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Natural Environment Creation Techniques

Clarisse, Houdini, and Terragen Training with Alessandro Cangelosi


This six-hour workshop by Alessandro Cangelosi details his tips and techniques used to create large-scale natural environments, such as those used in visual effects. The workflow shows how Clarisse V4, as well as Houdini and Terragen, can be used to create impressive CG environments with realistic skies, atmospheric effects, and procedural assets.

While there are many workflows available to environment artists, Alessandro explains why his tools of choice are essential, such as Terragen for the creation of realistic skies, clouds, and for generating backplates for image-based lighting techniques. After introducing Terragen and showing how to take advantage of its atmospheric and cloud-rendering features, the lecture dives into Houdini, revealing how to tackle terrain modeling, build mountains, add details of all sizes, and how to use area masks, along with many other essential tasks. Houdini is also demonstrated for the creation of rocks and fog, detailing the workflow as a basic setup for every skill level to follow. Additionally, Alessandro covers exporting the rocks (Alembic) and clouds (VDB) — everything is generated procedurally.

Continuing the workflow, Alessandro takes the terrain, rocks, and clouds into Clarisse where he shares his process for preparing scene blocking and tackling an initial lighting setup. Using Point Clouds, Particle Paint Tool, Scatter, and many other Clarisse features, this workshop breaks down the complete scene-dressing workflow and offers an introduction to vegetation setup using Quixel Megascans.

The final section of the workshop discusses creating custom shaders for 3D plants, terrain, procedural displacement, adding instanced color, and applying variations at different levels of detail. The critical lighting stage also gets broken down, along with rendering the scene ready for look-development in Fusion.

Duration: 6h 36m

Format: HD 1920x1080

Alessandro Cangelosi

Lighting TD & FX TD

Alessandro Cangelosi's passion for technology, science, and art has led him from software development to VFX. Beginning with generalist positions in small productions, he progressed to a Lighting/FX TD working on commercials, video game cinematics, and films. His credits include 2012, Independence Day 2, Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, Dead Rising 3, and Wolfstein: The New Order, and upcoming projects like the Foundation TV series. He has worked on national and international documentaries alike, and has developed plug-ins and custom tools for 3ds Max. Alessandro is also currently Head of Learning at Proteus VFX School in Italy, where he teaches Houdini and Lighting TD at ScanlineVFX.

  • Alessandro has a proven track record and deep understanding of creating shaders that reproduce natural phenomena - like sand, ice, water surfaces, and lava. These are technical achievments, but Alessandro has a passion for cinematography, composition, lighting, and color. Having a solid foundation in these areas will always create better work - when artistic prowess meets technological understanding and not the other way around. Alessandro has helped us immensely on difficult effects shots, and we were able to trust his judgement on how a shot should be lit and composed. He always concentrates on the importance of a shot, its form and subject, before dealing with all the technology that goes into producing the end result. Alessandro's careful observations and strong technical skills have made it a pleasure working with him.

    - Matt Moses
    Lighting Director Renkewitz Studios