Crashing Spacecraft, what's the best way to approach?

Hello everyone.
I’m working on an animated short in the Unreal Engine, bringing each pre-animated scene from 3Ds Max into the engine to render. I have a moment in the animation, where a space satellite is falling from the sky and crashes to the ground. I pretty much decided about animating the falling trajectory itself and adding smoke/fire emitters to it to make it look like it leaves a long trail in the sky. But I also think of ways to show the crash itself.
I heard there are some ways to create a simulation in Houdini for example and bake it out into Unreal Engine. I also know about the Nvidia Apex destruction engine that can be used, but I’m not sure it’s really that controllable. I don’t need a satellite to fall into pieces though, I need it to break and deform a bit, that’s it. Or maybe I should consider creating some kind of rig in 3Ds Max and moving parts of the satellite with bones to simulate falling apart?
What do you think, what’s the best way to approach it?

I’d go with Houdini myself, but it is my preferred 3D app in general so take that into consideration. You can get a free Apprentice license to try using the software and see if you can wrap your head around it. It’s fundamentally quite a bit different from any other app and a love it or hate it type of workflow. If you buy the Indie license, you also get Houdini Engine, which will allow you to make contained assets in Houdini that import directly into Unreal. I only just started playing with it, and it’s a relatively young software so I don’t know what limitations Houdini Engine has around animation and simulation but I am sure there are many. Houdini itself is great for creating mayhem and destruction, though.

I think I’ll try to use RayFire plugin for 3Ds Max. It seems like it does the job. And I will create bones for all small pieces with another script and bake all animation to them with one more script and then transfer it all to UE4…

If you’re new to Houdini, there’s a learning curve, but doing some destruction like that is totally doable. There’s a tool I’ve been developing that takes a Houdini Rigid Body Simulation and bakes it out to an animated FBX. UE4 then generates the skeleton as needed on import, but it’ll be guaranteed to be 1:1 with what you simulate in Houdini. Keep in mind, this is dealing with the mesh itself. You’ll still need to create the required particle systems in-engine :wink:

You can use apprentice to figure out the workflow, but you’ll need at least an Indie license to export FBX files. You’ll also need to recreate any work you did in an apprentice file in the indie file or higher due to licensing.

If you jump into it, feel free to PM me!