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Speedtree Collections With 3D-Coat and Houdini

By using Collections, we are able to mix and maneuver various types of digital foliage so that it can be used for hero shots!

Length: 4 Hours 27 Minutes 5 Seconds

Note: This product is no longer available and has been maintained here for historical purposes only.


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For the better part of a decade, creating intelligent clusters of realistic foliage presented many challenges and far less solutions. During this time, I have spent my efforts assisting many vendors application design and workflow development. By doing this, it allowed me the opportunity to work with some amazing people with very unique approaches to various post production systems. This video is a collection in its own of a trifecta of CG applications that can provide their own independent solutions for what we are now calling "Collections". The term is derived from IDVC's SpeedTree application which just won an Academy Award. Its been an honor working with this affiliate, and it has allowed many of my ideas to seep into this new found prize. This one leg of our software tripod is really the center of our show, but equally parted to help create the most efficient amount of lesson material in our allotted time slot. To kick off our video, we will start with one of the most brilliant apps on the market, which is soon to be a viable replacement for all sculpting apps, thanks to its support for OSX, Linux, and Windows respectively. Every app that I am showing in this video is designed to work on ALL OPERATING SYSTEMS for good reason. 3D-Coat is famous for its sculpting and retopology tools, allowing for highly detailed models that are super clean and light weight. It works very well, and we will show you how to sculpt, paint, retopo, and bake in such a way that you COULD create your entire scene in any of these apps, OR all of them just the same. After 3d-coat, SpeedTree is used to create our dynamic tree and foliage systems with the assembly of outside geometry and modified plant libraries as well as hand generated ones. Learn how to use dynamic and geometrical forces to help model details such as tree roots that cling to a cliff, or ivy leaves that creep up from the ground onto tree bark. We also cover methods of population which will work without custom tools for their world building kit. Now EVERYONE can populate and export directly from SpeedTree without further need of Python tools! In the end, we will show all the final assets and demonstrate how to set up a scene in Houdini. We do this in the latest version of Houdini so that you can see all the new changes to the shading system. All the final renders that aren't shown in realtime are produced in Houdini for this project. But this video was set up so that you could use Maya, Max, C4D, Lightwave and more to assemble your final assets. This video is officially for everyone that would ever need to create a digital environment. I encourage you to get the most out of this incredible video. When it comes to high end training, there is only one choice!!

Chapter Descriptions


This video is geared toward all levels of general CG application. Whether you're a seasoned professional or someone who is fairly new to the world of CG, this video helps propel what you know forward rapidly. Consider this the ultimate cheat guide to CG.

Voxel Blocking in 3D-Coat

3DC has the most inventive tools on the market today. With the ability to use Voxel clouds to sculpt models, 3DC can be extremely efficient for creating and blending in many geometrical objects into one. Because of this, it was our first choice for sculpting our mountain cliff.

Surfacing and Texturing

When it comes to making a 3d model look finished, it requires a fine touch. In this part of the video, we dive into the mask tools for sculpting rich details into our cliff scene. We finish this part up by painting textures and colors to make our cliff look great for real time rendering.


This new phrase "Speed-Retopo" is my definition of creating assets using the software's brains to do over-complicated work. Why struggle with figuring out the placement of contours and polygons when 3DC's relax tools can help do it for you? By default, many of you might not realize that these relax tools can help you model geometry far better than if you were to hand create it. Learn how in this chapter.

UV's and Baking

That's correct. We show every step of the process in this video set. You're going to learn now how to break your model up into smart UV's by using edge loops to find the smartest possible seams for your 3d model. You can't bake textures to a model that doesn't have UV's, so this chapter will show you how to take care of that really quickly and painlessly!

3D Sculpting A Hero Tree (Mini-Bonus)

This chapter shows the end user how to decide if they will need super-detailed tree models in their scene. By creating the bases and roots of a tree using the Muscle Model tools inside of 3DC, one can perceive a better solution for their look development. We do not use this model for our final scene, but we do include it in our files for you to practice with!

Intro to Collections

This chapter is designed only to show you how to start building collections, and why a single collection will not be enough for highly detailed scenes. This chapter is the one you want refer to so you can quickly remember the steps for creating a collection just in case you need to review this video several times.

Position Placement Mapping

This function of creating textures is to be used for the placement of assets and it is dedicated toward learning how to make the decision between using collections or using the World Building tools.

Polygonal Placement Mapping

Because we will be using collections, we need to learn how to break up the geometry for our cliff into sub-areas for blending plant life. The more pieces there are, the more memory gets eaten, so this section is dedicated to several of the main areas of foliage.

World Building at a Glance

You're going to want to explore the world building tools out of curiosity before you believe us about needing Collections and Polygon Placement Mapping to create our smaller robust outcrop scenes.

Breaking up the Scene

In this chapter, we take our cliff into Houdini and use its Blast tools to get rid of areas that will not have life growing or clinging from them. You can substitute this app for any 3d app of your choosing.

Modeling a Funky Pine Tree on a Cliff

This section of the video is dedicated to the creation of our hero tree on a cliff. We use the hand modeling tools found in SpeedTree, and we use pre-existing textures from their library. Also shown here is how to copy objects between different SpeedTree documents, which is something most people don't know about.

Assembly And Export

We will now build up our scene using a variety of methods and prepare it for Alembic animation export. All data will be saved to disk and will be usable now by any CG app. The World Building method is NOT usable by any app, only the cmiVFX collections method is.

Setting up Shaders and Renders

Finally, now that we have all our data ready for assembly, you can import it into Houdini OR any other CG app of choice. Just follow along, repeating the same location finding of maps as well as inverting any stencils that help cut out leaf detail. Certain apps will use the opposite alpha map coloring, but might not have a simple toggle switch called "invert." We supply you with both so it's a non-issue.


Note: This product is no longer available and has been maintained here for historical purposes only.