to be expected.

Technical details:
All the code was written in class, using notepad and IE7.
The total render time for that animation was close to 13 hours.
Each frame too between 0:40s and 3:15s to render.
The coordinates are (-0.7491245002453,-0.043015050302) if you want to see it on a better-rendered Mandelbrot. :)

Is this the beginning of an ascii art revival?  Well, the technique does lose some of its excitement after a while.  But I think ascii rendering is going to be a perennial technique in the hands of computer artists for a long time because it’s just plain stylish.  Even for those viewers who’ve never seen or used a computer in text-mode, ascii still looks neat.  It’s outgrown it’s humble (and old) origins.

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