A spatial metric for adapting the level of detail in a modelled object to achieve a convincing degree of realism on a display is formulated and illustrated with a simple implementation. This spatial metric is designed to be of most benefit to animations of natural environments. The metric can operate with a wide range of different representations: the essential requirement being that an abstract data structure with hierarchical levels of detail is formulated. Such models are most easily implemented with procedural recursive representations, such as fractals. The actor/message passing approach to modelling animation is adopted as being most appropriate and intuitive when simulating the objects and events of the natural environment. This object-oriented programming method also gives a uniform abstract interface to differing data representations. A stick figure, which has a non-uniform hierarchical structure, was chosen for the first implementation. This prototype was implemented in Smalltalk which had to be extended to include a part-whole (assembly-subassembly) hierarchy. The need to extend the metric to include temporal (dynamic) trade-offs is discussed
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