Longhouse Bark ‘Skin’

With some parts of the main structure finished, I’ve started to look at creating the exterior ‘skin’ of the longhouse, which is made of overlapping sheets of bark.

The approach here is to scatter small planes all over the surface of the structure, each one representing a single bark sheet. Here’s a first pass with flat sheets:

This isn’t a bad start, but the direction of the sheets isn’t following a good pattern; Houdini doesn’t know to keep them all oriented as straight up-and-down as possible. I’ll need to customize that behaviour to get a more authentic result:

This is good! Next, I curve the sheets so that they follow the structure better and feel more organic.

It’s also important to tuck the tops of the sheets in a little farther than the bottoms; this enables the overlapping pattern which would have been crucial to making the ‘skin’ rainproof:

This is looking very promising. The most obvious limitation here is that the scattering doesn’t do a good job of producing neat, clean borders. I decided I’d have to add some more precise placement of sheets to create those clean borders where necessary: around the doors, around chimney holes, and all along the ground.

I started with the ground, which I figured would be the easiest. A mostly-even ring of extra bark sheets was added right at the base of the structure:

I’m happy with how this looks; I’ll have to apply similar techniques around the various openings.

Moving forward, I will also add a bit more variety/unevenness to the sheets. Right now they are all exactly the same size and shape; a bit of procedural variety is the key to producing a result that feels natural and believable.

Let’s have a look with some colour and lighting, just to help distinguish the sheets better. Here is a series of views showing the internal structure, the bark skin, and then the outer framework:

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