SpeedTree Techniques for VFX

Taught by Eran Dinur

Course Number:
Software Version:
SpeedTree v8 
Original Run Date:
February 2018 
4 hours 17 minutes 
In the past few years, SpeedTree has become an integral part of the pipeline of most major VFX studios, and mastering it has become an vital skill for environment artists, matte painters and CG generalists. The release of version 8 marks the complete evolution of SpeedTree Cinema as a plant creation software that’s specifically geared toward the VFX industry.

This comprehensive course offers all the knowledge and skills required to model and animate detailed, high quality trees and plants for visual effects. By creating several different tree types, students will become familiar with essential areas like generation modes, curves, variance and leaf meshes, as well as wind and growth animation. Special focus will be given to new features in version 8, like seasonal variations, shape control, lighting, multi-pass rendering, and PBR materials.

Eran Dinur is an Emmy and VES award winning VFX supervisor, and the author of the popular book The Filmmaker’s Guide to Visual Effects. He has lead Brainstorm Digital’s team on over 35 films and TV series, including The Wolf of Wall Street, Boardwalk Empire, The Greatest Showman, Wonder Wheel, The Lost City of Z, Papillon, Hostiles, Triple Nine Limitless, Café Society, The Men Who Built America and more. Before joining Brainstorm Digital, Eran was senior compositor at Framestore NY and ILM Singapore, where he worked on films such as: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Surrogates, Terminator Salvation, Star Trek, Iron Man and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
SpeedTree Techniques for VFX
Watch our overview of the course

Class Listing

Class 1: Overview

We’ll go over the Interface layout and the generation editor, and look at the difference between generators and nodes, the art director gizmo, conceal/expose and focus, basic lighting, the various render modes, and the seasons and animation timelines.

Class 2: The Branch Generator

In this class we’ll focus on the most used generator in SpeedTree: the branch generator. We will take a close look at the different generation modes (Phyllotaxy, Bifurcation, Interval), and explore the all-important parent curves, profile curves and variance settings by creating a basic conifer structure.

Class 3: Leaves

The leaf generator has its own unique workflow and settings. We will follow the leaf creation process, starting in Photoshop for generating textures. We will then create leaf cutouts using the SpeedTree mesh editor, explore the various orientation and deformation settings, adjust material parameters, and look at collision detection options.

Class 4: Olive Tree

In this class we’ll create an old, gnarly olive tree. As we model it, we will get a chance to look at segments settings, displacement, flares, branch shape parameters, spine noise and knockout.

Class 5: Date Palm

We will start the class by exploring fronds and normals/lighting control. We will then look through some reference images, and start building the complex trunk and main fronds, adjusting settings for weld and caps, and using the new shell generator.

Class 6: Date Palm and Forces

We will continue modeling the date palm, adding fronds detail and fruit clusters using imported geometry. We will then look at the different control forces like magnet, gnarl, return and mesh force.

Class 7: Fir Tree

We will take a different approach for modeling the Fir tree. Instead of images for leaf textures, we will create cluster materials by building branch and needle structures in SpeedTree, and rendering them out as textures to achieve a highly detailed, realistic tree while preserving a workable poly count.

Class 8: Wind and Growth Animation

SpeedTree 8 has a new, revamped wind animation workflow, and we’ll study it and learn how to tailor wind on various branch levels, leaves and fronds for specific trees and plants. We’ll also look at growth animation features.

Class 9: Seasons and Shape Control

Seasons and shape control are all new features in version 8. We will go through the process of setting up leaf deformations and material transitions for spring, summer, fall and winter, as well as managing multi-material seasons with material sets. We will then see how the shape control can be used to easily create trimmed hedges.

Class 10: Maya, Arnold and internal Rendering

We’ll go through the export options, import an animated tree into Maya and render it with Arnold. We’ll check out the Arnold import script and look at best practices for smooth I/O. We’ll then explore the advantages of SpeedTree’s own internal renderer by lighting a tree to a background plate, rendering various passes and compositing them in Nuke.