Featured VFX Student: Aletta Goedman, Belgium
When GridMarkets offered to publish an article about my graduate project, I was flattered to be featured among all these great artists featured by GridMarkets. Before I start about my project, let me introduce myself. I’m Aletta and I’m currently a graduate student at Digital Arts and Entertainment in Belgium.
Digital Arts and Entertainment - a great VFX school!
When I was younger I would watch all the "making of" Harry Potter videos. This was one of my favorite parts.
The two most important scenes for me are the dragon in "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" and the collapsing of the Millennium bridge in "Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince." It was the making of the dragon where I actually realized that people make these things in 3D - and that this is an actual job that I might be able to do myself one day. I remember watching "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" and being so impressed by the death eater smoke and the collapsing of the bridge! I knew, if ever got the chance to learn how to do something like that, I would take it in a second.
Since then, it has been a dream for me to be a part of such a production. This is how I ended up at Digital Arts and Entertainment.
In my first two years at Digital Arts and Entertainment, I learned the basics of the VFX pipeline: preproduction, 3D modeling, texturing, rigging, animation. I mainly focused on modeling and materials . . . but I quickly realized that this was not going to be my focus.
Fight Club inspired scene
MY START WITH HOUDINI:
Then, last year, a new course was introduced: an introduction into Houdini. The teacher showed me the power and possibilities of the Houdini program. This was enough for me to know that Houdini was the perfect combination of logical thinking and creativity - exactly what I was looking for! I wanted to dive right in and to learn as much as I could. I did.
some of my first Houdini destruction attempts
MY HOUDINI JOURNEY:
The mindset used in Houdini is different from other programs such as 3DS Max. In my Houdini journey, I mainly used skills that were not yet taught in school. So, I had to learn almost everything from scratch. To do so, I started watching tutorials.
This is when I contacted FX Technical Director at DNEG Johnny Roek. He helped me to learn the basics in Houdini. Johnny has since been a great inspiration for me. Whenever I was stuck and really didn’t know what to do anymore, I could turn to him.
After learning the basics, I started on the research for my graduation work. The next step into Houdini was watching all the tutorials on pyro and rigids (see examples below) from Steven Knipping.
Two of Steven's many helpful Houdini tutorials.
MY GRADUATE PROJECT:
The tutorials prepared me well to start working on my own scenes for my graduate project. The idea for this project was to research and learn how to create the FX for a shot in Houdini. The scene I created, was inspired by the pod racers crash scene from Star Wars Episode I- The Phantom Menace. This scene was used to determine the different elements required in the scene and as a general guideline.
The scenes were made on a laptop with an Intel Core i7 4720HQ, 16 GB of RAM, a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M card and an external 2 TB hard drive. The size of my simulations easily overwhelmed this machine. As a result, I had to explore workflow options that avoided crashing my machine. As the project grew larger, so did my hardware challenges. I was forced to explore many creative technical solutions to solve this problem.
the break down of my senior project
A wonderful thing about Houdini is that the program has no boundaries and many optimization options to help in situations where hardware restrictions apply. But eventually, despite my best optimization efforts and the flexibility and power of Houdini, my laptop was not sufficient to create the production quality caches that I wanted. Fortunately, my school stepped in and gave me access to a desktop that had more computing power - without which, I would not have been able to finish the project.
Then came the rendering challenge.
MY GRIDMARKETS SUBMISSION:
This work has been an amazing journey for me and I have learned so much in the process. It would have been a shame if I couldn’t render it at the finish line. This was the case before I approached GridMarkets. It would have taken a month or more to render my project. But, with GridMarkets' help, the whole project was rendered very quickly.
The final render caches were 947GB. Most of that was from a 145 frame smoke simulation. The project consisted of 7 elements that had to be rendered in separate passes but effect each other at the same time. This meant that for every frame, all the interacting elements had to be loaded in.
To give an idea why this project was so big. The ship I started with was about 10m wide and 11m long. It had a velocity of about 210km/h when it hit the rock. This caused the ship to travel quite some distance during the crash. This had as a result that the ground smoke covered a large area: the terrain this had to be about 1.5 km wide and long. Otherwise the boundaries would be visible with the moving camera.
I am very excited to be starting a 4 month internship. I’m very happy with everything that I have learned the past months about Houdini, and I would love to broaden my knowledge and continue to learn as much as I can. One of my main inspirations has been the Rivendell environment.
2: Have a better image for the Rivendell env?
I am aiming to learn how to create a similar scene with water simulations in Houdini and work at productions like "The Lord of the Rings", "Fantastic Beasts" or "Avatar."
I’m interested in opportunities to continue my journey in Houdini at the end of January 2019. By then, I will have finished my internship, marking the end of my studies at Digital Arts and Entertainment. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at www.linkedin.com/in/aletta-g-81147b84 . . . thanks!
Aletta Goedman 2018
By: Patricia Cornet