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Mars topography anyone?

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Guest xionmark

Hi all,

I've been working on a Houdini plugin that will read data from the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) data set(s) and create geometry for use in Houdini. I'm doing all this development on my own time because I thought maybe other Houdini users would like to have this plugin and as such I didn't want to work on it on company time ... But as my ever dwindling free time continues to dimish, I've come to realize I can't maintane so many free-ware projects and still have a life outside of CG land ...

My question is: Is there anyone out there who would like to have this plugin in their toolbox?

If there's enough demand, like there is for the Real Flow plugins, I'll continue my work, other wise I should probably work on this on company time and if there's a user who wants geometry of specific locations on the planet I could generate the files for you.

Life is so short for the inquisitive mind ...

--Mark

Attached is a screen shot for your viewing pleasure.

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Funny you should say that, but I was speaking with Matt Fairclough just yesterday who used to work here at DD and he directed me to look at this page:

Terragen Mars Render

Matt is the author of the public version of Terragen, an excellent terrain renderer.

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I'd be really interested in a plugin like that (for use in my free time -BAHAHAHAH...anyway)

but it seems a bit too specific for what it does for you too spend valuable time on...I'm not all that familiar with the MOLA data set(s)...are they very different from other types? - I guess I'm wondering if it wouldn't be more usefull to have a plugin that can read many different types of these wacky data sets....?

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Guest xionmark

Hi Jason,

Yes, I'm familiar with TerraGen, it's quite spiffy indeed!

--Mark

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Guest xionmark
I'm not all that familiar with the MOLA data set(s)...are they very different from other types? - I guess I'm wondering if it wouldn't be more usefull to have a plugin that can read many different types of these wacky data sets....?

Greetings,

I'm not sure how many different formats there are, I'm more used to the DEM format and others, MOLA is pretty simple, but I imagine there's as many formats as there are projects/programmers ... (!)

--Mark

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yea, while i think the work you are doing is great and im even interested in it myself, i can't honestly say i would sit there and possibly use it.. i'm not familiar with the data sets either and i don't know how much investigation i would take in to it on my own (considering the amount of other things i'm attempting to learn at the moment)..

but i still think it's pretty friggin neat what you're doing and am interested in seeing results.. i would just charge it to work time. :D

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Hi, xionmark!

Good job! Two years ago I searched for utilities for the work with MOLA maps, and now this theme is still urgent. :)

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Hey Mark,

Nice going there! :)

I'd have to agree with arctor about it being a little too "niche" to be of much use in CG for entertainment -- although it makes perfect sense as an outgrowth of your current research.

If you can find an angle that makes the backbone of what you've written more useful as a generic, geometry-only landscape generator, then I think there's a place for it.... how about a bridge between Houdini and Terragen itself? -- say your plugin does the in-Houdini visualization, and then preps the output so it can be sent to Terragen (??...just thinking out loud here...)

Anyway... Nice Work! :D

Cheers!

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very cool indeed. i would play with it, but really don't have a need for it :)

I like your suggestion Marc - although being able to also bring landscapes from terragen into houdini would be great.

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Guest xionmark
i would just charge it to work time.  :D

Yea, I think you're right ... this is so specific it may not be all that useful, which is OK with me, in this case I'd rather have my employer pay me for doing this, I've got way too many projects/activities going on outside of work ...

Thanks for the feedback!

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Guest xionmark
how about a bridge between Houdini and Terragen itself? -- say your plugin does the in-Houdini visualization, and then preps the output so it can be sent to Terragen (??...just thinking out loud here...)

Anyway... Nice Work! :D

Cheers!

Hi Mario!

That might be a really cool idea (a bridge between Houdini and Terragen that is), I'll look into that. My issue right now is trying to free up enough time to work on the things that need attention, and to not take on new projects, which is my first inclination (I suppose there's some sort clinical psychological term for this afflication ...). Damn, there's just too many fun and interesting things to fill one's mind with ...

If by chance anyone wants some geo files of this work, feel free to contact me.

Anywho, thanks for the feedback, much appreciated!

--Mark

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Two years ago I searched for utilities for the work with MOLA maps, and now this theme is still urgent. :)

Thanks.

From your posting I'm assuming you're in need of models of Mars (I may be confused, it wouldn't be the first time ...)?

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I just need the convertor from the MOLA topographic data to any readable formats like OBJ and etc. (or better directly into Houdini :))

What picture can be better than Valles Marineris at early morning? :)

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Guest xionmark
What picture can be better than Valles Marineris at early morning? :)

Olympus Mons perhaps ... :)

If you can send me the locations you'd like to have models of, let me know. The thing is, they are very large files once they get past 16 pixels/degree resolution.

Did I happen to mention I LOVE HOUDINI??? !!! :P

--Mark

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SESI provide a GEOio table for inline conversion of geometry formats - I think a simple conversion to ASCII .geo format spit out to stdout would make this work. Obviously a specialized SOP if needed if you want to have some options upon read. The advantage of the table is that it doesn't require any HDK and so you wouldn't have to recompile that SOP for every minor build.

As for Terragen TGD, Digital Domain is actively developing a variation of it on this show we're on at the moment. Matt Fairclough is developing a more publicly accessible version of it. The two versions differ more and more and ours is turning into a technical tool for film production and Matts is turning into a much more artist-friendly package. (We'll actually rename ours, I believe - to keep the perception of the tools different.) So obviously our version has a moderate degree of cooperation with Houdini already - reading chan files and bgeo's etc. I'm not sure what Matt's version is going to be capable of package integration-wise but it already supports some standard formats for interchange.

You could probably contact him and speak to him about integration with Houdini if you want. Or I'll point him to this thread, since I'm going to have a beer with him tonight.:)

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Just to carry on from what Jason was saying... As an avid Terragen user, I've read from various posts Matt has made on the main TG yahoo mailing list, that the up-and-coming Terragen2 which Planetside are currently working on, will be released in several versions - a basic artist friendly version, a mid-range version, and a more technically accessible orientated version for the professional market. Given this, perhaps it might indeed be worthwhile to speak to Matt directly to see if, and possibly how, Houdini might be accommodated/intergrated into Terragen in some form - as speaking for myself, I'd be very interested.

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Terragen TGD has the capability to do something that no other renderers can do, really; and that's recursive subdivision. So basically subdivide again and again until you reach a good limit, so good non-linear displacements (not along the normal) are not a problem. And you can raytrace against it. Its immensely impressive from that point of view, really. Flying through canyons and hovering inches above the ground under overhangs when the base geometry is only two tetrahedrons with a sphere displacement shader as a base to start with will destroy any other renderer (prman/air/renderdotc/mantra/etc). Thats what you get with a specialized renderer I guess, but in some ways it verges on being capable as a general-purpose renderer too.

I wish Mantra could do recursive dicing and shading, but I understand that that kinda breaks the tight & speedy architecture of Mantra and SIMD. The vast majority of the time you don't need it, but when you do its not always easy to get working right. Anyone trying to fly a camera slowing though a displaced surface (like through an ocean surface) goes through these issues. :blink:

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Hehe, Jason, I couldn't have put it better myself :-)

As for integrating with Houdini, there are loads of possibilities there, but it depends on what kind of integration we're talking about. Is Terragen to be the renderer, or is it the source of the geometry that you bring into Houdini? Hmm... I suppose really you need to be able to take the geometry in both directions whenever you want.

You might want to use Terragen as the renderer if your base geometry isn't too complex but you want to build complex surfaces using displacement maps, shaders, or whatever, and know that you'll get as much detail as you need no matter how close you get to the surface. In that case you'll also want to send other bits of geometry into Terragen to render shadows, holdouts etc. for all the non-Terragen stuff in your scene, and that's all possible with the upcoming Terragen 2.

The other side is of course using Terragen to generate the highres geometry in the first place, and then taking that back into Houdini.

Sending camera motion to Terragen 2 will be pretty straightforward... we just need to decide on the ideal intermediate format. As Jason said, there's .chan supported already, but I don't know if that's a standard format or DD-only?

I'm not a huge Houdini user so you'll have to help me out here. Tell me how you want it to work :-)

Matt

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I wish Mantra could do recursive dicing and shading, but I understand that that kinda breaks the tight & speedy architecture of Mantra and SIMD...

Yeah. The way the TGD renderer works now it means it can't do much in the way of SIMD stuff because it doesn't know the final number of microtriangles until it's finished displacing/rendering the surface. That also causes other problems for computing normals at intermediate stages in the shading pipeline (it has shade trees kinda like Vex), meaning certain displacement effects that need to know about intermediate normals aren't possible yet.

However, I think there are ways around that. I reckon I can switch over to a multi-pass subdivision, where we subdivide to a certain level first, then hand over to a nice potentially-SIMD-capable step for the final tessellation. That also allows all of the extra cool shaders-that-smooth-other-shaders type stuff. But once it works like this, it makes the pipeline more conducive to handing that intermediate geometry back to any other renderer (eg. Mantra), using a plugin or shader in that other renderer to reproduce the final rendered surface that Terragen would have produced. And that's what a lot of people were asking for at DD, for a loong time. Hmmm....

Matt

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Guest xionmark
SESI provide a GEOio table for inline conversion of geometry formats - I think a simple conversion to ASCII .geo format spit out to stdout would make this work.

I've thought of that, but there's a BIG problem with the size of the files, that's why I implemented a "crop" feature into the SOP so you could cull away any unneeded geometry, I don't know if something similar can be done via the GEOio table.

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