Houdini Test

March 19, 2017

This is my first attempt at using Houdini in my work flow.  Houdini is a powerful procedural modeling and animation tool that is widely used for VFX productions–think explosions, fire, floods, etc.  One possible use for me is in the creation of scenes with large numbers of Mexican soldiers.  This is a test of Houdini’s crowd simulation to depict the arrival of Santa Anna’s army into San Antonio de Bexar on February 23, 1836.

My workflow to create the scene shown above was as follows:

  • My previously created soldado model from Blender and Substance Painter was modified to use a single material.
  • Marching and standing animations were created in Blender.
  • The animated soldado was imported into the free Houdini Apprentice version using FBX as an agent primitive.
  • In Houdini, the agent was used to create several groups of soldados in formation with randomized sizes and animation offsets.
  • The ground mesh and buildings from the Main Plaza were imported into Houdini using FBX.
  • The scene was composed by translating and rotating the marching groups.
  • A camera was added and positioned in Houdini.
  • A matching camera was positioned in Blender.
  • The scene in Blender (no soldiers) was rendered as a background image.
  • The animation was rendered in Houdini containing just the soldados and their shadows.
  • The background, marchers and shadows were composited in Houdini and rendered.
  • The composited output sequence was rendered to MP4 in Movie Studio and uploaded to YouTube.

The result still has some work to do.  This part of my model still uses materials and textures from 7 years ago.  The lighting needs work.  The standing soldiers need animation and more variation.  The scene should include other types of soldados, officers, horses and townfolk.

I am also interested in exploring an alternate workflow in which the Houdini animation of the crowds is imported through the Alembic format into Blender for rendering.  This requires the purchase of the Indie version of Houdini.