Some tips for those who wants to animate chain mail (often just mail or sometimes chainmail), and make it look period accurate:
European chainmail has a “1-in-4” pattern that dominated Europe, that is that each ring has four in it. The ring diameter varied from 10mm to around 6mm.
“1-in4” chainmail has little “flexibility” along the length, but around 50% more in the with. The “rows” of rings is horizontal or aligned to the with. I don’t know if blender can simulate that type of stretch.
Up until the 14th century European mail was made of alternating rows of round riveted rings with domed rivet heads and solid rings. Chainmail from the Gjermundbu excavation in Norway had domed rivet heads, but was flat on the opposite side. It is dated around year 950–975. It had solid “center” rings.
There is evidence that these rings was cut out or stamped from sheets and more or less drop forged.
Chainmail was extremely expensive until the more semi-industrial manufacturing method aka water weels came in to use. Only the upper class like chieftains or kings could afford something so extravagant.
Sometime during the 14th century European mail makers started to transition from round rivets to wedge shaped rivets ( small elongated bulge as rivet head) but continued using alternating rows of solid rings. Eventually European mail makers stopped using solid rings and almost all European mail was made from wedge riveted rings only with no solid rings.
Chainmail was cleaned by chucking it into a barrel with a good amount of sand,- and then someone had to roll the barrel for a whole day.
Interesting historical faq check and wondering whether you’ve also attempted to create a 3d suit of mail, as well?
I’m actually a bit curious myself. Have a long held kind of dormant idea I’d kept percolating on the back burner, is to at least try in the near future generating a historically accurate first century (Augustus) period Pimipilus character, in all his dazzling glory and since my particular specialty veers toward hard surface modeling, quite a challenge set myself…
Thus far via amateurish research, Legionary Quartermaster issue typically at the time Octavian rose too power, especially for these supremely battle hardened senior Centurions, (numbering only 25 appointments at any given time, throughout a standing army of 150,000 men) were a mix between suites of ‘fishscale’ - Squamae and ‘chainmail’ - Lorica hamata which I also believe it’s manufacturing technique is similar or indeed progenitor too the methodologies outlined in the OP.
Anyway, will shortly prototype a base therein formulating a viable approach forward, with hopefully some initial hand-holding by means of the following tutes I’ve had bookmarked for…ages.
The most cheap and fast way to create it is to use parallax mapping.
However I don’t know if currently there is support for pure parallax mapping (that is pixel shader based). If we talk about fake parallax mapping (subdivision + displacement modifier) is very heavy due to having to subdivide the mesh a lot.
However indeed, you will first build a seamless texture first (eg: a square texture of 6x6 rings), that you will have to render as flat depth map, once you have the depth texture ready you are ok to go and use it in the material of your main project.
If anyone is interested to create 100% accurate version, simply geometry nodes is the best way.
Depending on how far down the rabbit hole you want to go, here is my take on it. I have made armour for many years which includes a lot of mail. You should start with images of original mail, which is hard for early types as most are just lumps of rust now. But there are many examples of late medieval and renaissance mail that you can find on the internet. Like this example here…
Mail is very unique in how it hangs, stretches, and contracts. You are going to find it very hard to get an image texture to move like that as you will just stretch and contract the image of the links, which doesn’t happen with real mail.
The only method I could think of is to create a link and then instance it to make a sheet. Then simulate it with a hard body simulation.
If you really want to go down the rabbit hole then here is some other info that might help.
Most of the mail is linked 4-to-1, but when you are doing seams, you can have 3-to-1 or 5-to-1 links. I don’t think you need any other types than those three.
Punched links were very common from the Roman era onward, until about the mid of the 15th century when only riveted links were made.
Some middle eastern mail was riveted with two or even three rivets for each link. Also some links were stamped with religious phrases.
The pointy rivet heads always point out away from the body.
There is a good orientation for mail and a bad orientation. It should always hang so that it contracts and not expand.
Good luck and let us know how you end up doing it, I’m very interested to see how it works.