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What is this cloud thing? Well...photos are posted here on this site randomly distributed over time from several users scattered all over the world (mostly Europe). A cloud here is defined to simply be a meltdown of these images into one single image - an image that obviously becomes more and more chaotic over time.

The meltdown is done merging the new image into the old one. This is done by first selecting a random location in the old image where the new image is then drawn using an alpha layer to determine transparency. Pixel by pixel the colours are merged using the formula

C(x + x0, y + y0) = α(x, y) * Csrc(x, y) + (1 - α(x, y)) * Cdst(x + x0, y + y0)

where α is the alpha layer and Csrc is the colour of the image that is being added and Cdst is the colour of the old image that the image is added to. The point (x0, y0) is simply the randomly chosen coordinate.

The alpha layer in turn is formed by using a midpoint displacement algorithm (for reference, have a look at the sdlplasma hack at hellkvist.org) to create a mountain-like surface. Where the mountain of the surface is high lots of colours from the new image will be selected as this transforms directly to the alpha layer. Where there are valleys most of the colour will come from the old image. The edges of the alpha layer image produced this way is set low so that there will be no sharp edges and everything will melt together nicely. So one could say that there are no mountains near the edges - only valleys.

The meltdown, where new images are added to the old image, is done once every hour so the image seen on top of the page is constantly changing as people add images to the site. Therefore one can look upon it as some sort of collaborative art if you wish. The seed to the whole algorithm is the peace symbol - a symbol that I wish was behind more things in life.

A copy of the current cloud is also saved once in a while (roughly twice a month). The images above are the clouds that have been generated so far (since the start in July, 2004).

Animated clouds

When this page got slashdotted many suggested that I should make a movie out of it as well. I have done so by making 10 frames for each image so that a fade in effect is created. Below follows a list of the currently available movies categorized in chronological order.

July 1st to August 31st, 2004 (4.89 MB from 265 images, music by me)

September 1st to September 30th, 2004 (4.31 MB from 358 images, music by me)

October 1st to October 31st, 2004 (9.87 MB from 364 images, music by me with text posted by users)

November 1st to November 30th, 2004 (4.56 MB from 398 images, music by Fredrik Blom - a song called "In A Darkly Lit Room")

December 1st 2004 to April 4th 2005 (10.9 MB from 869 images, music by me)

My trip to China (summer 2005) (12.5 MB from 180 images, music by me)

A Cloud movie, made of clouds (7.5 MB from 156 images posted by users at peffis.com, "music" by me - an XviD codec might be needed for this one)






Comments about the clouds from people passing by...
Luke
5th Aug, 2004
Wow! I love it!
Clara
5th Aug, 2004
Nice work! I like how the photos blend together like that.
Tim
6th Aug, 2004
Hi,
This has 2 very good engineering applications:
1)I think there should be some glasses that work this way, I could use them to stand looking @ my friends wife!
buuahahahaha... nice job!

2)This could be used in 6 DOF flight simulators to simulate real clouds or fog banks. The ones we have now dont allow use to specify the density of the cloud. This could be very useful simulating the downrange affect on a seeker.
focalhost
24th Aug, 2004
first post
Rick
24th Aug, 2004
This is stupid. I can't believe you waste your time with this crap.
Don
24th Aug, 2004
Aww, but Rick will take the time to tell you how stupid it is.

I think it's a great project. The eventual blending of random photos may turn into a work of art itself.

good luck.
hmm...
24th Aug, 2004
you know there was a similar project for livejournal images, right? it blended them all together... called Mosaic, i think.
palindr0me
24th Aug, 2004
Perty...I like it. The trolls, however, can suck it.
Keith P.
24th Aug, 2004
This is pretty cool. My first thought after seeing the first couple of monthly snapshots was this: I wonder how this would look as an animation. That is, take a snapshot after each photo is merged in, and use that as the frame of an ever-growing MPEG movie.

I can see other applications for this process as well. I think this would make a great screensaver. The screensaver could be configured to point to a diirectory of photos, and could merge a random photo (resized to an appropriate size) with a random alpha value into a random location on the screen every, oh, couple of seconds or so. It could even do it fancylike and fade each photo in during the merge.
Anonymous coward
24th Aug, 2004
Yay! Slashdotted. Congrats :)
Josh
24th Aug, 2004
Cool! Very humanitarian.
One of those, wish I thought of that apps.
anansi
24th Aug, 2004
great job. as a social commentary, notice the promanent depiction of violence in our world.
anansi
24th Aug, 2004
great job. as a social commentary, notice the promanent depiction of violence in our world.
Bruce
24th Aug, 2004
This software is one of the most interesting apps I've seen on the web, ever. It's as if the people posting images are engaged in a visual conversation with all the same opportunities of collaboration, conflict, ambiguity and serendipity inherent in the verbal sharing of thought...

What a great effort! Please keep it alive and well.

B^)
jeff
24th Aug, 2004
Is this open souce? Where do I get it? I want it!
Peffis
26th Aug, 2004
To answer some questions: Yes, an animated movie where every picture fade in would be extremely cool. I think I'll do that some day (I have images here dating back to 2003 so there is plenty to work on). Fading in the images would be quite easy. I know the alpha layer surface so I just start with a low value and interpolate till I get the resulting alpha layer - then the image will fade in amazingly I think. Thanks! Must try that...I'm afraid to post it though. Slashdot was mean to me...

It's not open source yet but I'll relase it one day. It's just a script and a few lines of c-code. It also uses Imagemagick to convert from JPEG/GIF to RAW image format that I can manipulate easily in my c-program. It will go up on Freshmeat when it's ready as all the other projects (such as the software running this site).
jz - http://tofz.org
31st Aug, 2004
please release the code! even in very rough stage! i would like to use it myself as i am sure it can interest many people around!

congrats for that great pixelwork!!
ClintJCL
24th Sep, 2004
Yea really! Just release it, even in its infant stage! Someone may do the rest of the work for you, and wouldn't that be nice?

I want to make a cloud for every party i've gone to. Every event. Ever. I have a huge directory tree of images, i would like a 'cloud.jpg' in each directory!

Please oh pretty please, I already have Perl and ImageMagick anyway!
Peffis
26th Sep, 2004
Well...it will be released when it will be released. That's all there is to it.

To be honest I have seen far too much abuse of my GPL'd stuff...or rather the license, to really feel inclined to ever release software under open source ever again. The sad truth is that there are so many people out there who simply just want to steal the code without sharing. And that is quite depressing to me.

But we'll see. I just need some new belief in the open source way...and nagging on me won't help.
Josh
27th Sep, 2004
I have no problem with your decision to delay releasing the code, or to not release the code at all... but you graciously provided the algorithm so I pinched it and hacked my own (slow but functional) version in python. It's available here. My version is more targeted toward making a 'cloud' from a set of pre-existing photos but could be easily modified to add photos to an ongoing cloud.
Josh
27th Sep, 2004
Hehe, so much for 'here'. http://serialized.net/archives/000019.html
Peffis
28th Sep, 2004
Cool! That's what I thought as well. Given the explanation it should be easy for anyone to write something similar as there is really nothing much to it. Good luck to you!
G
27th Oct, 2004
If the redsox win the world series will you release your code?

:)
Peffis
27th Oct, 2004
Yeah, if they do that I'll release it just before Duke Nukem Forever is released ;)
G
27th Oct, 2004
I wonder if its possible to store informatioin about which image is influencing the alpha the most on a given pixel and set it up with an image map so when you click on a part of the cloud it shows you the picture that that part of the cloud was generated from (dominantly)
Peffis
27th Oct, 2004
Yeah, currently no information is stored about data such as that but I've been thinking of making something like that so that you can explore the cloud in all dimensions (time-wise as well)
ChaosExiguus
11th Mar, 2005
I like how sometimes the cloud almost seems to become one complete image
11 Yellow Roses
2nd Jul, 2005
cool idea! but man i wanna see the movie things but my computer is dumb and wont let me!? you need to put them in like MPEG format and make it able to download them to my harddrive and play them, cuz however youve got it set up, dosent work for me. my computer hates me i think! i think it enjoys annoying the heck outa me! =/
-mark-
TDawg
8th Aug, 2005
I was reading the comments on open source... I understand your point. It is too easy to just use whatever GPL you want and make your changes and start charging money... attitudes are the problem.

Perhaps if you are inclined to release any future code, you as the owner can do anything you like to it, like, charge some required donation to an open source supporting organization.
Peffis
11th Aug, 2005
Yes, that might be one solution. I used to be a strong believer in the GPL before and thought it was the way forward for us all, but I have found through some bad personal experiences that if you are a single small developer you will basically just get screwed by it. The GPL works like a charm for bigger projects that have a community that supports it. Nobody dares to steal it then. But for the little guy you will just get run over. What I found most annoying is that I have many times received specific feature request from certain people which happen to be the same people who later rip you off. Made me feel like I was working for free for other people who just took and never gave. Not a nice feeling. But I'll find my way through it some day. Open source is still the only way forward.
TDawg
19th Aug, 2005
I searched google and found this. user was inspired by peffis :)

I am sure many of us are...

http://serialized.net/archives/000019.html
LUIS VAZQUEZ
11th Sep, 2005
I LIKED VERY MUCH YOUR PICTURES, AND THE MOVIES, I THINK THEY WERE VERY COOL. I HOPE YOU GET TO CATCH MORE, MY MAIL IS OKLUIS2U@HOTMAIL.COM
SEE YOU LATER
Sandro (Germany)
31st Dec, 2005
My Respect.
You are an ABSOLUTE Genius !!!

Happy New Year
jz - tofz.org
12th Jan, 2006
Hey! I understand your point with the GPL and being ripped off, but the saddest thing is that people are acting badly everywhere, and not only with GPL code... commercial software got cracked, shareware are quite rarely registered, etc.

I though tend to think that the more you publish, the more people may get interested in working with you, and the more "state of the art" and buzz will be generated... All of this would help in enforcing b*stards violating the GPL.

Consider it as a wish of good will, and be sure i am serious : if someday you change your mind and release this as GPL, i'll try, as a sunday-coder, to try help you by :
1/ respecting the GPL myself and report back whatever interesting (little, ain't no coder! ;) modification i may do
2/ promoting your work,
3/ creating an untolerable pressure on whoever may try to rip your GPLed software! ;)

Peace, love and GNU.


j
Peffis
12th Jan, 2006
Yes, I agree wholeheartedly with what you are saying and, like you, I am a strong believer in openness and the GPL. I have just suffered from the side effect that, if you are running a small one-man project, it offers you, in reality, basically no protection. I think it only works in practice when you have a big community around the project. Otherwise you end up giving and giving and will never receive anything back. This situation is quite consuming I must say and I have felt bad for it, thus ending up becoming tired of it all. But perhaps one day I'll be a bigger person and can overlook it. Who knows?
lucy katherine
26th Feb, 2006
awsome i would be too laaazzzyyy to do that
Clint
2nd Mar, 2006
I don't think you need "protection". That's insanely paranoid and you're never going to make any money off of this. It's cool, and you should share it. This site is a cruel tease! You tease us! :)
Peffis
2nd Mar, 2006
Well, you misunderstand my motives completely. I'm not at all in it for the money as I agree with you that I will never make anything from it either...or rather...I already have...but that's another issue. The reason I have stopped sharing the source code is not related to money. I simply got tired of just giving and never receiving anything back - not money, but contribution of source code or just simply feedback. People just kept begging for features and after that it turned out that the reason they did it was because they needed such a project for their own commercial winnings. I don't want to earn any money for this but I have far better things to do in life than to work for people for free. I'm sorry that it's a tease. Didn't mean it to be. But I decide what I want to give - me an me alone. And I have given a lot already. There is nothing here that somebody can't reproduce. I've even given the exact algorithm for the cloud thingie so any beginner in programming can implement it. Sorry, but I can't help what I'm feeling.
Peffis
2nd Mar, 2006
...please don't see it as a tease. See it as inspiration if you like.
smax
25th Apr, 2006
like..ok..this is...really good!
uncle rico
14th May, 2006
do you think using your source code and a couple bottles of corona lager, that eventually, time travel will be possible?
Peffis
14th May, 2006
Time travel is already possible. At least the men from the future told me that. But they said it didn't work with corona lager as the popular theory went in the early beginning. There was a need for real beer for it to work it turned out.
tourmo
20th Jun, 2006
Across the years of yesterday, he sometimes comes to me, a little boy just back from play - the lad I used to be; and yet he sighs so wistfully once he has crept within, I wonder if he longs to meet the man I might have been.
Peffis
20th Jun, 2006
That is a beautiful poem

26th Jun, 2006
Hi :) I love your work it is truly beautiful and i hope people appreciate it :)
mary
28th Jun, 2006
Im in awe. I love it.
random guy
4th Jul, 2006
wtf is this site about
random guy
4th Jul, 2006
dont get me wrong your pictures are fantastic but how did i get on this site when i wanted a clip art cloud for my game





WTF??????
Peffis
4th Jul, 2006
Well, Internet search is not a precise science
Pete
12th Jul, 2006
I was googling cloud images for some image i'm working on and saw this. Not at all what I was looking for but it looks pretty cool so I thought i'd at least drop a kudos on this one.

ps: I totaly understand your motives for not releasing the source code. I think i'd do the same. I develop as well, I don't release the things do for fun and for free when I konw someone will turn around and steal my base and cash in on it without giving back..

Anyways. this was interesting. Once again, Kudos and keep up the good work.
Peffis
13th Jul, 2006
Thanks Pete!
Brian
21st Sep, 2006
I second Rick's comment above....This is stupid. Why waste your time?
Peffis
21st Sep, 2006
What's funny is that you just wasted more time on it than I do. As you might learn eventually, running an application on a server won't actually take any time from yourself. But thanks for taking your time to comment.
Emma
17th Oct, 2006
Mmm - I accidently stumbled across one of your images (and, might I add, fell in love) - they are awesome!

Your initial explanation of how you were able to create this effect... 'sighs'... well it went COMPLETELY over my head (which fortunately does not occur on a devastatingly regular basis, :) ) yet despite this: I love them.

Also - may I make a personal inquiry?

(Here would probably be the point at which you reply - well you can ask, however I may not answer)

I was wondering about your age.

(I have incorrigible curiosity - it is one of my many, many, many faults, :) - that and a tendency to blatantly over emphasise)

Ciao (Again : I LOVE YOUR WORK!!!!!!!!)

M.
Peffis
17th Oct, 2006
Thank you for your kind comments Emma. I'm glad you liked it. I'm not worrying much about age so of course you can know my age if you find that interesting. I'm 32.
Amool
19th Oct, 2006
Hey Peffis!

Wonderful....for a moment it just baffled me when ur image came up for images of clouds i was looking after for my wallpaper... well urs wud be good but it will keep me donot know what but I think cannot handle this chaos in the images :)

Anyway great job and good to read your explanation about it.

cheers!
Amool
19th Oct, 2006
and you know I had in fact tried this ..no not gone for any program or something but in Picasa but that did not really appeal to me...it just ends up mixing all of the photos in a single one...quite naivly overlapping one over the other. But ur idea of overlapping a specific region of the original photo did the trick :)
Peffis
19th Oct, 2006
I'm glad you found the instructions on how to create this effect helpful. Have fun with it!
james
28th Nov, 2006
im an artist an i call it a time sbased peice fantastic eh he
ClintJCL
30th Nov, 2006
I'm 32, too, and still frustrated by the lack of a code release. I'm generating cloudes per-event of my own photo, but they are inferior to the ones here, and I have to create about 10 to get a single suitable cloud that doesn't suck, and they all have whitespace. You're just selfish becuase you're never going to make a penny off of this fabulous effect, yet you deprive the world of it.
Peffis
1st Dec, 2006
I really don't get it. The method is all there and very well documented. I even give a reference to one of my own programs (source code available) which contains the most advanced code in it all - the plasma effect. Many people have written to me and thanked me for the good documentation that helped them write their own program in their language of choice. Why it is not working for you I don't know. As for calling me selfish and claiming that I want money for it. Well, you clearly don't know me so I don't see how you can make such judgements. Besides, if I really wanted to make money from anything here, why do you think that I provide a completely free service here that I will NEVER charge for? Why do you think I refuse to put any banners on this site? And if it was in my interest to keep the cloud algorithm secret then why do you think I took the time to document it so well for everybody here? I used to think that I would one day release the code for the clouds but I won't because a) there is nothing advanced in it that any good programmer can't redo in an hour or so given the description of the algorithm and b) I started to get really annoyed by people whining about the fact that they can't get it. Stop whining people!
tdawgpharaoh
9th Apr, 2007
I haven't posted here before, but have emailed back and forth with Peffis. I was shocked by all certian comments of his wanting money. When peffis code was originally released years ago, Peffis helped me quite extensively by email. I offered some money, he refused. I also suggested he use sourceforge donate to project, because I would have donated. He refused. He not only helped me setup code, he helped me diagnose server problems. And, when I was inspired to write my own code using a dirivitive of his, he pointed me in the right direction in which files to look in.

So, who are you to say Peffis is in it for the money?
Peffis
9th Apr, 2007
Perhaps it's just a sign to what the world is coming to. People try to understand other people by looking at themselves. Since they themselves would never do anything for anyone else without asking money for it they immediately assume that everyone else is just the same. Money is sadly a very destructive force I think.
GugaRedy
17th Jun, 2007
Hi.
Very useful resource. THE BEST. I liked your site.

Thanks.

Sincerely,
Cruninov
14th Jul, 2007
Class site.
Your site has very much liked me.
Different work!!!
Vilyamzi
1st Aug, 2007
Hello! great idea of color of this siyte!
LilaSeedA
4th Aug, 2007
Hi,

I liked your site. An excellent content. Fine the schedule.

Thanks.
Vilyamwj
4th Aug, 2007
Hello! great idea of color of this siyte!

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