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Polygons are ill suited for displaying effects such as fire, water and clouds. Manual editing of polygons is also not suitable for creating things like terrain, trees or hair. The models commonly used to create these things are known as procedural models.
Particle systems are used to model effects such as fire, water, smoke, bullet casings and other similar effects. Particle systems may be used artistically (e.g. as an effect for a magical spell in a game) or for realistic simulations (e.g. the flow of smoke through a burning building in a CG movie scene).
Fractals can be used as a procedural way of generating detailed surfaces at any level of zoom, without the need to store extra data. One of the primary uses of fractals is generating detailed terrain from relatively little information.
Grammar Based Models
Grammar based models use simple grammar production rules and are often used to generate plants and other natural growths.
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