Speed Tree Interface Layout
Speed Tree Interface layout has very appealing, clean look

Speed Tree Editors
Speed Tree additional editor windows

Speed Tree branch node parameters
Speed Tree Branch node parameters


Speed Tree

Currently Speed Tree is the most popular tree editor for games and film industry.

First version of Speed Tree was released in 2002 and was intended for games creation. As its name suggest, Speed Tree is fast, and focused on creation of trees. But since it was shaped from the beginning to excel in generation of simple trees for 3D games, sometime it becomes cumbersome when plants of different, non tree structure have to be created. In my opinion, for small plants like flowers, even old Xfrog seems to have some advantage over Speed Tree.

Nevertheless Speed Tree is an excellent package for creation of 3D trees, and it was used in countless games and movies. Interface of Speed Tree is very ergonomic, and responsive. Trees are generated swiftly. When working on not too huge models, edition is smooth & in real time - by dragging parameter slider, you see how plant changes, and it is instant. For more complex models, various preview simplification are available, so plant shaping can be done in realtime without any annoying lags between definition of parameter value and result on the screen.

Speed Tree is procedural editor, so it uses graphs to define plant structure and parameters to fine tune the shape of plant components. Graphs used by Speed Tree as just a few (branch, leaf) so there is, no advanced graph features as in The Plant Factory. Such simplification may be appreciated by people unfamiliar with complex graph editors, but it limits Speed Tree versatility.

Speed Tree offers several cool features missing in other software : branch bifurcations, tilted branch cuts, extensive system for normals management and ambient lighting.

Speed Tree has built in wind system which is quite easy to handle, and provides pretty realistic results, especially with billboard leaves. It works in real time, so you can adjust wind parameters and immediately you see how it influences the plant.

Mesh complexity is defined mostly manually, which means that it takes more time to optimize model than in automatic solutions as in TPF, but in exchange user has a higher degree of control over mesh subdivisions, so it is possible to create pretty complex trees without going into millions of polygons, and even with million polygon models Speed Tree can respond swiftly. Such excellent optimization tools must be appreciated by games developers.

List of parameters controlling plant components (branches/fronds/leaves etc...) ist is very extensive. It can be a problem for new users, but there is build in help which display information about every parameter which is very helpful during learning process.