We have been experimenting with procedural landscape generation with a view to changing the way we approach matte painting landscapes.
When approaching a set or terrain extension we’ll either start with a 2D concept, a rough model or a combination of both.
Any revisions mean going back and forth between these departments without an overview of how the textures, lighting, scale etc are working together.
We want to take a more procedural approach where we model and texture the scene in Houdini using the terrain generation tools, procedural textures and our custom scatter tool. Using these tools we can quickly sketch out models in Houdini with procedural textures applied which require no updating and give us complete control over lighting. Our aim is to get as close as possible to the finished result so we can be more flexible when dealing with changes.
If we require any additional texturing work we can bake the textures out (along with any other useful channels) for use in Substance Painter or simply render a frame to pass on to a Photoshop artist.
The textures are generated using various procedural noises allowing us to make big changes without having to re-UV and texture models. The placement of rock size and type are controlled using attributes applied to the model and the shader is linked to proxy geo so we can preview textures, including displacement, in the viewport. This geo is also used with our instancing tool which scatters trees, bushes and grass from SpeedTree based on attributes and textures. Our next step will be to integrate the new terrain scatter tools in Houdini 17 and to build upon our library of rock and foliage types.
Llyr Williams, Lead VFX Artist/CG Art Director