View Full Version : FXWARS Challenge:36 -SEVEN TOWERS - Gustavoeb (Gustavo E Boehs)

09 September 2012, 02:02 PM
This is my WIP thread
Dont know if Ill have enough spare time to go trough the end of this, but might as well give it a try. I'm getting on this boat by my own now, but if I can bring more people on board thatd be great, so I'll try to reach out to some people I know and see if they have any interest...

I'll probably go with:
PSAMATHE - Sand Desert
As I got a thing for desert, desert stories, desert movies, desert teams in AOM (Age of Mythology) so on and so forth.

My inital idea is to add a fallen take to the scene, as people moved on from the "nature religions" and Gaia's powers have weakened. The towers and its adjacent structures are now kept by a small group of trustful guardians.

Now onto watching desert movies the whole weekend to grab some visual ideas on what may look good as far as envoiroments and effects are concearned.

09 September 2012, 10:40 AM
do you mind posting the name of the movies here?

09 September 2012, 03:16 PM
do you mind posting the name of the movies here?

do you mind posting the name of the movies here?

Well I can recomend some:

Lawrence of Arabia
Flight of the Phoneix (the origianal)

09 September 2012, 10:29 PM
Sorry guys I was (am) out of town this week. but yeah lawerence is great. Very raw desert. Ive watched Prince of Persia which has some interesting fiery sands and sandstorm effects too.
ill look into your recommendations Mr. Ortiz. Dune looks like a great reference, and I was not aware there was an original Flight of th Phoenix. Great!
Before I left I had collected some reference images over the web. is it ok to post stuff we have no rights of, like stills from movies and concept arts from other artists, just as reference?

09 September 2012, 08:28 PM
so here are some first sketches, I imagine a tower leaning to the side, almost falling. its being held by ropes that spread far, this ropes are the main structures for the tents of the guardians.
ruins surround the fallen tower, and a storm is coming...

sand crawls uppwards to the top of the tower, were it fuses in a glowing fiery effect that bursts into the sky...
well just some initial ideas

oh yeah, I should be using tower number 3 and going for full cg

09 September 2012, 11:25 PM
so as part of the challenge I thought it would be nice to create some tools that will help layout the scene. the first one of those will be a tool to sketch the volume of sand banks for the dune. I understand to some this may be counter intuitive, "just sketch it in ZBrush" you may say.
Writing the tool took no more then half an hour, althought it needs some polishing. But now I can draw dunes with curves+some extra inputs, ultra fast. If I need them moved around, or re-shaped, it is all procedural.

here is a gif of the tool working:

here is a brief explanation on how it works internally...
Based on the XZ distance to the curve, points are displaced in Y, as shown here:

Users can control how far out the sand bank reaches + how its profile look for both sides. Doing that is simple, all you need to do is multiply the Y value by an f-curve. The trick is to know which side is which. Sou you got to get the dot-product of a vector that points towards the curve and a unit vector pointing up in Y. If the angle between this vector and the tangency of the curve is greater then 90 degrees you should be in one side, if not you are on the other. as shown here:

10 October 2012, 04:59 PM
That is really cool. Should make the sand much easier to work with.

Your concept sounds fun.

10 October 2012, 01:46 AM
That script is totally cool!:applause:

10 October 2012, 03:31 AM
Should make the sand much easier to work with
Hopefuly so, lets see if this procedural approach will hold, as long as quality is concern, for final image.

That script is totally cool!
Thanks. In theory its not a script though, it is an ICE compound :p
Ill share them by the end of the challenge, when they are polished enough... Ill sure Ill bump into some odd behaviour during layout.

Ok so here is the seccond tool Ive worked on in order for a smooth layout stage. This one will cumulate sand when assets collide with ground. Assets need to carie a weightmap with the amount of cumulated sand painted on them. This map could further be filled procedurally by some other input (like wind, noise, or something else)... but I think I rather paint it, as long as I dont have a gazzilion objects layed out.

Here is the tool working. Some params were not yet exposed (distance and blur ammount):

So yeah, this one works in two steps. First you need to query for how much sand should be there at your colliding object. You can do all nice stuff you want to that data, scale it by distance, blur it, whatever. Just remember to filter out points that are inside the coliding object when bluring, or else you will lose volume unwillingly. Keep this values in the fridge for later usage:

Now it was a bit of experimentation on how to get deformation to look right. Best results were achieved in this manner... Query for closest position on colliding geometry from the original PointPosition+Height. Blend original PointPosition with geometry query results using the map you previously stored in your fridge, remmap it to your liking:

10 October 2012, 10:15 AM
ICE powa!
Looks nice :)

Keep it comming

10 October 2012, 01:37 PM
awesome man!
ice looks like houdini doesn't it?

makes me wonder why i'm still using maya!

10 October 2012, 06:17 PM
So I should be doing more sketches and laying out some assets, but I cant seem to be able to stop connecting nodes. Now it is time for some rendering and defining the finer detail of the surfaces. I'll try to stick to the procedural workflow I've beggined with.
So 9 out of 10 times I'll throw some fractal noise at my surfaces, stretch it, tile it and DONE. Not so this time, no standard procedural texture in SI can seem to give me this look:

So we got to dive a bit deeper. In SI there are two types of texture nodes: TEXTURES and TEXTURE GENERATORS. The first type is very easy to use, all options in one place kind of thing and allow for a certain amount of customization. Texture Generators on the other hand are nodes that only generate textures but lack some basic info like UVs for example, you can then fill in this data with other nodes for maximum customization! GREAT!

So I get a basic Wave Texture Generator, all I can do is change the amplitude of my waves in U, V and W. Looks very blend:

But we can do anything with the UV vectors we pass on to a Texture Generator node, including displacing it with some noise, like so:

Not so boring anymore:

After rescaling and applying that map to the displacement, this is how it looks:

Also we need to add a bumpmap for very high frequency detail:

Ok, this is not the final shading, but I like where this displacement is going... And it is still all procedural.

10 October 2012, 10:43 PM
Ok, so moving away from techy stuff a bit. Ive grabbed the tower model and together with the tools aforementioned did a basic layout based on my initial concepts... I did a camera animation and a color study, here they are:

I think it is all too blend right now, but I dont know where to go... Any suggestions? Dont want to move forward until a nice concept is layed out.

10 October 2012, 02:19 AM
Id suggest finding some really good photo refs to start off. Your colour study is very extreme in saturated reds which i've never seen in a desert. Sand is often very desaturated.
Try and get some colour ideas from some photos and see if you can find a mood you would like. With your technical ability you dont want to fall down when it comes to the artistic side. If you can find even just a few photos that capture the mood you want, you will benefit greatly from it!

10 October 2012, 05:55 PM
I think it is all too blend right now, but I dont know where to go... Any suggestions? Dont want to move forward until a nice concept is layed out.

I'll probably go with:
PSAMATHE - Sand Desert
As I got a thing for desert, desert stories, desert movies, desert teams in AOM (Age of Mythology) so on and so forth.
Why do you have a thing for deserts? What is it about them that you like so much. Figure that out and it may help you. Ultimately you're going to enjoy the process a lot more if you design your project around something you like. Not just the topic but the specifics as well. Take that and then make us appreciate deserts as you do through the finished product.

Personally when I think of deserts I like, I think of Dune. I love the Fremen and that entire culture in the first Dune book. Maybe your concept shouldn't be the ruins of a lost desert kingdom but instead show them in their prime.

Great start, find your path and start walking. :thumbsup:

10 October 2012, 07:04 PM
hi Nick and Harry, thanks very much for the tips. they did point me in a good direction in order for me to clarify what I wanted and how to get it. So I went over the references all over again and found some really inspiring things. One shot that inspired me very specificaly was this one from Lawrence of Arabia:

In it Lawrence is just upon entering his dangerous journey, and you can clearly feel invited into the desert. I decided I wanted something like that for my shot. On the foregroung though I wanted to have a fallen place, forgotten in time... here is what I got:

I feel this is looking much better, but that maybe just because Ive put work into it and dont want to let go. What do you guys think? Good enough to move forward?

10 October 2012, 12:45 AM
yeah, that's more like it, more expressive! ;)
i can feel the opening on wide space, the invite to go into the desert and toward the tower. (i guess the sand will move toward the tower and not from the tower?)

10 October 2012, 11:14 PM
i guess the sand will move toward the tower and not from the tower?
yeap, that was the idea! I'm glad you were able to get that feeling from my poorly rendered still :bounce:

so, based on my initial concept this is a low-res layout of envoiroment and camera movement in 3d

Whats next?

Create high-poly assets to substitute the low-poly props
Enhance procedural dune and sand cumulation tools, adding funtionality and adaptive subdivision
Build simulations

Order might change depending on will and time :D

10 October 2012, 05:09 PM
How about at the start of the scene bring the camera to just about waist height off the ground. Then when you clear the dune have the ground drop off quickly leading to a huge open vista. I think that might establish the scale a bit more.

10 October 2012, 05:42 PM
i totally agree with that! (one might even add a scorpion or other small animal focused on, then change the focus as you move forward past the animal. of course, that can be quite long to do, but if you find a model existing and free to download, why not)

10 October 2012, 04:27 AM
sugestion taken guys. it actually looks a lot better. I also did the scene some more time in the beggining, for a better pacing...

today I will post a little test on how to style and develop the tents though :P

so all I do is simulate them with Lagoa, pin and nail the cloth to the ground... simple stuff. I wanted to use Syflex as it is a lot faster, but I went for Lagoas ease of use and possibility to mix in particle interaction (think sand)

here is how it looks with some turbulent wind on it:

10 October 2012, 08:03 AM

in my opinion, the tent is too loose. i would reduce the stretch on the top to reduce the spikes.
(or the guys who built it didn't want it to hold for the whole night! ^^)

10 October 2012, 02:36 AM
some more R&D with the tents... as Manja pointed out cloth needed be more stiff. Apart from that I wanted to test how to go about plotting many tents in one scene and how sand sim would interact with cloth sim.

First problem had 2 solutions, I could either emit many cloths in one sim or merge all cloths in to one object and sim it. The seccond solution yelds a smaller less complicated node tree to handle, so I wen this way. Thanks to the way Merging works in SI the original objects keep working as an input for the final object, so I can still change resolution of cloth and everything.

Seccond problem also had different solutions. The most attractive one at first would be to simulate everybody through Lagoa and be happy! Cloth sand interaction, sand intercollision and all that jazz... but since I want to use huuuge amount of particles for sand, considering intercollision is a bit of overwork. So I did a separate sim for the particles, but both share same forces and turbulences, to look more alike.

So here it is:

10 October 2012, 06:27 PM
Ok, so today Ive reserved some time to study how to tackle some problems with the more rigid assets of my scene. I'm trying to create some debries I can lay around the ruins of the old village that used to be there, near the tower... For that I am using the default convex shattering in ICE and placing objects around with the opensource version of the Momentum RBD solver for Softimage.

Here is how it is done:
First we build a pointcloud, the points position and orientation will be used to slice our objects. There is a compound for that, but as long as your points have a position and orientation, it doesnt matter much how you set them up.

We then apply "Create Shatter from Pointcloud". In order to set different materials for the ins and outs of the fractured object I apply a material for all faces whos angle is not divisible by 90. Hint: the modulo node returns whats left of a division operation.

I then set up the materials and a very simple RBD simulation with Momentum:

10 October 2012, 08:58 PM

you used a noise for the displacement? (don't tell me this is just tasselation! ;) )

10 October 2012, 03:06 PM
Everything is looking fantastic.

10 October 2012, 01:39 PM
thanks guys :thumbsup:
I am glad you are liking it...

Manja: yeah, it is a simple noise function used as displacement. Very high intensity and frequencie on the inside and lower on the outside. I separate whats in and out with a simple function Ive described in the last post...

I am now sculpting the details of bigger solid objects, it is quite a pain since I rarely do this... I hope to have something this week, but Ill be traveling soon and will stop posting until November. :shrug:

10 October 2012, 01:45 PM
ooh, radio silence then BOOM, the big stuff in our faces! ;)

10 October 2012, 03:03 AM
come on Manja! on the fun is wiping man :)
so Ill be on leave for the next 2 weeks, and will be very silent during that period. I thought I would drop by and share how the sculpting phase went. Nothing fancy really... I had very little time lately :(

as you can see the camera already reflects the suggestions made in this thre... here it is:

the little debires that I showed how to create in a previous post were positioned with a very handy tool by SI TD Piotrek Marczak. Little brush tool capable of instancing and colliding objects: I think I need more of them though...

11 November 2012, 01:59 AM
Heads up

FXWars 7 Towers: One Month to GO. (
I am looking forward seeing more of your entry.


11 November 2012, 07:09 PM
this is awesome work, and your tools to sculpt the dunes, very nice. i like your concept layout as well.

11 November 2012, 02:46 AM
Ok back from my trip, for some more work on this scene. I'm trying to do most things I dont get to do in the daily basis here, so I thought some clouds should come next. I dont know if this whirlpool is just too much, but Ill leave it for now.

Here is a still of how it should look like composited. Looking at it one definetly feels the need for the projected shadow of this clouds... that should come next.

And here is a test animation:

11 November 2012, 01:52 AM
So, in the last days I have tried to focus a bit on lookdev... here is what I got:

End of the month is looking like it is going to be busy, and there is still so much to be done in general in this scene. Probably wont be able to achieve everything I want... oh well :shrug:

11 November 2012, 10:11 AM
Ok so a bit more work in all this endeavor... I realised the colors of my last image sucked, so I follow a previous adviced given to me in this thread and went back to my refernces. Much has changes, I think it is much better:

As for simulations, Ive been playing in 2 different fronts for now, sand and ropes. Sand is pretty straight forward, some wind, atractors and turbulences, done. Ropes were more of a pain, because there is just too much of them. There are many ways to do this in SI, but in many of them you have to tediously add simulation to each curve. I need too much of them, all under the same roof.
I found this great compound by Fabricio Chamon called Power Extrude. It does extrusion on many curves at once (as long as they belong to the same object). I've opened it up and changed some stuff. Instead of creating polygons I want it to create strands. Strands is what you use in ICE when you need, hair,

curves, and stuff...
Here is how it looked:

So I removed the part that was generating polygons and started emmitting strands instead:

Strands differ from curves in the sence that they are always constrained to a particle. Since the first point will always be a particle there is no sence in storing that data again in the description of the strand. So self.PointPosition will give you the position of the particle and self.StrandPosition will return an array of positions, that descrives the strand:

In order to create the strand information correctly then you need to know that. Some clever use of arrays will go a long way too. Here you can see how I set up the initial data for this strands. It all boils down to having two arrays, one with the first n-1 points and one with the last n-1 points. Whenyou use math nodes in ICE all items are affected, therefore if you subtract one array by the other you will get the lengths in between points, you can also get the angles between them, and all that good


Ok. Maybe it is a lot of info at once, but it is not that hard really. And keep in mind that most of the work was done for me already. Great thing is you can open other peoples compounds, grab what you need and combine with whatever else. Simulation is very straight forward. Just use the strand framework and adjust settings to your liking.

In the post simulation region you can see Ive created my own little constraint for the end of the strands. I just pop the last point in the StrandPositions array from the last frame and use it in the current one:

Enough talking here is how it looks:

Now I need to simulate the cloth, as you can see earlier in this thread I had a little proof of concept going on. Still I want to lay more cloth objects around the scene like flags and stuff, got to prep those...

Scale is looking a bit weird, right? What do you guys think?

11 November 2012, 10:06 AM
Lookin' pretty cool. I really like the sand that skims along the ground and towards the tower. Has a pretty natural feel to it. Maybe a little strange once it gets to the top of the tower, but based at your still images, that looks like it'll be covered by bright glowing clouds anyhow.

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