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Highly detailed CGI destruction is one of the most jaw-dropping digital effects that audiences witness on the big screen, and Houdini is the industry-favorite software that top VFX studios use to craft these effects. In addition to teaching you in-depth technical working knowledge of Houdini fractures & rigid body simulations, this course will demonstrate highly effective production-proven techniques for getting beautiful work done quickly. On the job it is of the utmost importance that your work be highly directable and controllable, so the lessons will focus on workflows that allow you to address notes quickly and accurately. The instructor, Keith Kamholz, has worked on feature films and commercials for nearly a decade & has a wealth of knowledge/experience to share with students. He very much enjoys sharing this experience and it will surely help students to hit the ground running on the job!
As effective as Houdini is for tackling destruction shots, it's only one piece of the puzzle in a film pipeline. In this course, we will also look at exporting animation from Maya to Houdini, and using Maya's nCloth to create a base motion for our destruction simulations. We'll also go over Houdini alternatives to the nCloth technique, for those of you that want to keep your simulation 100% in Houdini.
Over the course of the 8-week class we will be developing and refining 1 major destruction shot. While there may be a few other smaller homework tasks, most of the course will focus on adding layers of detail and refinement to our main shot week-to-week. By the end of the class you will have a feature-film-quality destruction shot for your demo reel!
Topics covered will include:
- Real-world construction and destruction analysis
- Fracturing techniques to achieve various types of natural breaks
- Preparing models for fracturing/simulation
- Packed primitives
- Advanced Houdini attribute control/usage
- SOP solvers
- Bullet rigid body solver technical setup
- Bullet constraints
- Manual deformation techniques for base destruction deformation
- Maya nCloth & Houdini cloth simulation for base destruction deformation
- Transferring animation between Maya & Houdini
- Building Houdini HDAs to create reusable tools
- Simulation layering workflows to gradually increase detail and keep things manageable
- Dust and particulate simulation
- Extra environmental simulation elements
- Adding non-simulated construction detail & "guts"
- What supervisors/directors look for in destruction shots
CGMA policy states that all students will have access to classroom content for the duration of the class plus 4 weeks to review content. After this time is up classroom content will no longer be available.
For those classes with live Q&As, Q&A recordings as well as feedback recordings will be available for up to 6 months after the class is complete.
CGMA policy allows students to miss up to 2 assignments per class before they become ineligible to receive their Certificate of Completion.
Over the course of the entire 8 weeks, we'll be building upon the same scene, adding layers of complexity and realism with every step. For the first class we'll discuss fracturing our 3d geometry to achieve realistic results. We'll start with voronoi basics and intermediate techniques, and then move on to an advanced setup to drive our voronoi fractures in a more art-directable fashion utilizing cutter geometry.
HW: Use the 'voronoi cutters' method to start fracturing the class assets.
For this session we'll refine our voronoi cutters fracture setup, and build an HDA to streamline our fracture workflow. Building useful HDAs can make you an extra valuable part of an FX team, so it's a handy skill to have! We'll also discuss the benefits & usage of packed primitives, and art-direct the various damage areas of the geometry. Finally, we'll use manual deformation techniques to do a rough pass at animating the destruction shapes and use SOP solvers to accumulate non-simulated damage.
HW: Build an HDA for the voronoi cutters setup and refine fractures as necessary. Use manual sculpting and/or SOP solver accumulation to create first pass at destruction animation.
Running a cloth simulation is a great way to control the overall motion of the simulation in broad strokes. We'll use Maya's nCloth & Houdini cloth to experiment with a few different ways of shaping the destruction. We'll then drive our fractured geometry with this simulated damage animation, and compare the results/workflow to our manually sculpted deformations.
HW: Do rough damage simulation in either Maya's nCloth or Houdini cloth, and send brief notes comparing the results/workflow to the manual sculpted method.
Now that we have a nice & controllable base-level motion driving our fractures, we can finally start running our rigid body simulations using Houdini's Bullet solver! We will discuss the simulation setup and parameters in detail, and the artistic approach for the first pass at RBD simulation.
HW: First pass at RBD simulation, layered on top of our already-created base motion
This week we'll learn how to set up constraints to control our simulations and add more structural complexity. We'll look at changing constraint properties mid-simulation, and various techniques for breaking constraints in an art-directable fashion.
HW: 2nd pass at sim, adding detail & complexity with constraints and dynamic rigs
Once we've developed a nice primary rigid body destruction simulation, it's time to add the finer details. We'll look at emitting dust and particulates from the primary sim, and go over the basics of rendering the dust.
HW: Add dust and smaller particles, emitting from the primary rigid body simulation
In a final & finished shot, only a portion of the detail that you see on screen is actually simulated. Much of that geometric detail is added as a post-simulation process. We'll look at real-world reference and add realistic construction elements to our scene. We will also look at set dressing the shot with secondary simulated elements, such as cables, to drastically increase the realism and visual complexity.
HW: Add simulated and non-simulated environment detail
For the final week, we will discuss an alternate approach to destruction shots, useful for simulating a full-building collapse. We'll also go over multi-layer glass simulation & some basic Mantra rendering, including setting up useful render AOVs.
HW: Add shattered glass to the shot.
Bonus: Build a multi-room building and simulate a full-building collapse.
Bonus #2: Render still-frame or full-sequence layers/AOVs for the various destruction elements in your shot.
The material covered is intermediate-to-advanced in difficulty, for both Houdini and Maya portions. Prior to taking this course you should have at least a basic working knowledge of both Houdini and Maya, and have a good grasp of the interface and basic functions of each. An intro course for each application, or equivalent amount of practice, should be plenty to keep up with the course material.
We will be using Houdini 15.5, and the Apprentice version is available as a free download from the Side Effects site. We will also be using Maya 2016, and there is a free Educational License available from Autodesk.