Zooming along

Back in the 1980s, it took immense amounts of computer time to generate fractal images. If you wanted to see pretty pictures of recursively-generated figures, you borrowed books such as The Beauty of Fractals, or watched Nothing But Zooms if you knew someone with the video. Computers and software have come a long way since then, and nowadays you can easily create your own fractal images on your laptop. I experimented with a couple of applications for Macs this weekend, Xaos and UltraFractal.

Xaos is freeware, and it comes in Windows and Linux versions as well. It’s fairly easy to use, though you might want to bookmark the online documentation. It’s what I used to make the video above. It doesn’t actually make movies. Instead, it outputs a series of .png files, which you can import into Final Cut or something similar. (Be aware that at 30 frames per second, there are 1800 images per minute. You’re going to be working with a lot of files.)

Ultra Fractal has some Photoshop-style image manipulation features. It’s more complicated than Xaos but not really difficult to figure out. However, it’s a bit pricey; if you want to do animations, it will cost you $130. I think I’ll make do with Xaos for now.

Julia set in Ultra Fractal