This is the last post of the semester long Houdini independent study project. But hey – it ain’t done! It ain’t done, it ain’t done. And I’m not done. There is way too much I want to do with this program. Many more projects will come.
For now, here are the last things I did.
This is what the bonfire looks like. I’ve varied the proportions, amount of deformity, twist, taper, and bend of the logs, as well as added more branches to flesh it out. The hope was to mask most of it with the fire effect on top, but that didn’t happen, and I’ll get to why later.
Underneath and around the fire I scattered a bunch of ashes. Made in a similar way to the big rocks.
I wanted to put a layer of snow on the flattest areas of the landscape using metaballs. It would be unrealistic for computation times to scatter thousands of metaballs all over the entire landscape, so I only picked one area, and used the super handy slope attribute calculated earlier to scatter points just on the flat planes.
Then copied metaballs onto those points. It looked pretty much like what I wanted from up here…
…but not from up close. This just won’t cut it. This is mostly a problem of my scene scale. I’ve made the terrain a lot smaller than it normally would be, thinking this would decrease computation times, but it made any effect difficult to bring to realism. Everything I tried adding looked slightly miniature: the metaballs, the particles, the fire, etc. – even when scaled down.
So I tried scaling the metaballs way down, increasing the number of scattered points way up, increasing the resolution of the resulting polygon mesh…
And then Houdini crashed several times, leading me to believe that I overdid it with the metaballs. So instead, I focused on just that focal area, and made some nicer-lookin snow around there.
And then added the shaders to everything. Shading is something I’m just beginning to get into inside Houdini, so these shaders are fairly basic for now. Here are the final renders.
I tried fiddling with fog: filling a volume with metaballs, making them render as fog, manipulating them with various noises to give pleasant variation and clumps.. and it worked to an extent. I also tried adding fire and smoke to the bonfire. It.. did not work.
And here’s my big mistake. Scale.
I haven’t figured out how to adjust the global scale of everything, haven’t found where/how to do that. As I mentioned earlier, my terrain is about 100x smaller than it should be. This, in turn, means that anything I add needs to be scaled way down – and effects such as fire and smoke just don’t work that way. You can’t scale down a fire effect and expect it to behave the exact same realistic way that it would when normally sized.
So that’s the result of my semester. Some successes, nothing great, nothing too pretty, but a lot of lessons. Here’s what I would do differently in the future:
1) Appropriate scope. This project was trying to achieve too much in too little time with too little knowledge. I already know what I want to do next – a bonfire. Just a medium shot of a nighttime bonfire. But I want to make it good, really really good. This environment was just.. too big. Too much.
2) Appropriate scale. Figure out the scale of the scene before starting.
3) Focus on what Houdini is best at. I personally really wanted to do procedural modeling and set dressing – and honestly, got a kick out of it! Loved it. But Houdini’s forte is effects, destruction, explosions, water, fire, realism. I should really learn that.
And that is that. I graduate in two days. And I have tons of things I want to do, this being just one of them.