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.
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 18, 2016
This weekend I took a break from model texturing and investigated the workflow for animating my Alamo characters. The video above shows a test in which an early soldado model was animated by retargeting a motion capture file (BVH) from CMU using the MakeWalk add-on in Blender. The character is one of my first characters based on MakeHuman. I created the clothes in Blender and textured them using Substance Painter. The result was animated and rendered in Blender (Cycles).
There are some obvious deficiencies: the skinning to the rig breaks down in places, the feet contact with the ground is not perfect and the motion blur seems extreme.
Despite these problems, the process was fairly easy.
December 11, 2015
Here are a few poses of the soldado character that I made for a SketchUp application. There are also variations in the faces, uniforms and shakos. Some detail is missing here because the SketchUp render engine does not support normal maps or reflective surfaces.
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
October 19, 2015
Mexican Infantry Shako 1836
This is a model of a shako worn by Mexican infantry soldados during the battle of the Alamo in 1836. The hat and visor are leather with brass furniture and plate. The chin strap is a scalloped pattern brass.
The model was created in Blender and textured in Allegorithmic Substance Designer and Painter. It is a bit more complex than it looks. I had to choose between using geometry vs textures for some of the more complex objects. The model has 15 different materials.
A simple model will be built for low-poly distant viewing.
View in 3D on Sketchfab here.
Chartrand, Santa Anna’s Mexican Army 1821 – 1848. Osprey 2004
Hefter, The Mexican Soldier 1837 – 1847, 3rd edition, The Virtual Armchair General, 2013
September 26, 2015
Brown Bess – India Pattern Musket – Used by Mexican Infantry in the Battle of the Alamo
This is a model of the muzzle-loading, smooth bore musket used by the Mexican infantry during the Texas Revolution. Of British origin, this third generation or “India Pattern” descended from a line of weapons that were used as early as 1722. A good discussion of this gun can be found in Arms of the Mexican Infantry 1835-1836.
My model was created in Blender and textured in Substance Painter. The render above is from Substance Painter.
You can view and explore this model in detail on Sketchfab