Bretz, a German-based manufacturer of high-quality modern furniture recently recruited fellow Germans We Can Dance animation studio to create a sleek commercial that represents their brand and showcases the latest addition to their product line - the S-Tate.
Creating Directable Fur
With Houdini’s fur tools, the team could easily maintain directability throughout the creation process. They could go right into Houdini’s default fur asset and create the custom hairstyles then animate all the necessary hair attributes with a custom blend operator.
“Although we’ve never tried the fur process beforehand, it turned out to be really straightforward,” comments Dennis Weil, Technical Director at We Can Dance. “With Houdini’s consistent node-based approach, it was easy to get a hang of the fur asset. This consistency and openness in the tools is one of the core strengths of Houdini for us.”
This project represented the first opportunity for We Can Dance to use Houdini’s Fur Tools. After thoroughly brainstorming ideas for how the spot should look conceptually, they decided to include a shot where they would wrap a furry fabric around an S-Tate couch then shift its appearance.
Achieving Photorealistic Results
The client expected the couches to look as photo-realistic as possible to allow them to accurately showcase the S-Tate’s new materials. Using Houdini’s interactive shader building tools, We Can Dance were able to easily meet this requirement and developed a custom material, all in a matter of three hours time.
“This came as a positive surprise. We thought it would take much longer to perfectly nail the client’s expectations” says Dennis.
Every piece of geometry in the S-Tate spot was rendered using Houdini’s Mantra renderer. The team used Micropolygon rendering for the flowing lines and the fur covered couch then added in Physical Based Rendering (PBR) for the rendering of the metal coil springs and wooden framework.
“We’ve had nothing but good experiences using Mantra as a production renderer. Its different rendering engines let us choose the best approach for the job at hand,” adds Dennis. “Having access to unlimited render tokens is also a huge plus for a small studio like us.”
Tool Building for TDs
In their everyday production work, We Can Dance will typically gravitate towards using Houdini’s Digital Assets, finding them to be their preferred feature as it allows their artists to work in tandem with their technical directors.
When creating Digital Assets, they start by creating a simple asset that provides the basic controls necessary to get an artist or animator started. They then continue to refine the asset until they reach a satisfactory level of detail. This process allows them to retain as much freedom for their artists as possible while allowing them to get up and running immediately.
This method of creating tools has allowed them to develop a sophisticated particle and surface operator tool set that they now use to create all kinds of three dimensional lines, just like the swerving ribbon-like lines that run through the S-Tate spot. These tools are now a valuable part of their pipeline as these fancy lines can be used in other projects. Being able to wrap this frequently used line generation effect into a Houdini Digital Asset makes it very easy for them to access, reuse and extend it whenever they need to saving them valuable resources from project to project without sacrificing creativity.
The Bretz “S-Tate” spot is a testament to the quality of work We Can Dance animation studio is creating with Houdini. Houdini is the only 3D tool in their production pipeline and with it, they know they can effectively take on new challenges and build tools that they can apply to all their work.