This is my first blog post – and it’s about symmetry, which is something I struggle with and think about a lot when I animate. There are plenty of these types of subjects that I’d like to discuss, like four-dimensional rotations or the use of music. You will find them updated regularly in this blog and you can participate in a discussion about these matters- since there must be so many ways of looking at and dealing with these issues.

I've been thinking about discussing Symmetry in one of my tutorials before, but I've decided it was too distracting from the subject.

Symmetry is actually really quite interesting: It’s everywhere in nature; in the shape of a leaf to virtually every living animal - they all have a symmetry axis through the middle. Therefore, symmetry is actually a pleasing sight. Any random shape with a vertical symmetry axis has the potential to look familiar: Rorschach blobs are probably the best example of this. It’s also the easiest way to create ‘a face’ – like in ‘the Resolution of the Thirteen Fractal Skulls’.

If we add even more symmetry axes, we start to get a kaleidoscope, turning virtually every random pattern into a pleasing flowery shape. Fractals carry a lot of symmetry and, pleasing as this may seem, I try to avoid it at all cost. Whenever I see a vertically symmetrical picture, I can’t help but feel I’m only looking at half a picture; the other half obscured by a mirror. With kaleidoscopic images the percentage goes down.

Since almost all fractals have symmetry axes scattered around like madness, I try to find camera angles that hide this. I almost never succeed at this for 100%, but the less symmetry I see, the more confident I am having something worthwhile. It helps sell the idea that every shape is unique- even though this isn't always the case. Even when the symmetry is undeniably beautiful, like in architecture, I offset the camera to film it from an angle, like in ‘Geologic Time’.

In the immersive short, ‘the Cryogenian’ the entire journey takes place through one long symmetrical corridor. Here I used lighting to create uniqueness, but I do believe it would have been much more interesting if there was a better way to break up the symmetry.

When morphing (animating) fractals, symmetry poses yet another problem. Matter will appear from nowhere or disappear into a mirror plane. I find this a deeply disturbing feature and it distracts from the beautiful nature of the morphs. Almost every fractal short I’ve made containing morphs, seems to have this problem- most notably ‘Looking Glass’ – but there are plenty others. Sometimes I use ‘modifiers’ in Mandelbulb3D to throw off the geometry a little, mostly _helispiral or _gnarl3d, but they are slow to render and add a lot of render time.

What are your ways to fight symmetry, or how do you embrace it? Let me know your thoughts,

Julius Horsthuis