Shape Generator Update: Applying Design Theory

3 years ago I built the 3D Shape Generator to automatically create a variety of unique 3D shapes and objects. 

For the latest update I got talking with Marco Iozzi, a professional who has been working in the industry since 1998 as a 3D Artist, Matte Painter and now Concept Artist on productions like Harry Potter, Elysium, Game of Thrones and is currently doing concept art and design on Thor: Love and Thunder

He downloaded the Shape Generator to help him with his own design work.

He pointed me at Sinix Design, who provides a set of videos on the topic of Design Theory describing the best methods for creating shapes that are appealing and unique.  

Sinix spoke about the concept of Big/Medium/Small; the theory that the majority of good designs can be broken down into one large main shape; a medium shape or shapes taking up a smaller amount of the design; and some smaller shapes taking up an even smaller area:

This got me thinking about the Shape Generator; if I can first generate just one large object, automatically scatter medium objects across that, and then scatter smaller random objects across that, I might be onto something.

Once I set this up, it was surprising how many more unique and interesting designs I could quickly generate with the change of a single number. 

A sample of the generated shapes using the Shape Generator’s Big/Medium/Small settings
A Screenshot of the Shape Generator’s Big/Medium/Small settings in Blender (Also available in Houdini)

With the help of Marco’s feedback, I’ve also introduced a host of other improvements:

  • Along with the Big/Medium/Small controls, a new integrated panel allows you to easily revisit and change your settings which now include more material controls, Boolean settings, and easier to install Presets. 
  • A new Iterator function, much like the one I coded with Chipp Walters in KIT OPS SYNTH, allows you to quickly render out countless variations to quickly let you pick a design to take forward.
  • The new Bake feature allows you to combine all the individual shapes into one so you can continue to model or sculpt your chosen design to the next level of detail. I’ll talk about each of these new features more in the next few videos.  I hope you’ll enjoy these updates to the Shape Generator and find it useful in developing your own designs.

Each of these features are covered in the following videos:

I hope you’ll enjoy these updates to the Shape Generator and find it useful in developing your own designs.

The Shape Generator is available for:

Blender

Houdini

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.

Using L Systems to model cities

I’d been meaning to research L Systems in Houdini for some time, and wow had I been missing something. I first came across them in some of Akira Saito‘s posts where he had made some interesting mech-like beings using their organic structure:

A recent tweet from Akira Saito

I’d squinted at them before in Houdini’s L System documentation but didn’t really make sense of it. I then came across a great in-depth tutorial (if you’re as geeky as me it’s well worth the time) by the eloquent houdinikitchen who overviews the theory well with lots of examples to give a good understanding:

HoudiniKitchen’s tutorial on L-Systems

The basic idea is that you provide a set of simpl(ish) instructions called Turtle commands that describe a starting state, such as:

F+FF

…which means “Branch up one (F), rotate 90 degrees (+), and then branch up twice (FF)

Then you give it more ‘simple’ rules using the same language that alter this basic structure every generation, such as:

F=FF++F++F+F++F-F

…which says “next generation, replace all the Fs in the previous statement with the instructions here”.

This can give rise to some complex plant-like structures like the ones shipped with Houdini:

Basic L-System Tree

But interestingly you can create things like hexagonal structures as well. After a little experimentation I quickly got what looks like a snowflake:

I then tweaked the “Generations” parameter so that Houdini was part-way through a generation, which gives a more distorted structure like this:

The same hexaganol structure but at generation 4.8

I then used my own random 3D Shape Generator node and a Copy to Points node to randomly create building like structures for each point in the ‘tree’ and got this effect:

Zoomed out…
…zoomed in a bit more….
…and closer

You can download the sample file here – it will require the Shape Generator asset to work, which maybe you’ll humbly consider supporting me by taking a look at it on Gumroad here: