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animal grooming

animal grooming

Jacqueline Köhnlein
by jacquelinekoehnlein on 12 May 2022 for Rookie Awards 2022

Hello everyone! I'd like to share my grooming projects that I did with Houdini! I'm still new to grooming but I had a lot of fun with it and I hope you like it too!

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Since the beginning of my time at PixlVisn I was interested in Grooming. When I was introduced to XGen I was intrigued and started following VFX artists on Artstation. There I saw that many people used Houdini for their grooming, so I watched a few Houdini tutorials and knew that I wanted to learn grooming with Houdini because I prefer a node based workflow.

For my first ever grooming project I chose a cat. 

I started modeling the cat in ZBrush. As I knew that most of the fur would cover my model, I wouldn't have to model the details under the fur. 

After modeling the cat, I jumped into Houdini to learn Grooming. Reference for the fur was very important due to the complicated hair growth directions as well as the memory lines in the legs. For the grooming I used the standard pose of my cat, so I could use symmetry, as it is not hard to transfer the groom on the same model if posed.

I first started to paint maps like where the hair can grow, or how long the hairs should be in certain places. These were the foundations of the cat. I started with the head first, making the guides for the face hair growth, randomizing hair length, frizz, lift as well as hair width. As the base for the head was done, I started to add cheeks, ears and whiskers. I did these with their own guides and formed them with hand. In this workflow, I groomed the rest of the cat aka. the tail, paws, neck and body.

For the fur color I painted a color map and plugged it into the hairshader as a point color.

I made the texturing and displacement of the cat with Substance Painter and ZBrush.

For the base color I used the same color map I painted in Houdini but fixed the visible parts like to nose or the paws. 

A friend of mine, Isabel Wanner, and I wanted to try out a walkcycle for my cat and so she was kind enough to animate one for me.

For the walk cycle I watched many YouTube tutorials to understand how I had to set up the guides and what I needed to change, because my groom was originally made to be only posed. For the simulation I had to change a few guides. After a lot of research, I got my fur to simulate with a few guide changes. For the simulation I used the Vellum physics in Houdini.

My opossum was my second grooming project I did, after I discovered how much fun I had grooming the cat. But this time I wanted to make a more complex fur color and different shapes. An opossum seemed good for that because of its many furless places. With this I wanted to get more experience with grooming but also learn how to make nice transitions from fur to skin. 

Again I modeled the opossum myself in Zbrush and groomed the fur in the same way as my cat (I later posed my opossum in ZBrush), but this time I made my fur texture with projections of real opossum photographs, so it could look more real (I also wanted to try out the texture option in Houdini).

For the presentation of the opossum, I decided for a forest scene. The tree stump and the background are from Quixel. I rendered the background in Autodesk Maya Arnold and the Opossum and tree stump in Houdini Mantra. 

In the end I composited everything together in Nuke and color graded everything so it would match.

If you're curious about any other works I've done, please check out my demoreel!

Thank you for reading!

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