Nebula Creation Course

Hi everyone,

Building on my popular Nebula Generator in Blender, last year I decided to take things even further and used Houdini to create sophisticated nebula effects, deciding on the Redshift Renderer for its speed when rendering 3D volumes. The results are on my ArtStation:

The course itself is a culmination of that learning over the year, and after some long hours in the editing room, it certainly has been a labor of love.

So, I present to you the 3D Nebula Creation Course – here is the trailer:

The course videos start by assuming a very basic knowledge of Houdini and Redshift, building in complexity as time goes on.  

The 3 hours of step-by-step 4K videos have sample Houdini Indie files for each stage of my process, including:

  • Creation of customizable cloud set ups using VDBs and Volume VOPs.
  • Adding customizable effects such as stars and volumetric gas.
  • Setting up an automated lighting rig.
  • Using meta-ball objects and particles to shape the nebula.
  • Rendering the nebula for both stills and animation.
  • Post processing techniques on the final result.

I hope you’ll find it useful – for more info, screenshots and pre-requisites, visit the course page on Gumroad, and if you have any questions do get in touch.

2D Displacement Technique in Blender

I stumbled across an interesting displacement technique that’s useful for subtle parallax type effects and ripple distortions. Using this technique, you can add movement effects to still images such as clouds to give them the appearance of movement as the camera travels over them.

The above video talks about the technique, and I’ve added a simple Node Group I developed for it up for download at Gumroad and Blender Market.

Blender Market: https://blendermarket.com/products/2d-displace

Gumroad: https://gumroad.com/l/2d-displace

Plating Generator Greeble Pack by SolCommand

Greeble Pack by SolCommand

An extensive pack of 271 objects have been made available by SolCommand. This pack has been made specifically for the Plating Generator And Greebles Blender add-on.

The collection contains 271 3D meshes that you can use to spread across the walls and hulls of your spaceships, stations, futuristic cities and other projects you may have, in order to quickly make them look much more detailed and complicated in your final renders.

The pack contains various objects arranged in folders ranging from sensors, vents, signs, fuel storage, hatches, scaffolding and many more other random objects and shapes.

The Pack is available both on Gumroad and Blender Market.

The Blender Market sale: Get 25% off all my add-ons and many more

Between 27th to 30th November the Blender Market Black Friday Sale is on – all my add-ons will be 25% off!

By supporting these add-ons you also support their continual improvement, so it is a mega help – you also help out the Blender Foundation too as a percentage of each of the add-ons go to them as well.

My current add-ons are:

  • The Plating Generator – Quickly create a configurable mesh in the form of a fighter jet or starfighter. 
  • Shape Generator – Quickly create and configure countless random shapes for a wide variety of purposes
  • Hull Texture – A versatile, reusable base texture for creating irregular plating effects.
  • Curves To Mesh – Create and configure mesh surfaces from bezier curves.
  • Mesh Materializer – Map objects onto another object using its active UV coordinates.
  • Window Generator – Model many windows at once on the faces of a mesh
  • Bevelled Extrude – Create extrusion effects that have configurable bevel effects on the base, corners and tops
  • Twisted Extrude – Extrude Faces with an Extra Twist
  • Fit Lattice – Quickly fit a lattice deformation cage around a mesh or set of meshes.
  • Configurable Dynamic Jet – Create a configurable mesh in the form of a fighter jet or starfighter.  

You can find out a lot more about each add-ons here.

What have I been up to lately…? KIT OPS SYNTH

Original vision for SYNTH (Credit: Chipp Walters)

I was approached a few months ago by Chipp Walters and Masterxeon101, famous for some of the most leading tools in 3D modelling such as KIT OPS and HARD OPS.

KIT OPS is able to apply a wide range of 3D objects (called INSERTs) that can be used to instantly cut and add to existing objects or create standalone ones with the goal of rapidly creating and exploring new designs. Read more about it here.

They had been interested in my generative modelling work in the Plating Generator and Shape Generator, and had a vision for an extension to KIT OPS called KIT OPS SYNTH.

The original requirement for SYNTH was to simply overlay these INSERTs in a grid like fashion on top of 3D surfaces, but with Chipp’s design patterns thinking and background in NASA we are taking it a lot further….

KIT OPs SYNTH early results, being applied with the new KIT OPS BEVEL (Credit: Chipp Walters)

Emerging features include:

  • A range of layouts can be used: Arrange INSERTs in rows, columns, grids, randomly, and around edges and borders.
  • User ‘layers’ of INSERTs to manage and apply groups of INSERTs in one go.
  • Control the frequency and placement of INSERTS with a variety of parameters: apply padding to the INSERTs, scale them individually, add random rotations.
  • Use Blender 2.91’s new Booleans feature for more accurate cutting.
  • Load and save your configurations to share with others or apply later.

This has already given rise to a variety of promising results you can achieve very quickly with SYNTH. Here is a short video of the random layout being applied using a set of INSERT cutters, by just changing the random seed value:

A short video showing SYNTH’s random layout…and this isn’t even the most powerful layout!
Results achieved in just as few seconds.

There’s still plenty of work to do and a good round of testing to be done before the first release, but I thought it would be good to show the progress so far. In the future, Chipp is looking forward to taking SYNTH to the next level with Machine Learning…but that is definitely a blog for another time.

Adding Materials to Plating Patterns

A short demo of materials being applied to a simple helmet object.

The Plating Generator now comes with the ability to add materials to the plating patterns it generates on the mesh, an often requested feature. Jaroslaw Waskowiak tipped me over the edge with this specific request (among many great suggestions):

Material variations, randomizing UVs, assigning different maps to different “plates” at random

So I set to work:

Different variations can be applied without the need for displacement maps
A close-up of the underlying topology generated and different materials being applied.
A screenshot of the settings that control the colors on the plates.
A vertex color layer can be applied so the same material can be used with different colors.
A simple example of a material’s color being driven by a vertex color layer via the Vertex Color Node.

You can assign different materials which will be applied to the grooves and randomly assigned to the plates. You can also vary the vertex colors of the plates so you can get different colored effects from the same material.

The add-on works by using the existing topology to cut out grooves for the plates in an interlocking pattern. Once those grooves are cut, the faces of the plates can be grouped and different materials automaticaly assigned.

Animation Nodes version

A version of the add-on in animation nodes with materials being applied. The file is part of the supplied samples.

I’ve also included an Animation Nodes version if the add-on so you can play with dynamically changing the effect. The file is part of the samples.

Here are another couple of examples of the add-on at work:

The plating effect (triangular mode) being applied to a basic torus shape with vertex colors applied.
The standard Blender Suzanne object with the same helmet effect applied.

Read more about the feature from the documentation.

Houdini Version

Houdini Version of the Plating Generator

I am also working on a Houdini version of the Plating Generator, but it’s not quite ready yet…here’s a sneak preview of the settings:

If you’d like to test the Houdini version, let me know in the comments.