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.
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.
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.
April 24, 2016
Animation of a soldado walking in front of the San Fernando church in the Main Plaza of San Antonio de Bexar.
Continuing my study of animation, this render is an improvement of the previous try. The feet make good contact with the ground thanks to a feature of MakeWalk. I fixed some problems with the skinning of the model to the rig and I used the Blender compositor to reduce the render time by only rendering the foreground for the full sequence.
April 6, 2016
Rendering animations in Blender can be time consuming. Depending on the quality and image size, one frame can take 1 to 3 minutes (or longer!) Since a second of video is 24 frames, it can take hours or days to render a movie of any interesting length.
So I am studying the use of more realtime solutions that trade some quality for speed. In particular, I have explored Unity and Unreal game engines. At the present time, the consensus seems to favor Unreal for graphical quality so that is what I am concentrating on at the moment.
I have spent the last few weeks developing a workflow for translating my model to Unreal (a.k.a. UE4). So far, I have created a terrain model by making a height map from my Blender mesh and worked out the techniques for porting assets (objects and textures) to work with UE4 materials. Some additional details that have been worked include the lighting, animating a camera, and rendering an image sequence that can be turned into a video.
The video above is a first test render of the Veramendi buildings on the un-textured terrain.