June 16, 2017
Colonel Ygnacio de LaBastida, Commander of the Engineers of the Army of the North in 1836, made a map of the area around San Antonio de Bexar and the Alamo compound. The map prominently featured two ponds just to the east of the walls of the convento courtyard and adjacent to the Alamo acequia (a probable source of the water in the field). This image depicts a view of the back of the Alamo across one of these ponds. The vantage point corresponds to a location approximately at the northeastern corner of the present day Alamo grounds.
For this render, I improved the textures on the rear of the Alamo church and convento and continued to experiment with terrain modeling and flora.
May 31, 2017
This is a view of the outside of the west wall of the Alamo compound. The thatched roof structure is the rear of the Treviño house which served as the headquarters of Travis. In the foreground, there is an acequia that ran parallel to the west wall. This acequia replaced the one that ran inside the compound.
My recent work has been centered on improving the ground model and workflow. I reworked the acequias to have a more rustic, ditch-like appearance because I now believe that the dressed stone lining was added later in the 19th century.
To make this scene, the ground was replaced with a relatively small plane with even subdivisions, then shrink-wrapped on the base ground mesh. The surface was tessellated using a noise texture. The edge of the acequia was sculpted for a more natural look. The water shader was improved. Several types of grass and weeds from the Grass Essentials product were added: a base of short green grass, a pattern of longer brownish grass, longer green grass on the edge of the acequia, a very long yellow/brown grass and finally some nettles.
Some improvements were made to the model of the compound: the poles in the roof and the bricks in the windows were made more irregular. Wood lintels were also added.
Photoshop was used to improve the contrast and correct the tone.
April 19, 2017
This is an improved animation test. New textures. Better lighting. Changed the church facade to reflect earlier (1840) drawings. Added officer on horseback. Added flag bearer.
- Models and background render: Blender
- Crowd simulation and animation; Compositing: Houdini
- Textures: Allegorithmic Substance Painter
- Video editing: Movie Studio Platinum 14
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.
November 13, 2016
Facade with new statues
The facade of the church of the Alamo has four empty niches. In 1836, it is believed that they contained statues of four saints: Anthony, Ferdinand, Francis and Dominic. The statue of Anthony had been damaged during some of the work on the compound the year before. This statue was found years later in a weedy lot near the Alamo and is on display in the Long Barrack museum.
My latest work has been to replace the low resolution statues in my model with improved high res digital sculptures.
The new statues were crafted by using the following workflow:
- A base mesh was created in MakeHuman and imported to Blender
- The model was posed along with some of the accessories that the figures carry.
- The posed models were imported into ZBrush where the clothing, hair and other details were sculpted in high detail.
- ZBrush was used to derive a lower polycount mesh from the high detail model.
- The low polycount model was imported into Substance Painter and the high detail model used to bake normal maps (giving the appearance of detail in the render).
- A limestone material was applied along with a layer of dirt.
- The resulting textures and low polycount model were imported into Blender and placed into the scene.
Here are renders of the individual statues taken from Substance Painter.
Saint Anthony (Antonio)
Saint Ferdinand (Fernando)
Saint Francis (Francisco)
Saint Dominic (Domingo)
And here are their SketchFab renders:
September 2, 2016
This is an experiment to use the YouTube 360 viewer for panoramic images.
I can now do 360 videos with animation (although this one is static).
In order to view this on iPhone/iPad, you need to use the YouTube app.
August 30, 2016
Facebook recently introduced a panorama viewer which lets a consumer view a 360 degree image by panning the mouse or moving a mobile device. The viewer requires an equirectangular image with a 2:1 aspect ratio and certain embedded metadata.
I created a scene in Blender with an equirectangular camera placed in the southern courtyard of the Alamo.
This site does not support panoramas but the scene can be viewed on my Facebook page: Alamo 2.0 or with a direct link to the post: Panorama Image (link may not work if you are not signed in to Facebook).
Panoramas give an immersive feeling–especially when viewed on a mobile device that can pan the image as the device is moved around. They are quick to download and work on just about any modern browser that supports HTML5–unlike a game engine presentation. Panoramas even support 360 videos.
An app could display a map with hot spots for 360 views or even use geo-fencing to pop up a view when the user walks to a certain place in San Antonio. Adding characters would place the viewer in the middle of a battle scene. Rendering in stereo for Google Cardboard would complete the VR experience. I am pretty excited about the uses of this technology for presenting my model.