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.