Home Technical Talk

Trying to model a destructible building for Portfolio. Don't know where to start...

Hi all! I'm building my folio right now to hopefully get my foot through the door as a junior/intern in a local VFX studio. My friend that works in the studio as an FX artist explained the pipeline to me roughly and I decided to make a destructible building (since this studio is always looking for good building modelers) to showcase in my reel. I did a practice project and my friend liked the result but said I should work off of a live reference to show that I'm capable of replicating a reference image (which is part of the studio's pipeline anyway). Here's the result of the practice project: 

All pieces are separate (roof shingles, wood beams/planks, drywall, plywood, etc.). Although some objects are overlapping - now I know not to do that in the next project!

My only concern after working on this project is, how could I go about making a full sized building from reference? How do I work the measurements/proportions vs a real building that I take a reference picture of? Do I go through the same procedure of the practice project? Any VFX modelers that have a standard pipeline to follow for this? My friend is an FX artist so she has no idea and I don't know where to start.

If I could get any piece of advice, it'll be amazing, I just want some sort of sense of direction because there are literally no tutorials or articles that I've found on the internet. 


  • sacboi
    Offline / Send Message
    sacboi high dynamic range
    An example in depth physics based workflow enabling a 'explode' modifier, particles and smoke sim, just as a general overview of the various techniques implemented, natively.

    (...old'ish tute via my particular DCC app of choice)

  • Mark Dygert
    Offline / Send Message
    So it's not just about being able to lift yourself up over the requirements bar, you need to bring something that other people aren't and you need to add to their overall skill set, not just plug into it and becoming a smooth unremarkable part of the wall. If they say "you need to be able to do a chin up" you show up with a pole and vault over the bar. So don't think about what you can do to just meet the minimum requirements but think about what you can add to their team, more on that in a min.

    As for replicating a building...

    Believably is king

    You'll need to get some reference, mountains of reference. Really dig into making it look like an actual building from an actual shot. You should be able to hand them a shot and they say "thank you for showing us the plate, where is your work?" When no one notices, we've done our job correctly, ha. 

    Pulling that off will require a wide range of skills you may or may not have started on, I don't know where you're at professionally so I'll assume pretty fresh. Learning everything you need could be pretty daunting at first if you haven't done much high poly modeling or texture generation.

    The first few projects you'll do will be throw away work and should be VERY small in scope. I would say what you're doing now is too much, take about 10 steps back and start a hell of a lot smaller. If you don't, you are likely to fail and the bitter taste of defeat might be the end for you. Hopefully you're more resilient than that and farther along in your skill building than I think but it won't hurt to go small and build off of the success of small projects rather than languish on something that is probably outside of the scope of what you can successfully do.

    Gotta go fast... but...
    Not only do you need to be accurate, you need to be fast, but to get faster you need to figure out how to make it look good, FIRST! Then work on refining your process to make it faster. If you're really good at rushing out garbage, they're not going to care, because it is garbage. So figure out your pipeline, make it look good and then work on making your pipeline faster.

    What programs are you going to use?
    I would suggest 3dsmax or Maya for modeling, Substance Painter and Designer for textures and Unreal for shot layout (Sequencer), destruction (Chaos), materials and rendering.

    I wouldn't worry too much about compositing because that is another job with another set of skills that is going to take a while to dig into. You might want to dip your toe into it, so you can do enough to get a decent shot composed but if that isn't what you want to do then don't invest too much time.

    It is helpful for someone working at one stage of the pipeline to know what goes into the steps before and after they work on a particular piece. Modelers who know a bit of skinning and rigging make smarter character topology, and riggers that understand how engines consume their skeletons will have an easier time making rigs that meet the goals of the project.

    Focus on just FX?
    If you're going to focus on blowing things up, and not spend the next few months to a year learning how to model and do materials, then you might want to look around for some believable buildings online and focus on destroying them. Which is another huge skill set that you will probably have to learn. There are tons of tutorials.

    The last thing I'll mention is that "something special" you could bring to the studio
    Unreal is making some amazing strides in the previs space and I only see it becoming more popular as time goes on. Which is the one thing I think would really wow anyone looking to hire some fresh faces. Someone who digs into new tech and rolls with it is very valuable. Not every shot is built the same way using the exact same techniques so you won't approach everything the exact same way or even use the exact same DCC.

    The more tools you have in you're toolbox, the more things you can work on.
    We don't approach shots like we did 5-10 years ago and if you're looking to make this a career it's going to change quite a few times before you're done. So taking that (somewhat calculated) leap into the void is going to be something that you are comfortable with. Its fine if that makes you nervous or anxious. Everyone gets that, but you need to be brave enough to focus on the things you need to do, to keep moving forward. So don't stop learning, keep that toolbox full and you'll keep working.

    The work they're doing on Mandalorian using Unreal is really awesome. I really like that they're using it for previs and as a replacement for green screens to help give actors context and cast lighting into the scenes.

    The new "Chaos Destruction" system is really hot 
    It's really new, 4.23 preview (or custom build) but the workflow is really solid and mostly done in Unreal so the workflow and iteration loop is much faster and shorter. I can't wait for them to finish ripping out Physx. I'm super excited to see where they take this because already its a great workflow and preforms really really well. 

    GDC 2019 

    Official Documentation and Guide

    Keep in mind these are just my personal opinions based on my experience, feel free to pick and choose or fully ignore anything I said, you won't hurt my feelings by disagreeing. It is your life, your career and you need to own it fully. I hope that helps =)
Sign In or Register to comment.