Some of Pulldownit users has asked us how we did the stunning cathedral destruction in latest PDI reel, so we have decided to make a video tutorial explaining it step by step, and as you can see in the video below , it isnt dificult indeed,
Thank you to Esteban Cuesta for this great tutorial and final shot, please remember to “like” the video if you liked it:)
Pulldownit 5 for Maya is here! and brings important updates in performance and usability, fractures solver now computes at least 2 times faster and gets more debris in impact areas without the need of further adjustment.
Create long surface cracks is now much easier, a new ability to shatter along part of a curve, lets user refine the crack as many as needed in a visual way. Reversing dynamics cracks involves just one click, besides surface cracks can be bounded, so broken fragments are forced to stick on the surface or fall as desired.
Jagginess, the nice ability to add roughness to cut faces, receives also an important update, by default roughness now only applies to broken areas in simulation, getting much lighter meshes for rendering or when exporting it to game engines.
There are several other performance and usability improvements you can review below and you can check the whole list of fixes in the Pulldownit version logs page:
Licensed users can access already Pulldownit 5 from his account and there is a demo version for Maya 2022 in the Thinkinetic web site.
Shatter New Features
New Extent parameter for Shatter it tool, this new parameter allows to shrink the shatter region in a visual way, making very easy to increase the density of fragments in any area of the model.
New ability to exclude part of the curve in Shatter it Draft Mode, simply by dragging the mouse you can select the extent of the curve to be used for shattering, as many times as needed, therefore one single curve is enough for all reshattering operations.
Jagginess applies to broken fragments only, by default Jaggines now only applies to the areas which has been broken in simulation, getting much lighter meshes for rendering or exporting it to game engines.
Dynamic New Features
PDI Fracture Solver 2x faster, scenes involving hundreds or thousands of fragments in dynamics now computes at least 2 times faster with the same stability than previous version.
Improved quality of Fracture solver, cracks are now more realistic pulling out small fragments in borders of impact or detaching areas without the need of further adjustment.
New bounded behaviour for crackers, user can now control the distance detached fragments can move, from making them stick on the surface to let them free and falling.
New Add Particles option “Visible Faces Only”, when combining fragments to emit from, this new option spread nParticles only over the visible faces of the combined node.
Load PDI scenes 2x faster, massive destruction scenes now load at least 2 times faster in Maya.
New ability to reverse Cracker direction, reverse a dynamic crack is now as easy as click on the panel button.
New option to update Cracker Path when user changes reference curve.
Create fracture body 4x faster, fracture bodies made of thousands fragments now needs only a few seconds to be created by PDI solver.
Stresses view “break at frame” clusters are now displayed in green color, when in Stress View user can differentiate easily clusters set to break at frame( green) from the rest.
Create fracture cluster is now an almost instant operation.
Pedro Ivan de Frias the author of this stunning shot, kindly explains us how he did the destruction effects using Pulldownit plugin in 3d Max.
This shot was a challenging project because of the amount of different elements fracturing and by other side, due to the close proximity of the camera to the walls, shards had to be generated less polygonal to look real in close-up cracks and detachments . My approach was to work it out in several stages, one for each wall being destroyed, then adding more elements in simulation when I was happy with the overall look and timing of the previous stage.
Cracking the walls
For cracking the front and side walls I followed the same procedure, first drawing a spline over the surface going from the bottom to the rooftop, this is very easy thanks to the great freehand splines in 3ds Max, then using PDI Path Based shatter to create shards along the spline, at first I created 250 shards, however fragments near the camera looked still too big so I did a second pass adding 200 more shards with a lower width value to generate smaller fragments along the path, finally I added a PDI Uniform shatter of the whole wall to remove any too large or too narrow fragment over the surface. I follow by creating a PDI Fracture body for each wall, setting it as static, “only break” and clusterize set to 0 in PDI fracture options.
After creating a PDI cracker object following the spline trajectory and adjusted it size to be very small, when playing the simulation the wall started to crack nicely along the spline but I had to set also local propagation in PDI fracture options to prevent fragments detaching in advance.
The simulation looked good but almost all fragments along the path got detached and falling to the ground, I preferred the broken fragments to protrude over the surface without falling, but any of the PDI fracture options seemed to perform this behavior, I solved it by adding a thin box aligned to the wall but with a small gap between them, by setting it as a PDI static body I got the fragments standing after detaching, I had just to hide the thin box to get a nice protruding crack over the wall.
Exploding the wall on the left
The wall on the left crumble in a different way than the others, It explodes and crack as a whole, not just along a defined path, to achieve the effect this time I used a 3ds max wind field to trigger the destruction. First I draw a spline crossing the wall widely from left to right and making several twist in its way to the roof; then I shattered the wall using PDI path based style in around 250 shards along the spline and adding 250 more shards, setting a smallest width value, but only in the part of the wall nearest to the camera.
I followed by creating a PDI fracture body for the wall, and set it as only breaks and clusterize set to 0 in the PDI fracture parameters, I also checked affected by force fields box, I animated wind strength going from 0 to a maximum 100 units in frame 30, then decaying again until vanishing at frame 50. When running the simulation, I’ve got an appealing destruction of the whole wall, with smaller fragments being pushed out farther than bigger ones. However, I wanted most of the wall to not move at all, for achieving this I set all large chunks as static in PDI advanced fractures getting the nice exploding effect.
Adding more elements in simulation
At this point I had all my walls being destroyed nicely but I wanted to add more elements to make the scene more massive and impressive . I added two giant debris falling from the ceiling beyond the camera, that looked definitively good. The models were taken from a nice debris package by Everlite, I used PDI to simulate the motion of these huge pieces as rigid bodies, simply adding a random initial spin for them and gravity did the rest. Once of the chunks collides with the pipes in the ground floor so included the pipes in simulation using local shatter and setting a PDI fracture body for them, again I set the parts I didn’t want to move as static in PDI advanced fractures. Finally, I shattered some windows of the facade, for achieving this nice effect I applied a radial shatter pattern to the windows but didn’t compute dynamics for it, simply animated visibility to make the shards appearing at the exact moment.
All these new elements were added after all walls destruction was already baked, so no way to affect or modify it, however added fragments could still collide with baked geometry, that’s a very nice feature of Pulldownit when you want to add more elements to a simulation already baked.
Once all the destruction was done, I made a preview of the simulation to check dynamics and timing, I cropped keys for some fragments on the left wall to make them stick on the surface while still seeing the cracks. I had the feeling timing was a little slow , so I did all destruction a 20% faster using 3ds Max re-scale time feature which works great.
I replaced the PDI cut material for a more realistic Vray material and added PDI Jagginess to all fragments except those of the pipes as they are seeing far away, I strengthen PDI Jagginess for the fragments close to the camera which looked still too flat. Definitively close-up fragments looked much realistic after adding quite a few of roughness to them and PDI does it almost automatically and very fast, that another amazing feature of this plugin.
Finally I added a camera shake effect strengthen it when the left wall explodes and making it vanishing slowly until the end.
Dust was added in a second pass using Fume Fx and I used Particle Flow in 3ds Max to guide the emission of smoke, in the left wall I set the same spline I have used to crack the surface as emitter of particles, in the other wall I emitted particles directly from the detaching fragments.
I decided to emit lot of dust from the left wall because it was kind of exploding and a soft amount of dust in the right wall to not populate the scene with too much smoke and can still see the fragments detaching and falling. I didn’t add any dust to the crack on the front wall for the same reason.
To make the particles exploding along with the fragments I simply set a pFlow speed operator with a large value and adjusted a gravity force to make particles falling quickly.
The main issue to get dust looking good was setting Fume Fx Spacing value very low, because the camera was very close to the smoke, indeed it was located inside the fluid container itself. Aside this I was testing with all Fume dissipation parameters until getting the dust behaviour I wanted for the scene. Regarding rendering I had to reduce light multiplier in FumeFx render tab to make the illumination of the smoke less brighten. I finally composed dust in Fusion adjusting Alpha gain and Burn parameters.
This scene involved quite a lot of elements being destroyed, I must say Pulldownit behaved fast and stable at all moment and the ability to can add more elements in simulation in different stages was very helpful to can focus in the destruction of one wall at a time.
I liked specially generating cracks along paths is very easy using this plugin, and you have fine control over the strength of the shockwaves but having more options to control the timing of the cracks propagation will be useful.
PDI Jagginess is a great feature to generate more realistic fragments adding the amount of roughness you like specially in close-up views.
Esteban Cuesta the author of this powerful shot, kindly explains us how he made it in 3ds Max using Pulldownit for destruction.
I did this shot inspired by the destruction of Red Keep cellars in final Seven Kingdoms season, seeing all those big ceiling’s fragments falling to the ground surrounding the lovers more and more until finally got them buried and dead.
That was a dramatic end which impressed me and decided to try a similar destruction effect using PDI in 3ds Max.
Fixing the Model for shattering
Im not a modeller at all so I searched the web to find some kind of indoor model of an ancient building I could use, finally I found this nice model of the Gloucester Cathedral by ddFantast, maybe familiar to you because several scenes of Harry Potter movies where actually filmed inside this corridor. The model looked perfect for my project with all those impressive arcs and its rich decorated ceiling.
The model was very complete, with shaders and lights already set, however it happens many times models for visualization have issues when it comes to shatter them, in my case all the moldings in the ceiling and arcs where made as independent objects and came with many open edges and defects like that not noticeable because got hidden in the overlapping area with the arcs but preventing from shattering them correctly.
I managed to fix the moldings of the ceil by applying cap holes modifier to them but sadly it didn’t work for the arcs, applying cap holes I got several visible artifacts on them, luckily I found a way by baking all the moldings as a normal map, PDI support this feature and the arcs looked nice and still detailed with the normal maps in place of geometric moldings.
Fracturing the Model
The Cathedral model is built in a smart way, actually it is made of a single element like a chamber duplicated several times and concatenated so you get the whole corridor.
I wanted to create the destruction in 2 stages, the first one shattering the windows and small fragments of ceilling detaching and falling, second stage is big chunks falling and breaking heavily when hiiting the ground. The corridor was very long so my idea was I could destroy a single element in this way then apply the resulting fragments and its motion to the rest of the chambers but offsetting the animation in time , so I finally got a chain destruction effect.
I destroyed the single element in 2 different passes, first was by using a Path Based shatter combined with an Uniform shatter of the ceiling, the first pass made of small fragments falling was driven by a PDI Cracker and for the second pass I created a big hidden sphere which impact the ceiling from the top making the big fragments detaching at the moment I wanted. For shattering the windows I used a PDI Local shatter and triggered the outbreak with an animated PBomb of 3d s Max. I set every other object of the chamber as a PDI static body and bake the whole simulation as animation keys with Pulldownit.
Putting all together
At this point I had the single chamber fully destroyed, to duplicate the effect in the rest of the corridor I used the PDI Acquire shatter option, this is a nice feature which allows to apply the same shatter effect and animation keys to another instance of the same object. I did it several times until getting five consecutive chambers destroyed, to offset the animation in time I selected all animation keys for each chamber and shift them using the slider in 3ds Max. Finally to break regularity of the concatenated chambers, I simply remove all animation keys for some fragments preventing them to fall, but selecting the blocked fragments diferent in each one of the consecutive chamber.
It was a pleasant experience working with Pulldownit and 3ds max in this shot, I could navigate the viewports with ease despite the amount of geometry involved and the plugin behaved very stable for shattering and dynamics
Additional effects and Render
I added a few hundreds of very small debris emitting them from the fragments of the first destruction pass, for this I used Particle Flow with Position Object and Shape Instance operands, and I put an HD picture of a forest as an environment map for Vray, aside this I didn’t add any other effect to the scene, I rendered the shot with VRay Next, It took around 7 min per frame in a RTX 2070 card.
There are several additional effects you can add in compo to a shot like this: depth of field , motion blur, etc..depending on what you want to strength of the scene, but I just added a camera shake with Fusion, strengthen shaking when big fragments collide with the ground to increase the feeling of weight.
Maya 2018 has been finally released by Autodesk, and Pulldownit plugin is already available for it, you can download Pulldownit Pro for Maya 2018 from the users area if you have licensed the plugin or download demo versión from the web site in case not.
Apparently legacy viewport has been removed from Maya 2018, you can enable it again by setting the environment variable MAYA_ENABLE_LEGACY_VIEWPORT, anyway Viewport 2.0 seems to be the future for Maya so Thinkinetic has made an effort to fix several issues of the plugin when using it in VP2 and now it is fully supported, along it other annoying issues reported by users has been fixed in this latest update ( 3.8.8) you can read the full list of fixes in the version logs page of the Thinkientic web site, besides you can review latest features and demos of Pulldownit 3.8 here:
Maya 2018 doesn’t count with overwhelming new features but with quite a lot of fixes and useful improvements; this time Autodesk has preferred to fix several issues which sadly were doing Maya 2017 not usable in production and improve tools and solvers already present like the UV editor, Bifrost or XGen, the Maya built-in hair solver, which is a great tool indeed and now has new useful capabilities as the Clump modifier, better interactive grooming and ability to make hair and fur collide physically with other objects in the scene.
And don’t forget the new versions of Arnold and MASH included, these plugins are developed by external teams and now count with new features, here a pretty impressive demonstration by Steven Roselle about rendering a dense forest of 10000 trees with millions of polygons combining Arnold and MASH capabilities in Maya 2018.