Soldados Marching

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




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.



Soldado walking in the Main Plaza

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.


Bexar Dawn

September 4, 2015
March 6, 1836 Dawn

March 6, 1836 Dawn

The final battle of the Alamo occurred in the hour before dawn on March 6, 1836.  This image depicts what San Antonio de Bexar might have looked like on such a morning.  The view is from an elevated position just west of the Main Plaza.  The San Fernando church is flying the red flag of “no quarter.”  In the distance you can see the Alameda, Watch Tower and Alamo.  You can barely see a glint of sunlight reflection in places along the San Antonio River.

This render made with Blender Cycles.  Textures made with Allegorithmic Substance Designer and Painter.  HDRI from Hyperfocal Design.

Trees, foliage. stones and fences were instanced using Blender particles.  The foreground ground textures were improved from the low res versions used previously.  Ruts in the roadway and plaza may be seen.



Camera locations

December 22, 2013

I can reduce the complexity of the model by defining the camera locations for the still and video shots.  Areas that are far or out of view of the camera will not have to be modeled or textured in detail.  Here are the locations that I have in mind:

  • Inside the compound.  Ground level and on the ramps looking inside and outside the walls.  On the gun tower over the church. From the window and back stairs of the convento.
  • A few 10s of meters outside the compound walls looking towards the compound.  In particular, from the South, East and North.  The Northwest view of the pecan tree.
  • At the Portrero street footbridge panning from the town to the compound.
  • At the Powder House looking toward the town and compound
  • Main Plaza toward San Fernando Church
  • Veramindi house.  The house details and panning from the church to the compound.
  • Military Plaza. Plaza buildings and the back of the church. Move up to the level of the church bell tower and view the compound.
  • Birds eye view approximating the area overview scene in Nelson’s The Alamo, An Illustrated History.
  • Bird’s eye view overlooking the compound.

Model ported to game engine

September 17, 2010

Today, I did a quick port of a portion of the model into the Unity Game Engine.  This was a learning exercise to understand the complete flow and to see what changes in the model/materials I would need to make in order to have a polished visualization.  The two big items are 1. to account for the fact that the renderer does not deal with two sided meshes and that the complex textures that I have been using need to be baked into simpler UV mapped images.  I did not explore baking of shadows or normals which would be necessary for a quality result.

Here is the link to the web app of this first attempt:

Use the mouse to look around and the arrow keys (or WASD) to move.

Another slight improvement

August 3, 2010

I reversed the clouds to match the sun direction that was used in the render.  I also reduced the saturation on both the background and foreground images and added a small Gaussian blur in an attempt to get closer to photo-real.