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Denis Kozlov and proceduralism

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CG artist Denis Kozlov has posted a crazily compelling demo video of Kozinarium, a procedural creature generation system based on Houdini and Fusion.

The tool isn’t publicly available, but it’s a neat example of what can be achieved with automated systems – and a lot of lateral thinking.

Create convincing creepy-crawlies, curtailing conscious control
According to Kozlov, it takes 30 minutes to model, rig and animate a creature in Kozinarium, with results ranging from things that look vaguely like fish, worms or insects to things that look like nothing on Earth.

The guts of the system consists of “about 1,700” Houdini nodes, with the user simply entering numbers to generate random seeds, and Kozinarium outputting a new creature or animation based on the results.

The core modules for generating body shape and motion are CHOP-based generators. Intermediate geometry is generated as both polygons and NURBS, and the final meshing is based on VDB volumes.

The system uses “flexible, marionette-like rigging” with Houdini’s FEM solver generating realistically squishy secondary motion, and the results are rendered in Mantra with procedural displacemement.

Surface colours are also generated procedurally: this time in Fusion as a post process.




Then finally comes the implementation stage. The work definitely requiring much skill and deserving proper recognition on its own, it’s not in a primary focus for this piece and is covered in many other sources. My main choice is Houdini for 3D work and Fusion for 2D (I find both tools just absolutely fantastic). C++ is arguably the most versatile, yet quite low-level solution; Java and Processing seem to be popular within the procedural circles; Python is an industry standard in commercial CGI.

This is the process in a nutshell. It can be boiled down to a basic analysis-synthesis-implementation chain, but does require certain expertise. Erudition is important, but pattern recognition and ability to see/translate between the structural, the verbal and the visual are probably key. The rewarding part is that once the system is in place, life usually becomes notably easier. Of course each new project involves tons of research, but with experience comes the vision, seeing through patterns and approaches. And eventually pretty much anything can be expressed.

Future Tools

Now imagine a system where you can create any visuals or 3D objects by merely describing them. Doesn’t matter whether with words or parametric sliders, existing or totally made-up. What’s important is that you don’t need to understand the technicalities in order to create, unless you want to. This is high-level graphics creation, as opposed to directly manipulating pixels or polygons at the low level.

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