Vertex Animation from Textures: Tutorials?

This seems to be the hot thing right now, as I’m aware of at least 3 talks at GDC that mentioned it. I have a few cases I’m working on that it could be very useful for. I’ve found other posts that allude to it but with no direct resources. Are there tutorials out there that show how to generate them (I’m assuming in Houdini) and how to read them in game engine of choice?

I don’t full understand what you are after, if simply pushing verts with a texture that should be simple enough. Or are you seeking more crafted animations?

For instance I could see deforming a water plane based on a panning texture to make the deformation more waterlike, is this the kind of texture you mean?

Or perhaps you mean 3D textures which are a whole new kettle of fish.

For just general “random” deformation I’d just create a noisy texture in photoshop (probably 3 cloud filters one for each colour channel) to get started and adjust from there as needed.

I believe he’s referring to stuff like this guide in the UE4 docs:

The tool that’s included with UE4 is a script for 3ds Max.

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@Elyaradine That’s correct, thanks. I’ll just have to get my hands on 3ds Max to try that out…

@Agilethief I can’t find an example texture, but basically each pixel’s color value in this texture would represent a vector for a vertex to move in. Each row of pixels would represent all the vertices in your model and the columns would represent the duration of the animation (a frame of animation per row). You could potentially get a fully animated character reading this texture data and moving vertices from a shader. Useful for getting animated mesh in a particle system for example. Trying to find a method to generate that texture from a typical animation made in whatever program, and also a method to read that texture to play that animation via shader in engine.

Houdini 16 has a shelf tool that will output the textures you need. The Games shelf is hidden by default so add a new shelf and it should be the last icon in the list. You can follow the UE4 docs for setting up the material and how to import the textures and mesh with the correct settings and you should be good to go.

Thanks Mike. I’m fairly new in Unreal and even newer in Houdini, so I’m not surprised it’s as straight forward as it sounds. Here’s hoping I can get a working prototype that easily :smile:

I realized after I wrote my post that I made a bunch of assumptions so I went and found the video that shows how to set it up and how it works. Hope that helps.


Awesome! Thanks for asking the question @DedRed I hadn’t seen this technique before very cool!

Hey guys , I found this threat ultra useful. I was wondering if anyone had experience exporting these vertex animations from Modo? I wanted to animate a mesh in Cascade, but right now the only way I see that happening is with the tool mentioned in 3DS Max.
Followup, how did people animate meshes in Realtime VFX before Vertex animations in the shader?

For Modo you’d have to write the exporter yourself. I’m working on a tutorial for the Houdini approach. The unreal side of things is straightforward with the Houdini tool as the shader code is included in the exporter. On my Patreon I have uploaded an unrealproject with it all hooked up in unreal and animated through cascade if you want to have a look at how it works.