Rebelway FX Challenge
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Rebelway FX Challenge

Michael Harrison
by michaelh on 5 Jan 2021 for Rebelway FX Challenge

Rebelway FX Challenge updates

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Update - 9 Jan 2021

Wanted to do an update to show the progress so far.  Just looking at the video below it looks like there hasn't been much.  It's all been behind the scenes as I learn how to get things done in Houdini.  And then later learn better ways to get those same things done.  Loads of work to do...

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Update - 7 Jan 2021

A video showing some changes I've made for when the hydra shows up so I can get some feedback from the judges. The first clip shows the original timing and the second shows the result from some vex that keeps the hydra fully below ground until frame 90 in the original project.

Update - 5 Jan 2021

Going to have to devote my time to other efforts for a few days but wanted to get this update in.

Got a basic collision set done for the area around the hydra.  I've still got to tweak the dynamics and figure out why the hitter renders in mantra and not in OGL.  The differences in rendering behavior between the two are frustrating at times.

I also figured out why the terrain was rendering without textures in mantra.  Well, "figured" out isn't quite correct.  I "fixed" the problem by resetting the material to the defaults and re-assigning the texture file.

Lots of work still to do.

Update - 3 Jan 2021

Still learning Houdini and what it can do.

Also learning all the ways I can tell Houdini to do "X" and it replies with "that makes no sense" but in such a way that I can't tell exactly why things aren't working

Like something as simple as setting a color on a point not working because the primitive point color has been set.

Only it does work in ogl and but doesn't in mantra.

Until one looks at the material and sees that Use Point Color is unchecked.  One checks that and all of a sudden all the visual goodness one saw in Scene View suddenly also works when rendering.

On the other hand, I'm making progress, even if it's little steps.

Update - 27 Dec 2020

Continuing the Houdini journey with experimentation in Vex.

I think I'm ultimately going to go with a carbon fiber look for the cyborg and lighting  along the wires to indicate its internal state.  Not sure yet if I can add glow in Houdini, I'll bet I can, or if I'll need to do that in final compositing.

Update - 23 Dec 2020

Nothing earth shattering to report, still spending time going through tutorials and learning *really* basic stuff like texturing.  It's been interesting to really get into the nitty gritty details from the "other side of the fence."

It's also a little daunting because I'm building up quite a long list of things I need to learn to even attempt to realize the imagery that's in my head.  I may just need the full contest time to make this happen.

This update includes some Badlands-like texturing on the terrain.  I know that textures generally won't be considered when the judges go to work, but there's no way I'm going to submit something that's got great swaths of untextured terrain.

Oh, and I'm experimenting with procedurally placed vegetation to give the environment some variety.

Update - 18 Dec 2020

Figured out some of the lighting issues and added a very simple sky dome. 

Update - 18 Dec 2020

I posted this to the discord yesterday and thought I'd put it here too.  At the moment I'm thinking I won't run into too many horrible problems with my system as long as I'm not doing a major particle simulation.  unfortunately there are some systems I want to integrate so time will tell.


Am I out of my mind trying to use Houdini for this with my hardware? Looking for input from anyone, not only judges.

This may not be the best place to ask this, but it's the most relevant since the reason I'm even trying Houdini over anything else is this contest, so...

My machine is i7-8700 6 core CPU @ 3.2GHz max 4.2Ghz, 32G RAM, GTX 1660 6G DDR5 and overall it runs Houdini pretty well. Playing the contest animation in the build pane with materials on goes at about 3/4 realtime or maybe slightly better if I've told Houdini not to skip frames.

But that's just the baseline. I'm going to reach for a point much higher but I'd like a sanity check before I get too far into this rabbit hole.

I have two goals in going for this contest. 1. Learn the entire vfx pipeline and get decent at it. I'm a 3D programmer from way back and edit video frequently but never really modeled anything. 2. Win the contest :-)

I think no matter what, I'll achieve #1 but I'd hate to have a real shot at #2 because I chose the wrong tool (vs my hardware) for the job.

Update - 17 Dec 2020

Working through learning Houdini and finding out both what I can do with it and what it can do with my hardware.

Rendered out a few layers so I could experiment with compositing them and start getting a feel for what my pipeline might look like.  Pulled them into Vegas Pro and couldn't resist adding some fx really quickly.

Update - 16 Dec 2020

Nothing earth shattering to report.  Still going through the Houdini tutorials and thought I'd try an update to get used to the workflow on The Rookies

Update - 15 Dec 2020

I'm relatively new to modeling/animation/vfx and while I've done my time (30 year programming career) in places where I've worked on games and other 3D software, I've always been working at the programming level and never learned how to model beyond what I needed to use to test the code I was writing. Oh, speaking of 3D, I've also made holograms. Maybe will again someday. Not the Pepper's ghost fakery, real ones.

So I started getting interested in vfx more with the covid lockdown and this contest is a good opportunity for me to pick up skills on the other end of the 3D spectrum given a reason other than just "I feel like it."

I thought about starting out using Blender and had used it a tiny bit on another project (Rebel Zumba) but given that the assets seem to slot into Houdini perfectly, I'm going to start with that instead.

So far I'm halfway through the sidefx tutorial to make a soccer ball, so this should be a ride :-)

I've got a few ideas on how I might interpret the contest goals in a unique fashion but I'm going to hold onto those a bit longer until I can get farther into learning Houdini and the details of model creation/texturing/animation.

Oh, I'm completely unfamiliar with how productions houses work to create these kinds of scenes so you can expect that I'll make "mistakes" that would never be made in the real world because I won't know what limitations are assumed and because my budget is $0, it's also infinite. At least as far as time goes.