LSystem SOP
Summary
The Lsystem SOP implements Lsystems (Lindenmayersystems, named after Aristid Lindenmayer (19251989)), allow definition of complex shapes through the use of iteration. They use a mathematical language in which an initial string of characters is evaluated repeatedly, and the results are used to generate geometry. The result of each evaluation becomes the basis for the next iteration of geometry, giving the illusion of growth.
You begin building an Lsystem by defining a sequence of rules which are evaluated to produce a new string of characters. Each character of the new string represents one command which affects an imaginary stylus, or "turtle". Repeating this process will grow your geometry.
You can use Lsystems to create things such as:
 Create organic objects such as trees, plants, flowers over time.
 Create animated branching objects such as lightning and snowflakes.
The file can be read in from disk or from the web. Use http:// when specifying a URL.
The Algorithmic Beauty of Plants
The descriptions located here should be enough to get you started in writing your own Lsystem rules, however, if you have any serious interests in creating Lsystems, you should obtain the book:
The Algorithmic Beauty of Plants Przemyslaw Prusinkiewicz & Aristid Lindenmayer SpringerVerlag, New York, Phone: 212.460.1500 ISBN: 0387946764, 1996.
which is the definitive reference on the subject. It contains a multitude of Lsystems examples complete with descriptions of the ideas and theories behind modelling realistic plant growth.
Parameters  Geometry Page
Type type
 ⊞  Provides two options for output geometry:
 Skeleton
skel
 Creates wire frame geometry. This option is ideal for geometry that is stiff and jagged like lightning or snowflakes. It is also useful to reduce SOP cooking time.
 Tube
tube
 Creates tube geometry. This option can be used with solid geometry that would need smooth curves, like trees or shrubs. Parameters on the Tube Page are only enabled when this Type is selected.
Generations generations
 Determines the number of times to apply the rules to the initial string. This value controls the growth of the Lsystem. Place a timebased function here to animate the Lsystem growth.
Random Scale randscale
 Random Scale as a percentage. This will apply a random scale to the changing geometry's lengths, angles and thickness.
Random Seed randseed
 Random Seed for the SOP. This value can be used to select different sequences of random values.
Continuous Angles contangl
 Calculates the incremental angles of branches, if a noninteger generational value is used. If the Generations field is animating, this should be set to ensure smooth growth.
Continuous Length contlength
 Calculates the incremental lengths of the geometry points if a noninteger generational value is used. As with Continuous Angles, if the Generations field is animating, this should be set to ensure smooth, continuous growth. The Continuous Width field applies to tube thickness.
Continuous Width contwidth
 Calculates the incremental lengths of the geometry points if a noninteger generational value is used. As with Continuous Angles, if the Generations field is animating, this should be set to ensure smooth, continuous growth. The Continuous Width field applies to tube thickness.
Apply Color docolor
 Use a TOP to apply color to the Lsystem as it grows.
Image File colormap
 Defines a TOP to use when the Apply Color button is selected. Also see the ` and # turtle operators.
UV Increment inc
 ⊞  Defines the default color U, V index increments when the turtle symbols ` or # are used.
incu

incv

Point Width Attribute pointwidth
 Adds a point width
attribute to each point in the geometry. This width is effected by the Thickness and Thickness Scale parameters on the Tube Page.
Parameters  Tube Page
The parameters on this page are active only if Geometry Page > Type has been set to the Tube type.
Rows rows
 The first option sets the number of tube sides and the second sets the number of divisions per step length if tube geometry is selected.
Columns cols
 The first option sets the number of tube sides and the second sets the number of divisions per step length if tube geometry is selected.
Tension tension
 Tension defines the smoothness of branching corners.
Branch Blend smooth
 Enabling this option allows a child branch to be continuously joined to its parent branch.
Thickness thickinit
 This number defines the default tube thickness.
Thickness Scale thickscale
 This number is the scale factor used with the ! or ? operator.
Apply Tube Texture Coordinates dotexture
 When enabled, UV texture coordinates are applied to the tube segments, such that the texture wraps smoothly and continuously over branches.
Vertical Increment vertinc
 Defines the vertical spacing of texture coordinates over tube geometry when tube texture is applied.
Parameters  Values Page
Step Size stepinit
 Step Size allows you to define the default length of the edges when new geometry is generated.
Step Size Scale stepscale
 Step Size Scale defines the scale by which the geometry will be modified by the " or _ (double quote, or underscore) turtle operators.
Angle angleinit
 Angle defines the default turning angle for turns, rolls and pitches.
Angle Scale anglescale
 Angle Scale allows you to enter the scaling factor to be employed when the ; or @ operators are used.
Variable b varb
 Substitutes userdefined b, c and d variables in rules or premise. These variables are expanded and so may include system variables such as $F
and $T
.
Variable c varc
 Substitutes userdefined b, c and d variables in rules or premise. These variables are expanded and so may include system variables such as $F
and $T
.
Variable d vard
 Substitutes userdefined b, c and d variables in rules or premise. These variables are expanded and so may include system variables such as $F
and $T
.
Gravity gravity
 This parameter determines the amount of gravity applied to the geometry via the T (tropism vector) turtle operator. Tropism is when a plant bends or curves in response to an external stimulus. Lsystems employ a tropism vector to simulate this behaviour. The bending is characterised by the fact that the thicker or shorter parts bend less than the longer or thinner parts.
Parameters  Funcs Page
The parameters on this page allow you to stamp your leaf geometry (each copy can be different) as opposed to simply copying them. See the example in Example  Stamping Lsystem Leaves.
Pic Image TOP pictop
 This is the TOP which the pic() function uses. See #Expressions Lsystem Specific Expression Functions below.
Group Prefix grpprefix
 If the production g(n) is encountered, all subsequent geometry is included in a primitive group prefixed with this label and ending with the ascii value of n. See #CreateGroup Creating Groups within Lsystems below for an example.
Channel Prefix chanprefix
 If the expression chan(n) is encountered, it is replaced with the local channel prefixed with this label and ending with the ascii value of n.
Leaf Param A stampa
 You can determine which parameters are used by leaves.
See #CreateGroup Creating Groups within Lsystems below for an example.
Leaf Param B stampb
 You can determine which parameters are used by leaves.
See #CreateGroup Creating Groups within Lsystems below for an example.
Leaf Param C stampc
 You can determine which parameters are used by leaves.
See #CreateGroup Creating Groups within Lsystems below for an example.
Rules DAT rules
 Path to the DAT defining the rules for the LSystem.
 Context Ignore
context_ignore:
 Defining this in the Rules DAT specifies all characters which are to be skipped when testing context sensitivity in the rules below.  Premise
premise:
 Define an initial string of characters to which the substitution rules are applied.  Rules  This is where the turtle substitution rules are defined.
Rule Substitution
You create the highly structured organic and branching objects using Lsystems grammar. An Lsystem is a process in which a sequence of rules are applied to an initial string of characters to create a new string. To build the geometry, each character of the final string represents one command which affects an imaginary stylus, or "turtle".
The process begins by examining the first character of the premise string. All sixteen rules are searched sequentially until an applicable rule is found. The current character is then replaced with one or more characters as defined by the rule. The remaining characters in the premise string are replaced in a similar fashion. The entire process is repeated once for each generation.
Limitations to Rules
 Polygon {} and branch [] operators can be nested 30 levels deep
 Rules can be 256 characters in length
 Variables can have up to 5 parameters
 Up to 25 rules can be defined
Turtle Operators
F
Move forward (creating geometry)
H
Move forward half the length (creating geometry)
G
Move forward but don't record a vertex
f
Move forward (no geometry created)
h
Move forward a half length (no geometry created)
J K M
Copy geometry source J, K or M at the turtle's position
after rescaling and reorienting the geometry.
T
Apply tropism vector
+
Turn right

Turn left (minus sign)
&
Pitch up
^
Pitch down
\
Roll clockwise
/
Roll counterclockwise

Turn 180 degrees
*
Roll 180 degrees
~
Pitch / Roll / Turn random amount
"
Multiply current length
!
Multiply current thickness
;
Multiply current angle
_
Divide current length (underscore)
?
Divides current width
@
Divide current angle
'
Increment color index U (single quote)
#
Increment color index V
%
Cut off remainder of branch
$
Rotate `up' towards the sun about heading
[
Push turtle state (start a branch)
]
Pop turtle state (end a branch)
{
Start a polygon
.
Make a polygon vertex
}
End a polygon
g
Create a new primitive group to which subsequent geometry is added
Production Rule Syntax
A Touch Lsystem rule is specified as:
[lc<] pred [>rc] [:cond]=succ [:prob]
where:
 lc  Optional left context
 pred  predecessor symbol to be replaced
 rc  Optional right context
 cond  Condition expression (optional)
 succ  Replacement string
 prob  Probability of rule execution (optional)
Context Sensitivity
The most basic type of rule is:
pred = succ
In this case, a character is replaced with the characters of succ if, and only if, it matches pred.
For example:
Premise: ABC
Rule 1: B=DOG
will result in ADOGC
pred can only specify one letter, but left and right context symbols can be specified. The general syntax is [lc<] pred [>rc] = succ.
For example:
Premise: ABC
Rule 1: A<B=DOG
again results in ADOGC
because B
is preceded by A
. If the rule were: Z<B=DOG
or B>A=DOG
the rule would not be applied.
Parameter Symbols
Each symbol can have up to five userdefined variables associated with it which can be referenced or assigned in expressions. Variables in the predecessor are instanced while variables in the successor are assigned.
For example:
The rule A(i, j) = A(i+1, j1)
, will replace each A
with a new A
in which the first parameter has been incremented and the second parameter decremented.
Note that the variables in the predecessor can also be referenced by the condition or probability portions of the rule.
For example:
The rule A(i):i<5 = A(i+1) A(i+1)
, will double each A
a maximum of five times (assuming a Premise of A(0)
).
Parameters assigned to geometric symbols (e.g. F
, +
, or !
) are interpreted geometrically.
For example:
The rule F(i, j) = F(0.5*i, 2*j)
, will again replace each F
with a new F
containing modified parameters. In addition to this, the new F
will now be drawn at half the length and twice the width.
Operator Override
Normally turtle symbols use the current length/angle/thickness etc. to determine their effect. By providing a turtle operator with an explicit parameter, it will override the value normally used by the turtle operator.
Override parameters for F
, f
, G
, h
, H
take the form of:
F(i,j,k,l,m)
i
 Override Length.j
 Override Thickness.k
 Override # Tube Segments.l
 Override # Tube Rows.m
 User parameter.
The k and l override parameters allow dynamic resolution of tube segments.
Examples
F
 Moves forward current length creating geometry.
H
 Moves forward half current length creating geometry.
F(i, j)
 Moves forward a distance of i,
creating geometry of thickness j
.
H(i, j)
 Move forward half the distance of i
, creating geometry of thickness half of j
.
+
 Turn by current angle amount.
~
 Rotate by random angle.
+(i)
 Turn by i degrees.
~(i)
 Override random angle with value of i
.
$(x0,y0,z0)
 Points the turtle to location (x0,y0,z0)
.
Given the above, the Premise:
F(1) +(90) F(1) +(90) F(1) +(90) F(1)
generates a unit box regardless of the default Step Size or Angle settings.
List of Operator Overrides
The following list describes the geometric interpretation of parameters assigned to certain turtle symbols:
Edge Rewriting
In The Algorithmic Beauty of Plants, many examples use a technique called Edge Rewriting which involve left and right subscripts. A typical example might look like:
Generations 10
Angle 90
Premise F(l)
RulesF(l) = F(l)+F(r)+
F(r) = F(l)F(r)
However, Touch doesn't know what F(l)
and F(r)
are. In this case, we can modify the rules to use parameter passing. For the F
turtle symbol, the first four parameters are length, width, tubesides, and tubesegs, leaving the last parameter userdefinable. We can define this last parameter such that 0
is left, and 1
is right:
Generations 10
Angle 90
Premise F(1,1,3,3,0)
Rules
After two generations this produces: Fl+Fr+FlFr
. There should not be any difference between this final string and F+F+FF.
Another approach is to use two new variables, and use a conditional statement on the final step to convert them to F
:
Variable b ch("generations")
Premise l
Rules l:t<b=l+r+
r:t<b=lr
l=F
r=F
Output l
F
F+F+
F+F++FF+
Expressions
In the earlier example, the expressions 0.5*i
and 2*j
are used. In fact, expressions can be used anywhere a numeric field is expected. Currently the following symbols can be used in expressions:
( )
 brackets for nesting priority
^ +  * / %
 arithmetic operators
min() max() sin() cos() asin() acos() pic() in()
 supported functions
== != = < <= > >=
 logical operators
&  !
 logical operators: and, or, not
b c d
 SOP b, c, d parameters after expansion
x y z
 current turtle position
g
 age of symbol
t
 time (generations) of Lsystem
a
 SOP angle parameter
T
 SOP tropism (gravity) parameter
The predefined variables above should not be used in the arguments of the predecessor.
For example: A(a,b) = B(a*2,b*2)
is wrong (a is the SOP Angle parameter). a<b (A,B) = b(A+1,B)
is right.
The last statement is correct because a
and b
are used as symbols and not variable names. A
and B
are correct because variable names are case sensitive.
LSystem Specific Expression Functions
pic(u, v, c)
 Using the image specified with Pic Image File, this function returns a normalized value (between0
and1
) of the pixel at the normalized coordinates(u,v)
;c
selects one of four channels to examine:0
1
2
3
in(q, r, s)
 Given a MetaTest input source containing a metaball geometry, this function returns a1
if the point(q, r, s)
is contained within the metaball, and0
if not. Usein(x, y, z)
(the lettersx
,y
, andz
are special and contain the X, Y, and Z location of the turtle) to test whether or not the turtle is currently inside the metaball to create pruned outputs.
Conditions
Each rule may have an optional condition specified. The syntax is:
[lc<] pred [>rc]:cond = succ
For example:
The Rule1 A:y>2=J
includes source J
at all A
's above the height of 2
.
Probability
Each rule can specify the probability that it is used (provided it is otherwise applicable). The syntax is:
[lc<] pred [>rc]:cond=succ=prob
For example:
Rule1 A=B:0.5
Rule2 A=C:0.5
will replace A
with either B
or C
with equal probability.
Creating Groups with LSystems
There is a group operator 'g
' which lumps all geometry currently being built into group g.
For example: g[F]
lumps geometry from F into a group called lsys0
. You can set the lsys prefix from the Funcs page.
Optional Group Parameters
g
takes an optional parameter as well.
For example: g(1)[F]
lumps geometry from f
into a group called lsys1
. If no parameter is given, the default index is bumped up appropriately.
The current group container is pushed/popped with the turtle state so you can do things like:
gF [ gFF] F
 The first and last F
's are put into group 0
, and the middle FF
's are put into group 1
. gF [ FF] F
 The geometry from all four F
's are put into group 0
, (pushing the turtle adopts the parent's group).
To exclude the middle FF
from the parent's group type: gF [ g(1)FF ] F
Controlling the Length over Time
To create an Lsystem which goes forward X percent less for each iteration, you need to start your Premise with a value, and then within a rule, multiply that value by the percentage you want to remain:
Premise A(1)
Rule A(i) = F(i)A(i*0.5)
This way "i
" is scaled before A
is again evaluated. The important part is the Premise. You need to start with a value to be able to scale that value.
Example
Step 1) Place a Circle SOP, and set the Number of Divisions to: param("lsys", 3
)
It then displays a triangle (3 is default value).
Step 2) Pipe this into the J input of a LSystem SOP. If the Lsystem Premise is:
J A
J(,,4) A
J(,,5) A
This way, you can customize each leaf before it gets copied.
Step 3) Change the Premise and Rule to:
PremiseA(0)
Rule1A(i)=FJ(,,i+3)A(i+1)
This creates a line of increasingorder polygons.
Step 4) Finally, we will want to create 20 leaves, and put them all into a Switch SOP. Do this by entering the following expression into the Switch SOP's Select Input: param("lsys",0)
Step 5) Then in your Lsystem, J(,,0) gives you the first SOP, J(,,1) gives you the second, and so on. This solves the problem of a limited number of leaves using only JKM.
Also note that these examples use only the first stamp parameter, you can use up to three parameters: e.g. J(,,1,2,3)
The first two parameters of J, K, M are used to override length and width, like symbol F.
Operator Inputs
 Input 0 
 Input 1 
 Input 2 
 Input 3 
TouchDesigner Build: