Lighting & Rendering Explosions in Houdini & Nuke

Taught by Liam Whitehouse

Course Number:
Software Version:
Original Run Date:
July 2015 
12 hours 8 minutes 
Maya, Houdini and Nuke will be used in this course to explode a highly detailed truck inspired by the Mad Max: Fury Road film.

For any FX TD, this course will be fantastic for learning how to destroy vehicles in 3D. Blockbuster action movies today feature increasingly complex rigid body simulations and destruction VFX, so this course will equip you to face the most detailed and intricate large scale simulations of pyrotechnic effects for vehicles.

The 3D packages used will include Houdini and Maya which are the leading software for FX simulation and 3D animation. All learning materials will be included with the course including 3D scenes and a very detailed 3D truck model which will be used in dynamics simulation. This will be an action packed fun course full of pyrotechnic FX tips and tricks.

The course is taught by Liam Whitehouse who has been in the 3D and visual effects industry since 2003, graduating from Griffith University with a degree in Industrial Design. He has most recently worked as a Technical Director at Industrial Light and Magic where he completed work on Transformers 3. He has extensive experience using commercially available software for water simulations as well as experience using proprietary software available inside Lucasfilm for generating Rigid Body (Physbam), Gas Simulations (Plume) and particle simulations (Zeno). Liam has been recently teaching VFX at Griffith University Film School, and Nuke at Queensland College of Art in Brisbane Queensland.
Lighting & Rendering Explosions in Houdini & Nuke
Watch our overview of the course

Class Listing

Class 1

3D Truck Animation & 3D Camera Match Moving. An introduction to the course and an overview of the course materials and software used. Then the initial camera match moving of an example background plate will be done in Maya as well as some basic animation on the 3D Maya truck using key frames and expressions will be completed. This will allow for a moving shot with an animated vehicle ready for FX.

Class 2

Preparing the Truck Geometry for Destruction via Rigid Body Simulation. The Maya model will need to be “fractured” in Maya & Houdini for it to work correctly for Rigid Body Dynamics destruction. The 3D artist carefully breaks the model up into natural variations of debris size, from large to small and these are grouped in clusters which can be simulated to break apart on a given key frame. This debris modelling stage is crucial for the natural “look” of the rigid body dynamics and any particle trails coming off debris as the more natural the breaks in the geometry the more natural the fx simulations will look.

Class 3

Rigid Body Dynamics Simulation in Houdini. The setup and testing of Rigid Body Simulation to destroy the truck geometry as if blown up with explosive fuel. This will be a really exciting and fun lesson to use forces in the Bullet Rigid Body solver to explode the pre-scored geometry in Houdini and then animate the key areas and timing of the explosions. This will allow students to see how to simulate and bake out the simulated RBD geometry to Alembic files ready for Maya.

Class 4

Particle Debris geometry setup in Houdini & Maya. Particles are much faster and easier to work with than Rigid Body Dynamics for small pieces of debris. This lesson will focus on how to create randomly flying small pieces of metal and steel debris which will be simulated using geometry and particles. This can be done in Houdini and also in Maya and both scene setups will be provided for reference.

Class 5

Assault Missile Trails from the mountaintop in Houdini. An important part of any action film is Missile trails. This lesson will cover the reproduction of an RPG missile trail fired from a hilltop. This lesson will cover how to setup the materials and lighting of the trail as well as how to get a natural simulated wind motion to blow the smoke away.

Class 6

Setting up large scale Pyrotechnic Explosion simulations in Houdini. This lesson will introduce the fx setup for large scale pyrotechnic explosions. Concepts including Fuel, Temperature, buoyancy, disturbance, noise, frequency and many other fx simulation terminology will be explained in the context of the shot. An fx simulation will be setup to give a natural and large pyro fuel explosion using multiple emitters and dynamic forces.

Class 7

Rending & Materials of Pyrotechnic Explosions in Houdini. Following on from the previous lesson which covered pyrotechnic fx setup, this lesson will cover the finalization of the simulation and the adjustment of colours in the fire and smoke materials. The materials for the pyro elements can be adjusted to give the correct sharpness and look of the explosion and the transparency ramp of the density makes a huge difference to the look of fire and explosions in FX simulations in CG. All of this will be tweaked and explained so that artists can see how to art direct their pyrotechnic elements to match as closely as possible to live action footage.

Class 8

How to setup additional fire & smoke trails from rigid body debris. The flying rigid body debris geometry is already animated and it can have additional fire trails and smoke trails. This class will cover how to setup the rigid body dynamics geometry to emit fire & smoke and how to add enough wind disturbance to break up the trails so that they are not too uniform. This class will also cover sub frame sampling so that there isn’t a stepping effect for dust trails off the debris.

Class 9

Rendering and Compositing for FX Review using Mantra, Renderman & Nuke X. Once the fx simulations are completed they can all be rendered out using preliminary lighting and composited together in Nuke X for review. This is a very involving process integrating 3D renders from multiple 3D packages as well as live action background plates together into a final image. This class will cover tips and tricks on how to manage all the complex 3D scenes and how to setup a simple and easy to use composite node setup that will allow artists to output a high quality final image for review including all the fx elements.

Class 10

How to update simulations if a Director wants a new FX Art Direction. Many times with pyrotechnic effects elements, what the director wanted is very different to what the software simulates. This class will cover the scenario when a Director wants a very specific and different look to the simulation which has been setup by the artist. Topics covered will include how to visually communicate new fx simulation direction with the client, how to explain the limitations of the software, explaining animation, vs simulation and how to make adjustments to rigid body simulation animation, particle fx animation and pyro simulation animation for the Director.