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:
June 28, 2016
A short animation featuring my improved facade on my Alamo model.
June 21, 2016
Alamo Facade (see Gallery for full size)
Seven years ago I posted a video of my first Alamo 3D model on YouTube. Since then, I have been gradually improving my technical abilities and tools to create a more photo-realistic result.
The render above, represents my latest work: reworking the Alamo church facade. For comparison, here is a render of my model in 2009.
Here is a summary of the improvements:
- Using a physically accurate render engine with global illumination (Blender Cycles) produces realistic lighting.
- The lighting source is from an HDRI image (Hyperfocal Design). This is another important contribution to realistic lighting and background.
- Color grading. The rendered result was corrected to improve color balance.
- More geometry. The new model has a higher level of detail. For example the spirals in the pillars.
- Higher texel density. The size of the textures is sufficient for a sharp image of objects that are 1-2 meters from the camera. Also, the texel density is more uniform across objects in the scene.
- Bump and normal map textures add detail without increased geometry. For example, the decorations on the doorway.
- Physically based material workflow. Materials were created using Allegorithmic Substance Designer and Painter.
- Hand generated textures. The stonework textures were created by hand using a workflow involving Photoshop, Inkscape and Substance Painter. This allowed the addition of realistic weather, dirt and damage effects.
Not visible in this render are the other improvements like the complete modeling of Bexar and more realistic landscape around the San Antonio River.
December 25, 2015
Ben Milam looks at Mexican position on San Fernando church
In 1835, Ben Milam lead a small group of Texians into San Antonio de Bexar in an attempt to take the town from Mexican forces commanded by General Martin Perfecto de Cos. From the courtyard of the Veramindi house, Milam studied the Mexican positions around the San Fernando church using a field telescope given to him by Stephen Austin. He was killed by a shot to the head from a Mexican sharpshooter in a tree across the river.
This 3D model was made using the Makehuman tool and Blender. The textures were created in Substance Painter.
Link to Sketchfab model.
December 1, 2015
Last year I modeled a soldado using ZBrush. The model used too many polygons to be practical in my Alamo model and I never went through the process of changing the topology and rigging it for animation.
The new model is based on the MakeHuman tool. The clothes were modeled in Blender and textured using Substance Painter. The level of detail is suitable for a display in which the character is less than about 500 pixels. The character (with gun) uses about 8K vertices but I could probably reduce it to about 6K without losing much detail. It is completely rigged and can be posed and animated.
Here is the model in SketchFab: Soldado in 3D