Greetings again all.
First of all, my apologies for my absence of late - I recently moved, don’t yet have an internet connection at home; I’m writing this from work. That said, on with the purpose of this post!
When I originally came here, as I recall, I did so asking after the engine’s suitability to a project that I had in mind one which involved a forest setting. After quite some time (the project was conceived well before my arrival here, as I recall), I have begun research in earnest on the problem of rendering such a forest as I have in mind.
This brings me to one request, and one question.
First, does anyone have any advice regarding forest rendering, either in general or in using Panda3D specifically? Recommendations of third party APIs or tools would be most welcome (although I alas have come to the conclusion that SpeedTree is rather well out of a wise price range for me ), as well as advice on building my own (which is what, having done some searching, I believe I will likely end up doing). I have already done some research, and have some ideas, but I would be very glad of additional input, I believe.
This brings me to a specific point, and my question. I have been advised that modelling the leaves of nearby trees as textured quads might not be overly taxing on systems (as I had previously imagined) if I employ geometry instancing, essentially having one leaf that is placed and rendered over and over again.
I’m not referring here to scene-graph instancing, which is, if I’m not much mistaken, the form described in the manual. I’m told that geometry instancing is usually handled in a shader; am I correct in thinking, then, that there should be little trouble in implementing it under Panda?
My thanks for any help given.
 A little detail about what I have in mind, to give an impression, I hope, of where I stand at the moment in my plans:
I realise that a primary element of achieving this is level-of-detail. What I have in mind at the moment is essentially high-detail trees at close range, with separate leaves, low-detail trees at middle distance, with leaf clump quads, lower-detail-yet trees at far distance, with few, larger clump quads, and at far distance billboarded sprites, each showing one of a fixed set of pre-rendered images based on angle to the viewer.
Since I currently intend on some degree of stylisation of trees, increasing with distance, I hope that fewer sprites and leaf-clump images may be used than might otherwise look good.