Voxel Dancing Guy: Disassembly Simulation

Voxel Dancing Guy: Disassembly Simulation

Omri Schick talked about his recent voxel creation and shared some tips on using Houdini.


Hello, my name is Omri Schick, and I’m 3D & VFX Artist from Israel.

I do all around jobs, a generalist if you will – from the start of modeling all the way to effects and compositing.

I had a chance to work on various projects, such as commercials and animated series, mostly as Light, render artist, and Compositing.

The recent series I worked on with an amazing team at Snowball Studios were Barbie – Dreamtopia and Disney’s – Muppet babies.

I come from a technical drawing background back when I was studying mechanical engineering, ever since I started to create Isometry objects out of a 2D drawing I was fascinated by the shape and look – that made me want to take it to the next level, but mostly what I always wanted to do is to create special effects like you see on the big screen.

Dancing animation: the Voxel dancing guy

In the Voxel dancing guy that I made recently, I wanted to create a model that would not only act as a whole unit while it moves around but would have the ability to change its behavior when I choose to and disassemble it.

The main simulation here is the part when all the “Lego” pieces break a part of course – it is a simple simulation with normal gravity, etc., but added some small scale velocity in all axis – although it makes the flow of impact “less believable”, I find, it adds a bit of a kick to it.

Because of the procedural & non-destructive workflow of Houdini, you’re allowed to make a lot of adjustments and changes along the way, so the model itself can be changed at any point, it can be any character basically.

In my case, I took a generic character and used motion capture sequence from Maximo just to get the movement I want the Lego pieces to have.

Then I transformed the character into a volume to have the ability to split the volume into the box grid; this also allows me to choose the size of each piece I want to get.

After that, I copy the original Lego piece to each point of the box grid, and I only need to make sure no intersections are happening between the pieces.

After that, copy the original color from the character diffuse map back to the points, so each point gives the color to the Lego shape.

The Disassembly Simulation

The disassembly itself is quite simple – until the point I want the dancer to break apart, it uses the method as I described above, just need to pick the perfect point, when I want it to happen. At that point, I made the particles “active”, and all the forces kick in.

The simulation itself resides inside a DOP network (Dynamic network), where it imports the main geometry I want to get affected and combine it with different forces to control it, In this case, it’s gravity and velocity.

As with any Simulation, there is a lot of trial and error, until you managed to get the right timing speed and the behavior you wish to achieve.

Challenges of creating complex simulations

Most of the times the biggest challenges can be a simple and subtle movement that you won’t simply notice in the first glance, but the small variations in a giant smoke cloud, for example, will make a big difference in the long run.

The key to any good simulation, after all, is a good eye and good references to work with, our brain always analyzes and try to figure out if what we see is something that we know, and how it “should” react based on our former experience.

If a giant rolling rock feels too “light” and bounces too far in the air compared to the other object in the scene, you will tell right away that something is off.

As with anything, practice will make you better, better in critical thinking for what you need to work on for each step when you breakdown your simulation.

Learn to find out those small things that just don’t feel right by training your eyes.

Just explore new stuff all the time, how to be more efficient, learn new tools and always set yourself a new goal to reach.


I myself am still a novice in Houdini, and I keep diving and learning each day – there is a wonderful group on Facebook – “Houdini Artists“, with such talented people that help fill the gap and doing some really incredible things, and their support is amazing.

Omri Schick, 3D & VFX Artist

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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