August 15, 2017
One of the earliest acequias in San Antonio was known as the Concepción or Pajalache Acequia. Built in the early 1700s, it served the fields south of San Antonio de Bexar and the Mission Concepción. The acequia was reputed to be as wide as 20 feet and could be navigated for maintenance by a small boat. The source of the acequia was a reservoir on the San Antonio river formed by a stone dam near the present-day Briscoe museum and Presa (Dam) Street.
This animation shows what the dam might have looked like in 1836. My main reference was photos of the Espada Dam south of San Antonio.
This was perhaps my most complex project to date and took about 8 weeks to complete. Much of the time was spent exploring different workflows to create the waterfall effect.
Blender can simulate water but not at this scale and does not easily produce whitewater (spray, foam and bubbles). I modeled the dam and basic ground in blender and imported to Houdini which has a complete set of water simulation tools. After learning how to use the tools an get something satisfactory, I explored ways of importing the simulation back into Blender for rendering. I was able to get a pretty good result for the basic water but not the whitewater. I ended up rendering the falls and lower water flow in Houdini and compositing with the rest of the scene from Blender. The Houdini render at a resolution of 640 x 360 took about 5 hours.
I spent about two weeks in Blender working out the other elements of the scene: deciding on the composition, modeling the dam and acequia gate, and adding the foliage. The ripples in the reservoir were made by animating a displacement texture in Blender.
I used Photoshop to create a mask for compositing and Houdini to bring all of the elements together.
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.