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Fish Schooling


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I've never worked with crowd sims before, but I'm presently working on three underwater shots where I need to have somewhat realistic moving fish. Like in the below examples.





I think I can probably get the overall particle motion, but I don't know how to go about attaching the fish to the particles. How much animation would be necessary for a fish? Would I need to rig it? What type of steps would I need to do to pull this off?

I was thinking of modeling the fish in Maya

Bringing it into Houdini and doing the texturing, lighting, particles, and rendering there

Are there any tutorials as to how to do this? I haven't been able to find any.

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Hi Allegro,

A52 created a school of fish with Houdini for a commercial before:


Just some random thoughts of mine:

a. If there are lots of fishes, then you'll want to go the instancing route. Else, copy & stamping will work well.

b. As for animating the fish, it all depends on the requirements. What type of fish is it? Is there a close up shot? Are the fishes required to perform something specific?

If no rigging is needed, you can use lattice deformation with point expressions to drive the animation. I'm sure there are other techniques as well. You should have a couple of cycles which you can then instance or copy onto the particles so they look random.

c. Search through the forum for instancing which will help to explain how to put the fishes onto the particles. Try searching the online Houdini help as well.

I've not created schools of fish before but will try to answer questions you might have.

Good luck!



PS: Jeff Willette visits the forum occasionally so maybe you can try to PM him for more info?

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Thanks for the quick response,

The shots I'm planning will be very similar to those ones there. There won't be a hero fish, but rather a whole school of them that I wasn't planning on having in great focus (thought I was planning 1280x405 ratio for rendering.

I was thinking I might be able to have a vex ripple or something to add a wavelike motion over the fish, rather than rigging & animating.

It's going to be a Silver Carp

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Another thing you can do to increase the realism is to have the deformation speed of the fish calculated from the particle speed.

That's a great idea.

I've been busy the past couple of days, so now I'm catching up. Hopefully I can be trying to do particle work by Friday (need to model the fish first)

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