Modeling a Pirate Ship in Houdini


Houdini Pirate Ship Model by David Pressler

This project was inspired by the TV show “Black Sails”. My goal was to create an ocean simulation of a pirate ship crashing through the waves. In order to get started I needed a ship, I can model in Maya fairly well so I decided to try it in Houdini. The next thing i did was start to collect reference and lock down a design. I collected photos, blueprints, and templates and started studying the designs. Since “Black Sails” was my inspiration I narrowed it down to the 1700’s.

Black Sails TV Show


At first I wanted to make the ship a procedural tool that could change shape and size with sliders. This proved to be overly ambitious and considering I was going for a photo-realistic environment I decided to push that idea back for another time. In the end, it turned out to be a lot of building models for the model, much more difficult than I expected. I also was new to Substance Painter, it took some time to work out how to use the texture maps inside of Houdini, but that’s a story for later.

Another consideration was the how to simulate the sails and rigging. Houdini 17 had been announced and I was eager to try the Vellum Cloth that was introduced with the release. There was very little documentation since it was so new so it was an adventure learning how it worked. It was exciting digging into it’s possibilities and I was exited to compare it to the standard Houdini cloth. With that in mind I decided to tackle the hull first. Once I was finished wit that I could start the ocean simulation that prompted the need for a ship in the first place. So I started blocking in hull.

Blocking in the Hull

Blocking in the hull was fairly straight forward, the challenge was finding a balance between size and performance since it was going into a simulation. I also knew that I may want to do some destruction in the future so I made the timbers individually so canon impacts will have a realistic impact and fragment explosion.I also modeled a partial interior because for future projects.