Fruxis: Iñigo Quilez (and a few lines of code)

Curator: Fathom Information Design
date: November 30, 2012
Categories: Entertainment Design, Illustration, Motion Graphics
Fruxis, a procedurally-generated image from Iñigo Quilez.

On our final day, Fathom Information Design’s Chris Brown tells us about the inspiring work and process of Iñigo Quilez. His ability to produce images and forms within exceptional design constraints is unparalleled in his field, and his site is well worth a visit:

Fruxis is a procedurally-generated image from Iñigo Quilez.  Procedurally-generated image? And who is Iñigo Quilez?

Quilez is an electrical engineer who got his start in the demoscene, a computer-based art movement originating in the early ’80s. Originally, the demoscene was all about hacking computer games in order to augment the video game experience: more lives, a different soundtrack, intros tagged with the name of your demogroup.

The focus soon evolved more toward artistic expressions that were firmly constrained by the limited space the hackers could access in the games. Images elicited comments like, “How the hell did you do that in 3 kb?” On one side was the economy of code. On the other, the visuals. It was something of a bootcamp for making graphics.

It was from this background that Quilez emerged. In 2009, he arrived at Pixar, where he helped create the lush greenery of Merida’s Ireland in Brave.

So where’s the magic in procedural graphics?  Well, it’s a bit like when you look at Tim Noble and Sue Webster’s shadow art. Look at the wall—a perfect image of two people smoking and drinking.  Look at the source—nothing more than a pile of rubbish.

In Quilez’s Fruxis, there are no imported 3-D models from Autodesk and no images of fruit. Quilez simply sits down and writes some boilerplate code to draw a rectangle on the computer screen—this is his blank canvas of pixels. He writes down a couple of equations for shapes, jots down some colors, adds some lighting, mixes in a bit of controlled randomness and finally throws in a camera. Then he just iterates...and iterates...and iterates, telling the computer the color of each individual pixel on his canvas.

When all falls into place, a full-fledged photorealistic fruit basket is generated. In less than 3 kilobytes, we have so much fruit we couldn’t even eat it all. (As a reference, this entire blog post compressed amounts to 1.3 kilobytes—and close to 30 times that much including the Fruxis image.)

This process—the economy of source and the beauty of the final results—seems to me much like Pablo Picasso’s single line drawings of animals, or Richard Feynman’s manifestation of particle-particle interactions with so-called Feynman diagrams. Capturing the essence of something in the simplest way possible.

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