Stefan Habel

Visual Effects Software Developer
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Photo from Flickr: Canary Wharf Sunset

They Will Come To Town (2008)

3D animated short film on the topic of global warming

Last updated: 30 December 2021

Directed by Thilo Ewers

My role: Effects TD
Software used: Houdini, Maya

I simulated shoals of fish for 8 shots using different approaches for creating point clouds, and using Houdini's copy-stamping technique for instancing animated fish geometry onto each point. The joint rotations in the fish rig were automatically calculated based on the template points' speed and acceleration.

The approach we ended up using for most of the shots for creating point clouds was to draw guide curves into the scene, generate multiple variations from those curves, and have points follow these generated curves. I created a Houdini Digital Asset (HDA) for turning one input curve into a number of points following a set of random curves following the path of the input curve. This approach provided instant feedback on where the fish geometry would be copied, as no simulation was necessary.

We wouldn't have finished the film on time if we hadn't used Houdini for creating the shoals of fish, and we were honored by Side Effects when they selected a shot from the film for their Houdini Demo Reel 2008.

They Will Come To Town (2008) on YouTube
2008 Houdini Reel on YouTube
somethingiscoming.de
Still from They Will Come To Town (1/5)
Still from They Will Come To Town (2/5)
Still from They Will Come To Town (3/5)
Still from They Will Come To Town (4/5)
Still from They Will Come To Town (5/5)
A making of shot 16 showing the curves for the fish to follow
A making of shot 19 showing the curves for the fish to follow
Slide from my PowerPoint presentation on simulating shoals of fish (1/2)
Slide from my PowerPoint presentation on simulating shoals of fish (2/2)
Screenshot of shot 16 in Houdini 9
The fish animation rig in Houdini 9