Carbon Plumage

January 2018 - Sehsucht has created an interesting short, "Guter Stoff", for German energy company EnBW.

Guter Stoff is one of the first films to be released using Carbon Plumage and we are very excited to share some feedback and technical information about this project.


The short contains three birds whose mass of secondary feathers are all simulated by Carbon Plumage, including collision with the animated hero feathers.

We are very thankful to the whole team at Sehsucht, who provided us with fantastic feedback and insight to their workflow and experience with Carbon Plumage.



How many artists worked on this project?

The production credits count a total of 17 3D artists, 1 for comp and 1 for matte painting on the project, over the 6 month period an average of 7 people worked on the commercial. On top, we had some help from our art department in regards to character development and design.

How was the learning curve for the artists, i.e. how easy is it to use Carbon Plumage and how much experience do artists need to have in order to be able to work with Carbon Plumage?

Getting started with Carbon Plumage involves just a bit more than plug and play. Luckily the documentation is detailed and well structured which speeds up the whole process. Once you have set up Carbon, the high-speed solver enables you to quickly iterate the simulation with different physical parameters and settings. This is the fun part which results in a steep learning curve. Although our team had very different Houdini experience all of us were easily able to work with Carbon. Basic knowledge of Houdini and some experience in VFX should be enough.

How does Carbon Plumage compare to other feather simulation systems?

To be honest, we have no knowledge of any other commercial feather sim system out there. We briefly looked into Yeti in combination with Maya Nhair but it's a simple fur sim that doesn't take the collision of feather geometry themselves into account. We knew we wouldn't be able to hide much since both the camera work and action of the birds would be very slow and lethargic plus we had some very close up shots where we think any intersections of geometry would have been visible. Carbon Plumage was recommended to us by our friends at in Munich who had been working with Carbon for some months before we started so we knew we could rely on Carbon Plumage being absolutely production ready both in terms of speed and stability. 

Would you use Carbon Plumage again? 

Absolutely, we would use it again for this kind of work. For the next bird we would probably dig a lot deeper into the entire grooming process in Houdini to produce an even better initial look and also try to avoid generating render cache files (Arnold ASS in our case) but instead generate render geometry at render time.

Would you recommend Carbon Plumage? 

Yes of course, I think it's a very reliable tool set and you can pump out good results fairly fast. Having the option to sim on the farm using Carbon batch licenses also helped us speed up things.


Statistics and Technical Information:

  • Main hero feathers are animated Colliders, all smaller feathers are simulated with Carbon Plumage.
  • Each shot has 120 frames pre roll before the actual animation starts, consisting of three phases: Growth, settling and pose transition.
  • Each feather's render geometry is procedurally generated in Houdini based on an artists recipe, consisting of various parameters defining the look and thus unique.
  • Each bird is simulated separately (except for some rare interactions) and later rendered together.
  • Reuse of feathers in multiple Carbon Plumages allows to create a consistent transition area where two plumage meet/interact.



  • 4,693 plumage feathers
  • 154 fero feathers
  • 31s mean simulation time (depending on shot complexity)
  • 19,525 frames simulated (multiple versions included)
  • 6 Days simulation time



  • 3,534 plumage feathers
  • 202 hero feathers
  • 40s mean simulation time
  • 20,842 frames simulated
  • 8 Days, 15 hours of simulation time



  • 3,037 plumage feathers
  • 194 hero feathers
  • 28s mean simulation time
  • 15,168 frames simulated
  • 3 Days, 21 Hours simulation time



  • 55,535 frames simulated
  • 30 Days simulation time


For more information on Carbon Plumage, please click here.