Mged simulation

BRL-CAD recently integrated a new command in its mged tool, the simulate command. To simulate a cube falling to the ground plane one should follow those steps in order to run it in the mged tool.

Cube falling to the ground plane modeled and rendered in BRL-CAD

BRL-CAD is a CSG (Constructive Solid Geometry) program. The representation is done in a system of axis XYZ. The XY axis is the ground axis, so you should make sure later in the tutorial that your ground plane (referenced as "gp") is being parallel with this axis.

First open the mged tool, if you have BRL-CAD installed on your Linux system it should be easy, just type mged in a terminal and a mged terminal should open.

brlcad@brlcad: mged

In the mged terminal select the File menu, and then the New... (file dialog button). A window will appear and a name for your new database will be required. For the purpose of this tutorial we will name the new database, sim1. Introduce the chosen name (sim1) in the "File name:" field and hit save. Now you have opened a new database. Next we want to add some geometry to the database. Something that we will have to simulate on. In the mged command window we will now type the following series of commands :

mged> in
Enter name of solid: cube
Enter solid type: rpp
Enter XMIN, XMAX, YMIN, YMAX, ZMIN, ZMAX: -1 1 -1 1 -1 1

The "in" command creates new geometry, it allows the user to type in the arguments to create a shape with the name provided by the second argument, in the example above is the name provided when "Enter name of solid:" appears on the screen. The arguments of the in command can be provided one by one, as in the example above or in one single line, like in the example below:

mged> in cube rpp -1 1 -1 1 -1 1

We have so far a box, now we want to add a ground plane to our simulation. Now is the moment to remember that the XY axis is the ground axis, so out plane should be parallel to it, that's why we first introduce the lengths of the the ground plane and then we introduce the "thickness", in our case 2mu. The Z axis is up, so the -1mu and +1mu on it gives the "thickness" of our ground plane. The ground plane must be name "gp", that's the way the program knows that you are defining a surface that will play the role of the ground. After creating regions, the ground region will be named "gp.r" so that the simulation will know that it is actually the plane on which you want your objects to fall onto. (*mu = measuring units, by default it is mm)

mged> in gp rpp -15 15 -15 15 -1 1

You should see now 2 boxes on your screen, one perpendicular on the other one, with a little overlap between them. Using the sed command we will select the box and translate it 100 units on the Y axis.

mged> sed box
mged> tra 0 0 100
mged> accept

To be able to run the simulate command our geometry shapes should be grouped in regions to do this we will use the "r" command and create 2 regions for the box and the ground shapes.

mged> r cube.r u cube
mged> r gp.r u gp

We want our ground plane and cube to have a texture, for uniformity, we add textures to regions in BRL-CAD with the "matter" command, we will add a plastic texture with a transparency of 20% and a reflexivity of 20% also for both regions.

mged> mater cube.r "plastic {tr 0.2 re 0.2}" 210 100 100 0
mged> mater gp.r "plastic {tr 0.2 re 0.2}" 210 100 100 0

Now we are ready to run the simulate command:

mged> simulate 100

After the simulation runs its course, we will use the "who" command to find out what objects are being displayed.

mged> who

You should get the following answer:

box ground sim.c

Now, we don't really want to display the box and the ground shapes, we already have them in the sim.c group so we will unload all the geometry(using the "Z" command) and will load only the simulate geometry(using the "draw sim.c" command).

mged> Z
mged> draw sim.c

Now to actually see the simulation we will raytrace it, using the "rt" command.

mged> rt

To see the initial position of the cube just type :

mged> draw cube.r

Now in order to create an animation from your simulation, you will have to run the script below. It simulates the cube falling on the ground every step for 300 steps and then it renders an image(for every step) with the specified elevation view (in degrees is being specified). The "rt" command executes the BRL-CAD rt program with the default options. The default dimensions for the image are 512x512pixels, that can be changed and it is changed for the purpose of this tutorial providing the -w(width) and -n(height) options. The -A30 option specifies the default lighting, if we don't set it then our images will be all dark and we won't be able to see really anything. The -e option provides the elevation angle(The angle of elevation of an object as seen by an observer is the angle between the horizontal and the line from the object to the observer's eye (the line of sight) and there can also be an -a option for the azimuth angle(The azimuth of an object is the angular distance along the horizon to the location of the object.). The current database name is added to the end of the rt command line along with either the specified objects or, if none is specified, the list of currently displayed objects.


for i in `seq 1 300` ; do
		echo "Simulating..."
		mged sim.g simulate $i
		echo "Raytracing..."
                rt -A30 -e 35 -w 640 -n 480 -o image$i.png sim.g sim.c

Now if you don't want just to specify the azimuth angle (or) and the elevation angle for your simulation, then you can create a whole scene setting for it. To understand this better, you can go back in the mged window terminal, and from the visual panel menu window select the "View" option, then the "az35,el25", this will set the view of your current database to azimuth 35 and elevation 25 degrees. We also want to zoom on the image a little, so we will type "zoom 1.4" in the mged window, to zoom in the image. To save this view for later use type, in the mged terminal:

mged> zoom 1.4
mged> saveview az35.rt

To add the saved view from the saved file to your own rt script, you have to open the az35 saved file with a text editor program, say gedit on Linux systems, and copy paste the info from starting with the "$*\" and ending with the second "EOF" line. What do those lines do? They specify the location of your database and the top regions from it that you want to take place in the simulation, much likely the "rt [- options] sim.g sim.c" command, only now you give the whole path to your sim.g file and in there you use the sim.c group. now lets explain those numbers that we just copy-pasted :

  • viewsize is a variable to resize the screen through software;
  • orientation is placement of an object in a rotational coordinate system (XYZ in our case) with respect to a fixed point and a reference position;
  • eye_pt is the point at which the eye is placed when looking at the scene.

The -M option for the rt command specifies that you are going to provide a view script for a file, that's what you are doing between the 2 EOF lines. The -s800 option makes it possible for you to get an 800x800 pixels image. You can try and modify it, to get different size images. The pix-png command outputs a png file from the pix file that was previously rendered.


for i in `seq 1 300` ; do
	echo "Simulating..."
	mged sim.g simulate $i
	echo "Raytracing..."
	rt -A30 -M -s800 -o image$i.pix \
        'sim.c' \
        2>> sim.log\
        viewsize 2.85714285714286e+01;
        orientation 2.48097349045873e-01 4.76590573266048e-01 7.48097349045873e-01 3.89434830518390e-01;
        eye_pt 5.14352493537865e+01 3.60153493272174e+01 2.92798520616534e+01;
        start 0; clean;

	echo "Generating image..."
	pix-png -s800 image$i.pix > image$i.png
	rm -f image$i.pix
	echo "image"$i".png done"

Now that we have a bunch of pictures we want to actually see the cube falling to the ground, we could watch the pictures on a slide-show, but we can do better than that. We will make a *gif and a *mpg movie out of our pictures. For that you need to install the latest ImageMagick software on Linux , just type :

brlcad@brlcad: sudo apt-get install imagemagick

File:Simulation 256x256.gif
Cube falling to the ground plane gif with the viewset, modeled and rendered in BRL-CAD
Cube falling to the ground plane gif without the viewset, modeled and rendered in BRL-CAD

You will get some dependencies that you must install before installing the ImageMagick package, install those. After everything has been installed, move to the folder where you have your images saved and run the following command:

brlcad@brlcad: convert *png simulation.gif
brlcad@brlcad: convert *png simulation.mpg

That is it, now you can watch a gif/movie of your simulation.

For the movies, here are youtube links :

(* the install commands are for the Ubuntu - distributions, you must use your package manager for installing ImageMagick on your own Operating System)