In Massive class last Wednesday, Chris mentioned that exporting deforming geometry in fbxs was going to be a problem. I needed it because I was going to be rendering the shadow monster crowd sim in Houdini after doing the volume simulation on it. As a fix he recommended breaking apart every limb and section on the shadow monsters and then parenting each individual to the rig. After doing this, animating a stand up sequence, and then running a volume sim on it I decided that the smoke covers up most of the noticeable seams on the joints and this will be a workable solution. I went ahead and animated a run and a walk with the broken limb rig.
The animation isn't perfect on the characters but it should be sufficient for the shots that I need. There are a total of four shots with shadow monsters in it. The first is the shot where they materialize out of the smoke columns, the second is where they assemble, cheer and then begin their run, the next is the birds eye view of the monsters causing mayhem in the town and the final shot is where one shadow monster chases a townsperson across the scene. Only two of the shots are crowd sims. I decided that it would be easier to hand animate the shadow monsters materializing from the columns. Since the frames will have to be reversed, trying to fit Massive into the effect will be far more trouble than it is worth. I'll be able to place the massive agents to match up with the hand animated characters using Chris's Houdini script. I've got points in Houdini with the normals facing in the right direction in preparation for placing them in Massive.
I am getting pretty happy with the smoke effects. The shader needs to be tweaked a bit. Right now there is a tiny bit too much fine noise. Maybe animating the offset of it will help to make it look a little more believable.
Higher quality versions of those are here and here.
I've modeled three more skull variations bring me to a total of 10 and probably the number of shadow monsters in my crowd. The two curved horned human variation will be the Hero shadow monster.
Dirtied up Fisher's vest a little.
Rendered a sequence from the first camera to test the water's wave speed. The water looks like it is moving a bit slow with the amplitude as high as it is. I'll need to refine this a bit more. Additionally there is some flickering in the water on the right side of the clip that I'll have to look into.
A note about the farm. I rendered this sequence on the farm and I was getting 1 to 3 minute renders. However, when one of the render machines got to a certain point (frame 40 or so) it just gave up. It didn't stop rendering but my render times shot up to 10 to 20 minutes and eventually 4 to 5 hours for no reason at all. The those frames are no different than any of the other ones. I suspect if I was to kill the job and then restart it the remaining 2 frames would take two minutes to render instead of six hours.