FXWars! Roller Coaster!: Frank Firsching

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  11 November 2004
FXWars! Roller Coaster!: Frank Firsching


Ok, this is my first attempt on the FXWars challenges. Roller coasters are something that I really couldn't resist. The last day I spent with trying things out and checking, what can be done in which way. This is the result:

Test Movie (500k, DivX / Xvid)

It could be a short part of the complete track. Everything in this short movie is procedural. Not only the animation, but the tracks and pillars are built automatically, too. All that is needed as input, is a curve with normals, that describe the orientation of the track. The normal vectors control the rolls and twists.

Until I forget it, this was made using Houdini 7 Apprentice.

  11 November 2004
Very nice test. Looks like you just have to finish the track and send it in...
  11 November 2004

another german dude, and the same approach as our's... argh...

It's going to be hard to win this contest... ;-)

keep up the good work!
Helge Mathee, Fabric Engine Inc
  11 November 2004
Hehe, the German dudes are coming!

Grüße aus Heidelberg!

  11 November 2004
Thanks for the nice critics :-)

Sir_Vulcan: I don't think it's quite so easy. Till now only the middle wagon is being simulated. The others are simply offset on the curve. This morning I had an idea, how to simulate the effect of all wagons on the train. I want to change this. Additionally I need a lifting mechanism to get the train on the desired height. Plus I need some better models. They are simple stand-ins. So, still something to do.

lalunaverte: I decided to do this approach before I saw your thread. I promise!
  11 November 2004
I know - I am not complaining.

Anyways. Get back to work!
Helge Mathee, Fabric Engine Inc
  11 November 2004

I like it a lot, It runs real smooth!
  11 November 2004
Nice one Frank,
Good seeing u again working on some cool stuff.
Expect more.

Cheers NatX
  11 November 2004
Hey NatX, did I motivate you to sign on to CgTalk? I noticed, this is your first post

Here is a small update: Since I'm pretty happy with my dynamics, I concentrated on the coaster generation. My goal is a complete procedural system. Today I have managed to remove intersecting support poles. If you take a look at the image below, you see, that the system is removing one pillar, where the track is passing under another segment of the track. Also the placement of the mountings at the top of the poles now really fits to the track (before, occasionally some poles just didn't want to match the orientation of the track)
Last but not least I have modified my dynamics to do a motorized hill climbing at the beginning. This enables me to do a complete run in one shot without any keyframe


  11 November 2004
Originally Posted by FrankFirsching: Hey NatX, did I motivate you to sign on to CgTalk? I noticed, this is your first post

Actualy i signed in a month before you, but i always felt to shy posting here. I'm also more browsing the forums and cgnetwork to get me back inspired.

To your stuff. I like the design, are the poles generated procedural? As u said u had troubles with intersections when tracks passing underneath. I wondered why u were the ohnly one to come up with a dynamic system of a motor. I already started thinking how i would do that, as i just saw rollercoaster animations that seemed to have gravitation and movement along the path

My solution would have been a drag field that lifts the cars up with constant speed, when the coaster enters the field. Show us your playblast or rendered anim!

I like your dynamic work.
  11 November 2004
How much do you get judged on how procedural it is? I think that's going to be one of the truly remarkable things about your setup. So when are you coming to North America to work?
  11 November 2004
NatX: Yes the poles are generated procedurally. I only have modeled three parts, that I pass on to the coaster-OP.
The first part will be ray'ed down to the floor and placed there. The middle part is placed on the top of the pole and the third one is oriented towards the track and placed on the middle part.
I want to mention the motor again. This was really simple, because my dynamics are just one expression for the position of the train on the path. I only added a lift-time and up-position. During lift I linearly interpolate the train position from 0 to up-position.
For the playblast you want to see, I'm currently rendering an animation. Tomorrow I will post it. I don't have any other test movies, because my dynamics are running in real time. It is even possible to scrub the timeline and watch the train move on the track. That's something I'm very proud of :-)

@Dante and NatX (but also every other Houdini user): I think I'm gonna put an otl of my coaster-OP on odforce and the SideFX-exchange when the competition is over.

Ok, enough said, here are some images of what I was doing today:
This is a small test coaster I build. It will not be the one I submit for the final animation.

And these are the new wagons. Additionally to the modeling I enhanced the placement of the cars. They are now mounted better on the track. Both, the front and backwheels now determine the orientation of the car.

Now, I'm thinking about the next step I should do. The scene really needs some shaders. This dull gray is looking very boring. But I also have another great idea, I would like to do (and I think the time is to short to do both, the shaders and the following idea): I would like to occupy the cars with people and animate them procedurally, too. They should raise their hands, if the coaster is going down a hill, lean into a curve, etc. I think that this would be doable (and would fit quite more to the challenge than shaders).
  11 November 2004
Looking really nice and effective. Do you still only simulate one car and the others follow?
The scrubbing sounds strange. Do you recalculate the entire run from the beginning to get the actual position? Especially if you scrub backwards.

And one thing that is still missing: loopings No modern coaster without 'em.

Another thing I think would improve the looks would be dividing your poles, if they get too long. With bigger segments at the bottom.

Really promising stuff.
  11 November 2004
Colts suggestions are good, but as i know you, you already have crazy loops and twists in your coaster planned.

Besides that, everything looks good and sounds great. Hope you render multiple views, as i wanna take that ride!
  11 November 2004
Looking real nice Frank. As dantea says, hopefully everyone will appreciate the extra effort you've gone to in making this setup completely procedural...even though there's no strict category to gain bonus browny points in with it. Perhaps, if you've got screen capture s/w you could post a short avi of the hda in action, just to emphasise the power of Houdini - at the very least I'm sure others will be interested in seeing this.

Looking foward to taking a closer look at the hda when you release it.

Good luck
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