Dragon Flight towards the Castle by Andres de Mingo

Andres de Mingo give some insights into the making of  this nice video, specially he explain how  the castle was destroyed using Pulldownit plugin in 3d Max.

Modeling the Environment


For modeling the terrain I started with a high tessellated plane, in order to create hills and valleys I used the soft selection tool to raise different areas, finally applying a noise modifier to get a rough look on the surface. The Lake is done with another large plane with an animated displacement, and of course a water-like blend material for rendering it translucent.  I populated the terrain with some trees,  I used a little MCG scheme to place the trees in groups and changing ramdomly its size and  number of branches so they didn’t look the same, MCG is a great tool for scattering objects ramdomly over a terrain.

Modeling the Dragon


Strictly speaking I modeled a Wyvern, this is a kind of Dragon without arms,  it was modeled in several stages. First I did was  a raw low poly version of it using just edit poly and turbo smooth in 3D Max, once I was happy with the result, unwrapped it and sent it to ZBrush for modeling the HiRes shape, I did it in two separate layers, one for the dragon body and another for the independent parts:  claws, horns, teeth and thorns. I added also surface details to the body like wrinkles and scales, finally I applied a projection mapping to texture the model. I reduced the poly count of the model by passing some of the detail to a displacement map and send it back to 3d Max where I added a SSS shader to get a translucent look on the wings,  finally I  built a basic rig with bones so I could animate it later.

Animating the Dragon


First I had to drive the overall trajectory of the dragon towards the castle, for this I used a dummy and linking the Dragon skeleton as child of it, then I did the dummy to approach the castle in a smooth way, from side to side, like the flight of a seagull. In order to refine the motion, I edited the dummy trajectory in Motion>Trajectories>Sub-Object>Keys, in this way I was able to handle it as a spline, displacing the keys in a smooth way. For beating the wings and leaning its body I did a classic “Pose to pose” animation while it was approaching the castle, finally to get a cloth-like feeling of the wings I added a Flex modifier in the rear part of them.

Impact with the Stone


The stones thrown from the catapult are modeled as simple spheres with turbosmooth and a noise modifier to add roughness.  The stones were animated so two of them almost collide with the dragon body, and the last one impact its head.

Making the third stone breaking when colliding with the dragon was very easy using Pulldownit, Esteban Cuesta shows it in this great video tutorial,

When playing the simulation the stone got broken perfectly when colliding with  the dragon, finally I just added some jagginess to the fragments to improve the look of the flying fragments.

Destroying the Castle

Destroying the Castle

The castle model was purchased on Internet, it looked very nice but when shattering the tower with Pulldownit, I got strange artifacts on the arcs, checking the model I found that it had several open edges, adding a cap holes modifier fixed the issues but made it completely solid and I wanted the tower to be holed inside, so I had to edit the mesh and adding a cylindrical wall on the inside, then applying a cap holes I got the holed solid shape  that I wanted. I created a fracture body for the tower and set the dragon as kinematic with animated mesh to collide with it, in place of including the rest of the castle as static in dynamics I made some boxes and cylinders around it to act as barriers in dynamics to save computation time.

I destroyed also the roof of the tower below and the front porch, I did it in second step after baking keys for the fragments of the tower, I hadn’t any trouble to shatter those parts. For the few fragments falling into the pit in front of the Castle, I added a simple ripple effect to create some waves on the water  when the fragments touched the water plane.


This project was pretty complex for just one person, lots of modeling and animating the dragon took time aswell, but I enjoyed doing it, and Pulldownit plugin made the destruction work easy and funny.


Chang Metamorphosis by Artem Paramonov

Artem Paramonov show us this great breakdown he made for a Chang beer commercial, Pulldownit was used for shattering the bottle,  Artem kindly explain several technical details below.


My name is Artem Paramonov, I’m senior 3D creative. This project was done for Iris Sydney, we’ve got a brief from the client to create a stunning animation of a bottle being shattered. The most difficult part of it was of course the simulation itself, and this is where PulldownIt did what it does best – simplified everything.

The tricky part was to make shattering simulation controllable, to start in specific areas and follow up with a general explosion. We also wanted to do it in a bullet time manner to make it look a bit more dramatic. So we, basically, had 2 waves of explosion – first to break apart everything and second to blow all pieces off the screen.


It was really great being able to define how bottle will be shattered, where the big chunks will form and where we will get the small pieces. Now, slowing down the existing animation and then speeding it up could be generally quite tricky, so once I was happy with simulation results I baked everything into a keyframes and after that into a geometry cache – this gave me a flexibility to re-time it the way I wanted to. Shockwave effects were created later on in After Effects with a standard effect called CC Ripple Pulse. After rendering primary simulation I also rendered a still 2k image, to use different pieces for 2D particles and “dust”. Finally assembling everything in After Effects.


Overall experience with Pulldownit is just so sleek – that I was even a bit overwhelmed when I got my results that fast. I could play with it for weeks – it is very enjoyable to use it. It is stable, predictable and it just Works!

Breaking Letters Demos by Esteban Cuesta

These are the  breaking letters demos Esteban Cuesta made  as a final example of his tutorials on shattering text with Pulldownit plugin, you can find this tutorial a couple of articles below. Esteban Cuesta kindly explains some details about the making steps.



I wanted to make a video as a final demostration of my breaking letters tutorials with Pulldownit 3.7, I designed demo #1 as a classic letters intro, quick and lively, the motion of each word is animated until it touch the word below, then I activate the fracture bodies so pieces of letters start to crumble and fall, I used a Wind field to stress the debris falling effect. The final destruction was as easy as animating the word “Pulldownit” so it pass through the whole text and set it is a kinematic rigid body but I switched to “Convex hull” Bounding Volume to speed up the testing, the dynamics looked good anyway so I used it for the final shot too.

Doing the first shot wasn’t difficult at all and pretty funny, this encouraged me to make a longer one. This time a decided to add a plate showing the different shatter styles of Pulldownit with letters, all styles except “Wood splinters” as I think this style doesn’t make sense for letters.


All sets are done in the same way, using the 3D Max text tool to generate each word and making the endings fit each other simply by adjusting text size and kerning, and then collapsing all the words in a single poly object. At this point I applied the intended shatter style and create a fracture body for all pieces. For the Radial style plate I used an animated sphere to trigger the destruction, I simply hid it when rendering the scene, for the Path style I used the great crackers objects of Pulldownit as triggers, the rest of plates uses a Wind field to trigger the destruction, animating its Strength in order to get a increasing amount of falling debris.

Rendering was done using Mental ray in 3D Max, applying a high reflectance material to the letters and a less polished glossy material with the same colour to the inner faces after breaking.

Pulldownit worked very well , I haven’t any issue aside tweaking the parameters to get the dynamic behavior I wanted, It was very intuitive and fast computing using it.

Quake at St.Lawrence Church By Luis Tejeda

Luis Tejeda has posted a new video showing a cinematic action shot where a church tower collapses during an earthquake. The scene is a recreation of the real environment and setting of the San Lorenzo Church in Cordoba, Spain. Pulldownit 3.5 was used for all destruction effects.

See breakdown in the project page,


The Midas Effect by Niels Bosch

                                                                                                                                               Niels Bosch kindly explain us the main features of this endearing story made for his final project at Utrecht School of Arts, Pulldownit plugin was used extensively for all the scenery destruction effects.

The main goal for the look of the film was to make a believable feel of the clay material, everything had to look hand sculpted. In order to achieve that goal we turned to Zbrush for the sculpting part. For the clay structure we mostly used the standard brushes within Zbrush. These basic tools gave us such great freedom to make everything look as if it was hand sculpted.

The simulations were all done with Pulldownit. We wanted to create a “cute” explosion, it had to feel tiny, like it all happened inside of a cardboard box. In order to do this we didn’t use any dynamic fields to make the pieces fly apart, instead we gave every piece a slight angular acceleration to give it a springy effect. We used particles to simulate smaller pieces, the emitter was connected to the inner material of the shattered pieces. These particles were driven by several expressions which influenced its motion parameters like angular velocity, to give them a dynamic feel.

What I liked most about Pulldownit was the straight-forward usability, everything
from shattering the object to baking the simulation was very clear and easy to use.
The dynamics properties were easy and fast compared to other dynamic engines, and
the different bounding volumes came in very handy while doing larger simulations.

The main render engine we used was V-ray. The three of us had worked with V-ray on several projects so it was our first choice. The shading of the clay world was just a simple V-ray shader, nothing too fancy because the clay look was achieved by sculpting and then applying the displacement maps on the low poly mesh. We knew the render times would be substantial because we used a lot of displacement maps. So in order to lower the render times we decided to use no reflection on our clay shader and we used the world position pass and the normal pass to do some relighting in Nuke in order to fake the reflection.

The shading of the character was a bit more advanced. It contains the clay shader but on top of that the facial expressions and the gold parts were done with displacement maps and animated masks which connect to the controls of set driven keys. The disadvantage for using displacement maps for facial expressions is that the animator cannot see his actions in the viewport, so animating would be a pretty clumsy and very time consuming task.

To avoid this we came up with a solution to use the switch material within V-ray. This allowed us to make a preview material for the animator to see his actions, and switch between different clay/gold shaders for final rendering all connected with set driven keys to the face GUI.

About the authors:

Niels Bosh


Jonathan Krijgsman


Almar Sloot


UFO attacks “Puerta de Alcalá” by Roberto Martin

dont worry Madrileños, Puerta de Alcala is still there:), Roberto kindly explains how he did this shot using Pulldownit plugin and Maya fluids.

Why did you decide to make an UFO attacking in Madrid?

Some time ago I did a previous test with Pulldownit and Maya fluids, just to try this plugin, to my surprise it wasn’t difficult to make my model blow apart very nicely, that encouraged me to make a complete shot in a more realistic way in my spare time. I currently live in Madrid, so I decided to make an UFO attacking the “Puerta de Alcala” because it is an emblematic monument in this city, like blockbuster movies in which UFOS always destroy monuments.

How did you model the “Puerta de Alcalá”?

I built a new model of the “Puerta de Alcala” trying to make it as realistic as possible, for this I went to the place for several weekends and I took lots of pictures of the monument, I used a front picture of the building as an image plane to build the overall proportions of the structure, from there I started adding details little by little. I modeled the main structure as a single shape, but for statues and other ornaments I did them apart not to complicate the base model too much and besides, it allows me to handle shapes independently if needed , always making sure there weren’t holes in the models or duplicated edges as Pulldownit needs this to shatter objects correctly.

How did you model the environment, buildings and trees?

I took several pictures of the environment, specially the trees, I found out the exact type of tree in this area of Madrid and luckily find a similar model on the web, I had just to apply a photo shader for the trunks and replace the leaves for the correct ones. I modeled by myself other elements like the bus stop, the cigarette kiosk and the landmark with the city map because I wanted to approach the real environment as much as posible.

How did you model and animate the UF0?

Modelling the UFO wasn’t difficult but involved quite a lot of time because I wanted it to be different to any other UFO seen in films or games , in order to animate the rotations of the different rings, first I did was a little hierarchy of groups and then wrote an expression with randomness in the 3 axis to avoid too regular rotations of the rings.

How did you shatter the building?

It was very easy, just selecting the shapes and let Pulldownit shatter them, only I had to shatter the main building and the ornaments in different stages to get the look I wanted for each kind of shape. I did several shatter tests before getting the look I wanted so I had also to clean the scene for unused geometry before moving to dynamics.How did you simulate the destruction of the building with Pulldownit?

I created fracture bodies for every group of fragments and started simulating everything together but the result was too chaotic, there were thousands pieces in motion which make difficult to handle them and drive the simulation so I decided to remove everything but the main structure to focus in the way it explodes and adding the destruction of the ornaments in a second stage. I used a volume axis field to make the main building exploding inside out. Once I was happy with its dynamics I cached it and start making the statues exploding aswell, as before I assigned a volume axis for each statue and animating the volume I make them exploding actually one second before the main building breaks apart, because I wanted the statues destruction being like the prelude of the big explosion.

How did you add smoke trails to flying fragments?

I did the smoke trails using Maya fluids, to emit from the internal faces only first I did was separating those faces from the rest, that wasn’t difficult as PDi applies a different material to these faces. Then I combined all those internal faces in one single shape, thanks to history the animation was preservedJ, after that I was able to emit particles from this single shape in the usual Maya way, and making a goal of value 1.0 to these particles, they remained stuck on the faces, by limiting the emission of particles to match the number of vertices of the shape I got one particle per vertex. After that I created a fluid container and set the particles to be the emitters of fluid; in this way I was able to add an expression to drive fluid emission based on particles velocity, sadly this expression prevented from cache the particles but the method was good enough to get it done.

How did you render smoke trails?

I used Maya software to render the fluids, it get along very well with fluids, for example it respects the fluid volume perfectly. I had to apply a surface black shader to every object in scene for not seeing them in the alpha channel and compose fluids render with the rest later in After Effects.

How did you added green lightnings from the UFO and image distortion?

I did green lightnings using a tool of After Effects, you have just to set the source of the ray and the target position, aside other parameters like its color. You have to animate the ray by hand , but once done, simply by cloning it and modifying the source and target you can get as many rays as you want in a blink. I applied also an effect of distortion when the building explodes to get the feeling of an expansive wave. For doing it I used a mix of 2 alpha masks with a distortion filter.

Conclusions about the most relevant matters of the shot

I think one important thing when destroying large models is the feeling of scale, so a monument doesn’t look like a kid’s toy when falling and breaking. Pulldownit makes very easy to change gravity and masses to get the correct feeling of scale. This plugin is very stable and easy to use, each new version improves in workflow and features that’s great, it is perfectly integrated with the Maya workflow, specially for particles and fluids. I like also the fast computation of fracture so you can make little changes and see the result quickly in the viewport.

thank you Roberto, looking forward to your next shot



James Little member of FX team of POLIS film has confirmed Pulldownit plugin was used for the destruction of the combat bot , POLIS teaser is a Vimeo “Staff Pick” and has won several awards,

James kindly explains several details about how this effect was done

Using PDI allowed me to quickly visualize the shot and iterate in a timely manner .  It’s speed and accuracy with collisions is a very powerful feature in pulldownit.

I actually did the simulation in three stages to get the look and feel I
wanted.  I used PDI’s awesome rbd engine to sim the major armor panels on
the robot as straight rbd’s with no fracturing, as metal isn’t so brittle
that it would shatter at room temperature.
After I got a motion I liked I baked out the geo.  I then selected a bunch
of key pieces inside the droids innards that would create interesting and
unique silhouettes when they are ripped out of the body cavity and set them
up as rbd objects.
I then used the earlier baked sim to be passive colliders to drive the new
PDI sim.  I wanted a richer feel to the effect so you see shapes more like
nut’s bolts, and wires  coming from his insides.
After that step was done, I cached out that sim as well and used the
resulting cached geo as a passive collider yet again to actually fracture
random pieces inside so you get irregular shapes filling up the explosion
cavity and adding overall materia/mass to the effect.

This workflow is very friendly for getting the exact look you want, as you
can preserve the parts of the sim you like and then focus on a single
aspect of the effect at a time to get the desired end result.  It’s also
much easier to sim when only one layer is calculating at a time.

After the PDI sims were done and cached, I emitted instanced nParticles to
make up the extremely fine particulate material that would not be suitable
for an rbd sim.  I then used the nParticles to emit Maya fluids to create
the dust cloud.

I really enjoyed doing this shot and using PDI really made the task much
easier and manageable.

The Full POLIS teaser

Deadfall Adventures Cinematic by Televisor uses Pulldownit

Televisor studio and ColorTV created this thrilling intro for Deadfall Adventures, game by Nordic Games, official launch. They confirmed Pulldownit plugin was used in the jungle plane scene:

One of the most spectacular scenes is the plane flying towards the camera. The number of elements we had to generate for this scene was overwhelming. You can see the amount of work that had to be put into this scene on the “making of” material. We used the Pulldownit plug-in http://www.pulldownit.com to crash the trees, which saved us a lot of time and workload.

making of video:

You can read the full case study here:


Plane crash in the bay by Johan Halleröd

No worries,  this is just a great shot by Johan Halleröd using Pulldownit, he kindly explains many details here.

First off – I am not that particularly fond of flying due to an incident when I was young, so analyzing myself this might very well have been a plain therapy-thing. But the major reason for spending three weeks on a non-profit 3D project with this magic plug-in I had never before heard of, is actually because of a friend of mine. I had made an animation with another plane passing over the same bay. I simply let this plane blow up in a burst of smoke and flames…he was not the least impressed claiming he was missing debris.

The Plane Model

The plane model I decided to use for this project is a Hercules US C 130. I didn`t model it myself but I chose it because of it`s monstrous appearance. I wanted the impact to feel heavy and serious thus it`s more relevant to use a Hercules than a Cessna. It`s also prop-driven which adds interesting fractions on impact.

And for the environment:  First I filmed and 3D-tracked a clean-plate from my apartment window, using a DSLR cam with high shutter speed to reduce motion blur thereby getting a better tracking result. To complete the whole scene, I had to split it up in several parts. (naturally)
Breaking  the Plane

I realised that my model had way too many polygons for a smooth workflow, so I carefully reduced the amount using Max`s ProOpimizer without deforming the model too heavily. Luckily the plane is  pretty far from the camera and I was about to blow it up anyway so…

The mesh was then fragmented part by part using the `Uniform Shatter` and `Wood Splinters` in Shatter tool of Pulldownit, (wings, body, interior) to make the impact look right. It`s unbelievably tempting to use Pdi for completely atomizing the poor Hercules-thing as it plunges to the ground, but I got a grip on myself letting the cockpit and the wings maintain close to intact and preserving the interior cargo so there would be something left to blow up after crashing.

The falldown-process was done in a perhaps unorthodox way by placing the plane out of frame and then using the `Initial velocity` x-parameter in Pdi to force the plane horizontally, the gravity to make it fall down on the right spot and the `Initial Spin`-parameters for banking and pitching slightly. For fine-tuning the fragments upon impact and make them behave as I wanted, I adjusted the `Hardness` and `Clusterize` parameters ; notice the props bouncing off on the ice, pretty neat I think. I also found the `Linear damping` and `Friction`  parameters of PDi very handy to make the plane drop and stop spot on.

Exploding  Fragments

Now, to make the plane explode with the right chunks taking off in the right directions and with the right dimensions (more and smaller pieces), I had to re-shatter parts of the model. I saved the 3DMax-project as “Part 2” and  at the plane`s  initial position thoroughly I re-shattered the bits and pieces I wanted to trigger the explosion, i.e cockpit, wings, fuselage and a few more. Then I placed a spherical PBomb , making sure were affected by force fields in Pdi,  slightly to the left of the fuselage midpoint, trying to make the plane`s front parts take off towards the habitation, the houses in the back, and after some tweaking they did.

This “part 2”-clip was carefully edited on to the impact-part in After Effects. For the final wings wing-thud, I simply manually animated a separate tail wing not affected by the force field. I had even planned for it when filming the clean-plate by chicken-ducking the camera as the wing comes towards me.

Adding  Dust  & Smoke

The final compositing was made in After Effects, adding stock shots of rock debris, dust waves, sparks, flames, explosions and also some basic 3d smoke from Particular. As usual, adding real elements ie. stock footage, to a CGI always adds realism and I used a total of 15 different shots but for some reason the humongous apocalypse-bomb at the end…is CGI. Don`t ask me why. As a matter of fact, I am not too proud of the first frames of the explosion when plane parts exit the flame, I just couldn`t get it right…or maybe I was hungry and didn`t care. But if you take a look at the first impact of the crash when the rear cracks open, there are plenty of things going on in terms of stock footage which adds realism; steam pours out from the cargo and bundles of 100 dollar bills ( I guess), falls out of the wreck, pretty real to me.

Mixing Cg and real footage

To make CGI and live footage work convincing together, they need to get married. First and foremost you want a rock solid 3D-track, this became a problem for me since I was using a shaky hand camera. I used “Boujou” that was installed on the computer I worked on. Second; as mentioned, real world stock footage. Delicately adding authentic smoke, fire, debris and what not, tends to fade the boundaries between real and binary world. So does final grading.


The conductor of this Hercules-symphony is clearly Pulldownit! I had no experience of using it before, but as soon as I started experimenting and tweaking the settings, I found it very intuitive. The mission itself was pretty basic: You have your model, now make it fall down and break apart. The trick lies in selling the shot without people reflecting on the technique behind it, and that`s what makes Pulldownit so brilliant – it`s easy to master, you can get stunning results with very good dynamics  and I have only just scratched the surface.

Author: Johan Halleröd


The Weakest Golem by Andres De Mingo

Andres de Mingo explains how he broke the animated Golem in dynamics and other technical details about this funny shot.

Modeling the environment

The environment of the scene was modeled in 3d Max using polygonals modifiers and adding roughness to the mountains in ZBrush, for not increasing too much the poly count, I applied the changes as a normal map when coming back to 3D Max.

Shading was applied using the Polypaint tool of ZBrush using several HD pictures of stones as a basis. For the little stones here and there I used a particle system in 3d Max to spread them over the ground and instancing them as geometry. The sky is a simple plane with an animated FFD modifier to get the feeling of clouds are moving on the background.

Modeling the Golem

I started modeling the Golem in Max creating a low poly version of the overall shape. I had to convert this solid shape in another one made of different size stones, my first idea was using shatter it tool for doing it, uniform shatter style of PDI worked well however I wanted the fragments on the hands and feet of the golem to look like fingers and this wasn’t possible using Shatter it, besides I liked the Golem to be hollow inside to enhance the feeling of weakness when it breaks, so I figured out a different way. I took the bigger fragments generated by Shatter it on the surface for only one side of the character, making them thinner and flat, modifying its shape when necessary. That was a patience job but I got a good cover of large flat stones.

Mirroring this side of the character I got the whole model covered by stones nicely, I had just to fix a few stones on the middle for not interpenetrating each other. There were still a few little holes over the surface, to fix it I generated some particles over the holes and instanced them as geometry to cover these little areas.

After unwrapping the model I exported it to Zbrush for adding surface detail and texturing it, I used the great Polypaint tool of Zbrush for texturing it.Once again in Max, I built the rigging to can animate the Golem, I did a simple system of bones with IK Handlers, grouping the stones and linking the groups to the nearest bones.

Breaking the Golem in Dynamics

At this point I had a character made of 400 pieces, rigged and animated and I wanted the arms to break when hitting the rock in the middle. First thing I did was reshattering the pieces on the arms in about 5 shards each one to get more fragments when breaking it. I set the rock as a static convex PDi rigid body, the ground as PDi static mesh and selecting all fragments of the character I created a fracture body for it.

When simulating the scene, computation was very slow, checking the scene I discovered my ground was a high tessellate plane made of about 500000 faces! I applied a multires modifier to it cutting down the faces count to just 5000 while topology was preserved pretty well. After Updating the new ground object in PDi the simulation was much faster, however the arm of the character did strange motions when breaking and the whole character started to collapse too soon.

I decided to set up the simulation again with only the right arm of the golem in dynamics and of course the rock, after some testing I discovered that the problem was the arm motion was too fast for computing dynamics correctly, so I simply rescaled the time for making the animation 10 times slower, and this time it worked perfectly so adding the ground to Pdi and computing again I got the right arm breaking nicely.

I followed the same strategy for breaking the other arm and the chest, that is, I deleted all current Pdi bodies, setting the left arm in dynamics and simulating it along with the rock and the ground, doing in the same way for the chest of the golem after that. To take in account the flying fragments could eventually collide with those already on the ground, I set those fragments as kinematic Pdi bodies aswell.

When all the destruction job was done, I simply rescaled the time again to be 10 times faster for coming back to my original timing. But after doing it some fragments were trembling strangely over the ground so I had to cut off its motion by hand deleting its keys after the frame I wanted them to keep still. Finally I wanted the head of the Golem to bounce and roll towards the camera after breaking, for this I removed the parenting of the head and set it as a pdi body of type capsule, it was easy to make it rolling by assigning it a suited initial velocity.


 I know breaking an animated character in dynamics is a difficult task with any tool. Pdi behaved well for shattering and dynamics, Im happy with the final result , however the setup of the scene was plenty of issues, like having to perform the simulation in 3 diferent steps. Pulldownit is an excellent plugin I wish it improves in the future to break animated characters more easily.

Author: Andres de Mingo