Released in 1997, Genesis VFX was a flexible, multi-purpose visual effects tool written by Andrew “Deadline” Cross and published by Future Fantastic and Positron. It offered a vibrant GUI for creating layered, highly-configurable effects out of procedural, geometric elements, each one with its own unique blending and distortion properties. Presets could be stored in .GFX files and shared with others.
The simplest use would appear be to creating lens flares - and the 90s loved lens flares.
Dig a bit deeper though and there was a wild world of cool and unusual results possible. The software offered some unique and powerful features not found in anything else at the time; most notable the ability to “wrap” any effect around any number of arbitrary shapes via a masking system, helping to cater to another 90s favourite : extremely funky text.
My interest in Genesis stems from my involvement in its early testing and development. Andrew and I crossed paths in the burgeoning 3dsmax plugin development scene and he ended up a source of encouragement and inspiration when it came to my own attempts at visual effects development.
I ended up creating a number of popular preset packs for the product launch as well as offering guidance for the 3dsmax version. You can still check out the original Genesis website via archive.org - However, in the last decade my personal site also held a small shrine to Genesis, housing any old builds I could find and a short history of the project.
I continued using it for a few personal projects, as well as when working on the visual effects for PlayStation 2 FPS FireWarrior in 2002 or thereabouts - that lasgun muzzleflash is straight out of Genesis!
Many Years Later …
On the train into work one day in 2017 I decided it would be cute to have a modern version of it that I could use in something like Paint.NET . That idea burrowed its way deep into my brain to the degree that several months later I had managed to get a copy of the original Photoshop plugin source code (presumed long lost by both Andrew and myself; huge thanks to Richard Wilson for his part in this) and set about untangling the internals. Over the years I chipped away at that rebuild, ended up writing a bespoke UI library to support making something appropriately “cool looking” in Paint.NET and in 2021 finally got to shipping a fully working version - regenesis - wrapped in said Windows Forms UI library, asphalt.
This version uses a fast, multi-threaded native renderer that supports all the old
.GFX files from Genesis VFX, adding some extra tweaks and options for squeezing even more weirdness out.
Full source for the original recovered Photoshop plugin, the rebuilt regenesis C++ backend, command line example and Paint.NET plugin are all available on GitHub. I’ve also included all the old builds I ever found trawling the dusty corners of usenet and items ripped from the promotional CD full of goodies sent to me in 2014 by Ivailo . If you ever find anything fun to add to that pile, please send a PR or ping me with details!
I’m both a sucker for the warm embrace of nostalgia and the comfort of digital preservation amongst the endless churn and loss of old internet arcana. I’m glad to have kept this weird little scrap of my past alive and unkillable. Surprising Andrew with it was especially gratifying.
This restoration & preservation project is part love letter to the 90s and part long-overdue thanks for his enthusiasm, knowledge and support two and a half decades ago. Lens Flares Forever <3