3d animation-question

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  06 June 2017
3d animation-question

Hi, I am very new to 3d animation and i would like to ask about an animation i saw and which i would like to learn to do myself.


I mostly work as an architect, with Rhino 5.0 and i have been using kangaroo physics with the grasshopper plug in. What would you recommend to use to animate a 3d tensile structure being lifted and set up?

kind regards

  06 June 2017
In normal 3D animation, what is seen in the video you linked is just known as plain "cloth simulation".

You select a 3D mesh. You apply cloth simulation to it. Now it behaves like real cloth with gravity and self-collision, and you can modify parameters that alter the physical properties of the cloth. For example, different settings will give you cloth that behaves like thin silk that tears easily, or like a thicker bathroom towel that generates some friction or resistance when it is pulled over a rough surface, or like stretchable latex sheeting or similar that is more elastic and stretches and tenses in different ways.

Some cloth simulations can even simulate things like objects tearing through sheet of cloth, air flowing over cloth, cloth interacting with simulated fluids (like a submerged sheet of cloth being pulled out of the the sea) or similar.

Nowadays there are also realtime 3D games where cloth is simulated realtime on the GPU.

Here's a video of Nvidia Flex doing a flag cloth simulation:


A lot of 3D apps can do at least some of this. Maya has nCloth. 3DS Max has Cloth Modifier. Cinema4D has Clothilde.

I've only used cloth simulation in Cinema4D and it is very easy to use.

It basically consists of telling the 3D app "this 3D mesh is cloth", and then selecting points on the cloth that are static or "pinned". There is also a function that can make the cloth mesh look thinner or thicker. So creating tent cloth that is an inch thick or thicker is not a problem.

To do the tent animation in your video, you model the tent cloth mesh, apply cloth simulation to it, set basic settings like gravity or stretchability or whether it should tear when the cloth is overstretched, then select connector points on the cloth that you connect to the tent pole objects.

As you animate the tent pole objects righting themselves, like in your video, the cloth is pulled upwards from the points attached to the tent poles. Collision detection will also ensure that the cloth does not pass through the tent poles, or other physical objects with simulated collision. Everything on the cloth that isn't connected to the tent poles will hang or sag or sway in the air realistically (pulled down by gravity of course).

If you have self-collision activated in the simulation as well, you can do things like cloth sliding realistically over itself or over other cloth. So you could have cloth that lies on the ground folded or crumpled on top of itself in layers. As the tent poles pull the cloth upwards, the cloth unfolds, slides over itself, opens up and so forth.

Depending on how many polygons your cloth object has, and how fast your computer is, and how accurately you want the cloth simulated, the cloth simulation can happen in near realtime, or you may have to wait several minutes or longer for all frames to be calculated.

Most 3D apps with a good cloth simulator can do this stuff nowadays. Its been a few years since I've used cloth at all, so today's simulations may be even better.
  06 June 2017
It is not even cloth simulation, any decent softbody simulation will do this as well.
Do not focus on physical correctnes (tentpoles for collision etc.) but use whatever the tool you choose provides. It might not be neccessary to do any other collision but the one with the ground. The rest can be animated fix points
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The views expressed on this post are my personal opinions and do not represent the views of my employer.
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