Hi Elliott, This is a great breakdown and very generous in sharing your process and insights, you came a long way from the vending machine days!
Are you planning on releasing the UE4 project to the public? Or only builds? I'd love to play around with it in the editor if possible!
My name is Ahmed Saadi, originally from Iraq and I’m freelance VFX Artist.
I loved this field since I was kid and I remember my first course in Photoshop and 3ds Max in 2002 , it was the first time for me to get to know these amazing tools . From that time I started to discover the 3d world and try my very best to learn more and become a good artist as much as I could .
It was lots of fun with learning modeling, lighting, rendering ..etc . Then I started seeing myself more in FX side so I start learning step by step and till now i’m learning.
I had a chance to work with lots of great people doing some great projects like when I was a part of team who did the short film MILES , also Aurora Sci-Fi Movie , Copa America 2016 with beIN Sports channels and some other cool projects.
Working as VFX-artist
Mostly I do destruction, fire, smoke, water, particles and some other stuff related to FX part.
Sometimes I have to handle some part of the task then send it over to the other guys to do lighting and rendering, but sometimes I have to do everything by myself which is start doing the FX R&D, then finish up the simulation, then lighting and rendering.
With all my respect to the other softwares I do find SideFx (Houdini) tool the greatest software I have ever worked with. It’s changed my way of thinking and working.
What I love about it is two things. The First one is I have everything I need inside it so I do not have to look up for other plugins to do some parts I need.
The Second thing is the way of doing work inside by building up my FX parts procedurally so I can easily build up versions and change some parts as the works needs and goes.
So in Houdini you can do particles, fluids, destruction, and more that what you want in this field all in one package.
Lastly , SideFx developers really care about each new version so these guys keep updating the tools for the users and let it open for you to use it as you like.
The procedural way is a powerful way of thinking and I do believe that it is so important when you do an FX element, most of our work is not approved from the first time so we need to do multiple versions until we get approved so when you build up your FX element tree in procedural way it will be so much easier to change something without destroying your all work or redo it again.
And in Houdini that’s an easy part because the software is built on this way.
I start my task firstly by looking on some references and refreshing my mind. Then I open Houdini to start building up what I want to do. Nothing specific at all because it is all up to the task I want to do, but normally I start with Houdini by building up the basic main system for the task and start going more into details step by step.
In Houdini you have great shelf tools you can start with and then you can customize them as you like to do whatever you want.
I start working with liquids sims by taking the terrain object and putting my fluids containers to fill up the area I want. Then I start tweaking the number till I find the best values for the scene, and that is the most tricky part.
Then after that I have to save out the main simulation , then use what I save to convert the particles to mesh to use it for render.
After that I’m working on the secondary elements like getting out the foam, splashes and bubbles .
After this stage I start working on the shader side and prepare my scene with lighting then render it out.
Destruction of the Buildings in Houdini
There are different ways to do destruction in Houdini, so let’s say we have destruction task that needs to be done:
1. I import the 3d model which needs to be destroyed
2. Prepare it for destruction by separating the layer of the model into different parts
3. Make voronie fracture to that parts
4. Bring them over to do the main destruction layer
5. Make the debris out from what we have destroyed in the main layer
6. Make the dust layer
7. Advect particles from Dust
8. Rendering and lighting for the element.
So after all of that you can see that all the parts is related to each other and even if you want later to change something it will be an easy step to do so and everything will be as it is.