Price €395 single Maya licence
OS Microsoft Windows 64-bit all versions, Mac OS X 10.6 and up, Linux (contact website for Linux versions)
HDD space 1GB
CPU 64-bit Intel or AMD multicore
Compatibility Autodesk 3ds Max, Autodesk Maya
Made by Thinkinetic, Pulldownit (PDI) is a dynamics plugin tailored for creating destruction effects and large-scale rigid body simulations.
For this review the Maya 2016 version was used. Installation was a mildly daunting manual task as you need to place a few files in the right places then update a text document with the correct path on your machine.
The documentation makes it straightforward for the most part, and there’s an OS X installation video available online too, but a video for Linux and Windows would be welcome. Once set up, there will be a Tab on Maya’s Shelf for accessing Pulldownit’s toolset.
Destroying structures is PDI’s forte, and on top of tools to tear down walls or entire buildings there’s a shatter style for wood splintering and a radial style for glass.
Maya force fields can also interact with PDI-generated dynamic bodies to create more stylised effects, and secondary destruction can be layered on top. To destroy a structure you’ll often want an impact object or animated character to create the effect.
By animating the impact object and converting the target geometry to a fractal body you simply need to choose the activation method: whether the geometry breaks on impact or at a specific start frame. A useful Stresses View is a colour map that indicates the distribution of hardness in your fracture group and when adjusting the settings gives visual feedback for changing stresses distribution.
The available settings provide all the control needed for refining how subtle, or over the top you want the effect. For finishing touches, you can bake the simulation and tweak keyframes, make edges jagged and also assign a material to the newly cut faces.
Using a simple scene depicting a section of a lunar landscape proved a good basis of exploring the parameters available in PDI for terrain fracturing. The workflow consists of drawing a curve for the fracture path and sending a Cracker rigid body object along the curve, which serves as a motion path for the Cracker to break up terrain.
The Cracker feature is ideal for earthquake simulations and could serve other purposes, such as for an ice breaking ship traversing an ice sheet. How you model the geometry has a bearing on how it shatters too – we opted to create a detailed curve on basic geometry to follow a natural valley/fault line on the lunar texture.
PDI cracked around that area successfully but for greater precision you’ll need to model accordingly. Also, as you may expect, the distance between points on the motion path affects the speed of the cracker, which then influences the behaviour of fractured pieces.
Overall, PDI does exactly what it says on the tin.
It’s artist friendly so you don’t need to be an overly technical person to find it accessible, and the learning curve isn’t steep. The website tutorials give handy examples, but some could use a boost in audio/video production quality.
Creating detailed destruction is a challenge that takes time and during testing we were able to create expected results and then further refine these – all in a very timely fashion. Initial setup doesn’t take too long and PDI is quick to compute, which makes tweaking a breeze.
One small niggle we found after creating the cracked eggs scene was that numerous egg shell normals were at random, reversed and hardened. This required unplanned correction work, which became compounded by having multiple small fractures to deal with.
It would also be good to see the introduction of a wider range of features added to tackle less rigid destruction effects, such as sand simulation and cloth tearing.
Adding Pulldownit to your pipeline is simply a no-brainer if you need to raze a building, a town or even an entire city
Features – 4/5
Performance – 5/5
Design – 4/5
Value for money – 4/5