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3D Landscapes with Houdini and Clarisse

Environment Building with James Miller


In this tutorial, Generalist James Miller takes an in-depth look at designing, lighting and compositing a landscape environment from beginning to end. Starting with Houdini's terrain tools, he builds up the landscape to fit the desired natural formations taken from photo reference. Following this, he imports this asset into Clarisse and takes a look into project construction, material building, and asset importing. Once this is all set up, he continues by laying out and lighting the shot, creating and animating a camera, and exploring the different ways we can view our shot in the package. For the cloud volumes, James goes back into Houdini and covers Volume VOPS to helps build the atmosphere, before returning to Clarisse to lay out these new assets for the render. The render is then taken into Nuke, where he explores relighting using AOVs, creating gizmos, building a skydome, and installing & using the p_world tools for matte work.

The goal of this tutorial is to take you through all the steps involved in a large environment build of a mountain landscape, and how they all link together, so you can experiment, play, and enjoy building up your own shots from beginning to end.

Duration: 5h 14m

Format: HD 1920x1080

James A.J. Miller

Environment Artist, Dreamworks Animation

James Miller has been working in digital media since 2002 and has been building environments for franchises such as Star Wars, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Fast and Furious, and How to Train Your Dragon since 2012. During this time, he has worked for ILM, DreamWorks, and Double Negative as a Generalist, and he continues to thrive off of finding new and exciting techniques to add to the proverbial bag of tricks.  

His environments vary wildly from photoreal to fantasy — yet are always iconic, ranging from dark and sinister to surreal. He has a passion for teaching and finds sharing his tricks and techniques with others almost as exciting as discovering them in the first place. You can also find first-hand techniques from some of the shots he's created for Hollywood productions on
 his YouTube channel, and find him on ArtStation.

  • James is an artist of the highest grade and a consummate teacher. He is always pushing the edge of what's possible in 3D artistry with today's tools. Having worked on some of the biggest blockbusters in the film industry, James has a wide range of knowledge that he brings to his classes. His biggest asset when it comes to teaching is his patience; the willingness to walk someone through the process at their own pace.

    - Chris Grun
    Head of Environments at DreamWorks Animation