View Full Version : What does Houdini offer for me?

09 September 2004, 06:44 AM
I'm currently an XSI user. I have also used Lightwave, Maya, and Max before.

My situation right now is that I've been dabbling a little into Houdini with the Apprentice app, trying to get a little hand of it and trying stuff out. Of course, this also takes time and effort away from my mainstream modelling work with XSI.

Thus, what I want to know is that is there anything that Houdini offers that is significant enough for me to consider switching to or at least learning enough of Houdini to add it to my array of apps to use, or should I just forget about Houdini and go back to just doing regular work with XSI?

09 September 2004, 07:51 PM
The clearest explanation I've ever heard as to what Houdini offers that other packages don't...

Every 3D software is built with the notion that at some point your work is done. Houdini is built around the concept that your work is never done.

That's it's single best feature. You can paint yourself into a corner in other applications, not so in Houdini. Whether that's enough reason for you to want to learn it? I don't know. It deffinitely takes longer to get things done in Houdini, but the result is worth the extra effort.

09 September 2004, 08:20 PM
Do you want to use Houdini for the whole pipeline or just for some parts (ex. modeling, animation, particles and so on). I defenetly sugest to learn it because after using it for a while you'll see the diferences for yourself. In character rigging for example Houdini can run multiple IK solution through the same bone, blend them or do other things in CHOPS. With Houdini's spine solution you can rotate your spine beyond 360 degrees without flipping. You can set up characters as digital assets, do animation. Modify the asset (add more functionality, for example add muscles, add another limb) and your animation will be preserved, so you can do blocking before you set up the blendshapes or ohter things that comes in the game later on. The way that capture regions work will change your mind. You can have the same skin but multiple capture layers, paint them compose them, choose the one you like, keep all the others around because for some shots a different layer can define your character better. The list can go on and on but as I said you have to feel them first hand.

09 September 2004, 12:57 AM
As SideFx says, Houdini is Procedural. :D
As I say, Houdini (Master) its powerful, flexible, customizable, reliable and designed for high end production enviroments, where his proceduralism makes the production less expensive and more productive.

Houdini Master is (IMHO) the best suited software for highly dynamic production enviroments.

It has a nice team workflow, where every piece in your project can be modified easily after "done" it. I also think that in houdini no one project remains Finished or.. in my opnion would be more correct to say "closed". The procedural nature of the software let us have absolute control about every aspect of the project. No rigid workflow pipelines here, do it your way, if you commit a mistake, no prob! take rid of it when you want, no or very little impact (the worst ever cases) in the project workflow.

It seems to have the same philosophy as photorealistic renderman, (nice relationship between those)

Talking about the complexity of learing Houdini there is a lot of misunderstanding out there, Ive used another softwares and imho the truth is that the learning curve in houdini its far far away more smooth than other "brand X" and "Brand Y" softwares out there, well its different from other packages, but thats not bad!, its very easy to learn the houdini interface, one of the most well structured out there, "you only see what you need to see and when you need to". But in the other hand I have to say that in the "guru" level of Houdini its complexity as his power has no rival.

I dont think that there is too complex thingie, I think there is no enought time to research it. But luckyly we have Houdini to solve the time factor.

LOL, I could work as a commercial for SideFX :rolleyes:.

Shinova, You now should think about where and why houdini is used, and think if you will use it for the same kind of work. Thats the heart of the question. As an artist you should think about your demands in the ability to control avery aspects of your art, if your current aplication doesnt fit your needs... its time to change or get more plugins! :D

PS: as always excuse me for my english, and hope this post has helped you.

09 September 2004, 08:26 AM
I was trying to model a table and I think I just sent the program into an infinite loop. Connected an extrude op to the model op, then connected the model op back to the extrude op's other input node out of curiosity;

Voila! Program hangs! :D

SideFX might wanna look into that so that newbies like me don't hang the app by curiosity or accident. :)

09 September 2004, 07:24 PM
i think the beauty of houdini is that its only slow at first. but gets exponentially faster when you save networks as you work on tools so you could reuse them later down the road. like a muscle tool, piston, a setup to do your morphs. and all you gotta do is replace the old morphs with new ones. and theres no scripting involved. :)

09 September 2004, 09:27 PM
Thank you Shinova for pointing that out, you found a bug. I tried that on my machine, I'm using linux, and I get a red flag which tells me that the node has an error ( this is the right behaviour). I'll check that out on windows machine.
Can you please tell me which build are you running.

09 September 2004, 12:41 AM
Thank you Shinova for pointing that out, you found a bug. I tried that on my machine, I'm using linux, and I get a red flag which tells me that the node has an error ( this is the right behaviour). I'll check that out on windows machine.
Can you please tell me which build are you running.

The latest Apprentice version, in Master mode.

Version 7.0.192 I believe.

10 October 2004, 10:31 PM

The Modeling in Houdini like they said can get very technical but at the same time it can also become more artistic. Here is the difference with houdini you don't just look at the viewport the whole time while you are modeling you also look at the chain of nodes creating it. You can and probably will like me switch back and forth between the two constantly creating new objects from nodes that already exist and then take all the modified parts from that you created branching from one node and bring them all back together as one object again and then continue on your merry way working back in the viewport. The number of modeling tools and the number of features for the tools are more than maya. Its an excellent modeling package. They have more Nurbs tools like pasted nurbs. They also do not hide anything from you while you are working which is going to make things more difficult while you are learning but much faster once you are up and going. You can literally model your character or scene to be modeled in parts that switch on the fly based on what the animator wants to do just by moving a slider. You set up with a switch surface operator and then you can switch between different pieces of geometry on the fly. Texturing and rendering well on houdini that gets really technical and deep compared to maya. The shading system is based around RenderMan so yeah you have more control than maya but you also work at a much lower level too. So I guess its a question of how deep down the rabbit hole do you want to go. You can create shader surface operation tools to become part of your modeling tool set that you just apply when ever you need them not to mention they can be fully animated. So you can do so much for the modeling side and the shading side. Texturing in Houdini is easy in Houdini. Its pretty much like maya except the paint on surface tools has more attributes to play with than maya so you have some more options. I personally after working on Houdini could never go back to maya for modeling unless some one stuck a gun to my head. Houdini is just so much more flexible and fast once I learned to the workflow which I will have to tell you took awhile because to a certain extent I had to relearn how to think since I had been on maya for awhile. I had to learn that I could do practically anything and there was no restrictions placed on me like in maya. So that takes some getting use to and you have to start thinking that way to really take advantage of houdini. Your modeling workflow process will be wildly different than in all the other Major 3D Apps. Anyhow thats just my thoughts. By the way get the 3D Buzz videos because he makes it so easy to transition into the thinking you will need to work on houdini. Watching the sidefx videos will frustrate you at first because its just to much of a transition all at once but after you watch the buzz videos you will appericate having the sidefx videos there to watch and learn from. They also have extensive model tutorials in pdf form that you need to look up on SideFx's site.

Nate Nesler

10 October 2004, 10:40 PM
I was trying to model a table and I think I just sent the program into an infinite loop. Connected an extrude op to the model op, then connected the model op back to the extrude op's other input node out of curiosity;

Voila! Program hangs! :D

SideFX might wanna look into that so that newbies like me don't hang the app by curiosity or accident. :)
Yeah you did create an infinite loop. lol I think I might have done that once but it was in rigging. If you were doing a table like that and had to create several tables what you could do is model out the table top and various extras on it seperately and then go down and model out the table leg and duplicated it. Make several different verisons of each model piece and then connect this into a merge operator. Now if you modeled like 10 different pieces of each part then you could generate like 100 tables and these peices can be instanced to each part so now it renders really fast for all the tables because you are only render from 10 parts instead of a 100. Talk about speeding up your modeling and rendering process. ;) :) Thats just one example of how you can use houdini in modeling to get very fast good results. There are too many to mention though so you will have to figure out alot of ones on your own and you will probably come up with some that other people have not thought of too because houdini is such an open ended package.

Nate Nesler

10 October 2004, 07:55 AM
Hi folks, i enjoy this thread, can i ask something, like does houdini modelling is more to nurbs or polygons/sub-d? If its like Maya, its more to nurbs i guess? How about the particle system, dynamics, hair, hard boy, soft body, cloth... do they have all these? are they as good as syflex...? is their market growing? i know some big studios using houdini, such as Digital Domain and Weta if im not mistaken. Is there any other big studios using houdini?


10 October 2004, 12:10 AM
Houdini has both NURBS and Polygons as well as L-Systems, Metaballs, and ISO surfaces, and you can convert to and from various surface typres for the most part. It doesn't have some proprietary subdivision type of surface, what it has is a subdivide SOP which simply subdivides polygonal geometry, and a rendertime subdivision surface ala Renderman. I actually prefer modeling in polygons and rendering as subdivisions to using the subdivide SOP or other subdivision surface types like NURMS or Metanurbs or whatever these other packages are calling these surfaces.

As for the rest of it... Fur, Hair, dynamics, etc... It's all stuff that can be done currently in Houdini with much effort and less than preferable results, but they don't have canned solutions for this stuff currently. When SideFX does come up with solutions, which should be in the next major release if Siggraph is any indication, they are going to be general purpose and much more useful than a canned hair or dynamics or cloth solution in any other piece of software. Particles have always been Houdini's selling point, it's what other applications are calling an "event based" particle system and are trying to emulate now. Also Houdini's character and animation tools are quickly becoming some of the best in the industry though no one really seems to have caught on yet. BTW, there is a version of Syflex available for Houdini and it's pretty good (haven't used it in other software so I can't compare it.)

There's plenty of places that have a seat or two of Houdini, but the big places that use it heavily AFAIK are Digital Domain, Rythm and Hues, Sony Picture ImageWorks, and C.O.R.E.

10 October 2004, 02:25 AM
Wow u answer all my question Cronholio. Big thanx!! U sure know houdini like the back of your hand. The first video tuts i watched from them is the particle video, i thought it must be it's main advantage. Anyway got to try it now.

thanx a lot

10 October 2004, 06:56 PM
Here is a big list of Companies that use Houdini :

There are probably more companies, but its a good place to start.


10 October 2004, 04:58 AM
While other software may have pre-built tools, Houdini gives you the building blocks to build your own tools to the exact specification you want. So, it is highly customizable. You can build whatever tool you want and save it as a digital asset to be reused as a tool in itself.

While in the beginning Houdini may have a steeper learning curve, if you keep at it you will reach a critical mass and things do fall into place. What you could do with attributes alone in Houdini is unparalleled in any other packages. You can transfer attributes between particles and geometry, points and polygons. you can use one attribute to drive another in a completely different context thus creating unique relationships. Etc.

Then you have CHOPs where you can tweak and modify you animation and model and everything else using animatable channels. Then you have VOPs where you can build your own procedural shaders using network of nodes, but incredibly more advanced and powerfull than many other procedural shader builders.

Then you have POPs, Houdini's well-known procedural particle system. I have seen entire hair system being created using particles.

Not to mention what was discussed at the SIGGRAPH annual Houdini meeting for the upcomming versions. Someone mention cloth?:D

11 November 2004, 05:39 PM
Hey all,

I'm also a relatively new Houdini user. I have a fairly deep Maya background (since ver 1), and although I have used Maya far more in production over the years, I was fortunate enough to get feature production experience using Houdini at Framestore CFC. I wouldn't trade that for anything.

Someone in this thread said "How far down the rabbit hole do you want to go?" and I think that's very true with Houdini. Learning Houdini taught me more about computer graphics in general. Many artists are not interested in learning an application in-depth, and aren't interested in flexible or efficient techniques that may require some overhead to setup. However, it would work perfectly for them if they were working with more senior TDs that can create a tool and pass it off to them as a Digital Asset. With these, knowledge of Houdini is absolutely not required. The DA interface can hold everything you need to setup, animate and render frames. This is how I began to learn the software. The difference though, is that when I wanted to, I could dive into the network of a DA and learn how it worked, and change it if necessary. With Maya, you can create a custom tool or interface, and this usually requires a lot of MEL. Even though I know MEL very well, there's no way I'm going to read through thousands of lines of branching code to learn how a tool works. This is one aspect of using Houdini that I loved...newbies can ramp up on it very quickly by exploring a DA or a senior user's scene and learn exactly how it works, literally step by step, looking at the results along the way (like Shake). Swimming though the Hypergraph is nowhere near as informative, or as speedy.

11 November 2004, 10:42 AM
I am also trying to switch from maya to houdini, and must say that I am amazed, I am typical artist and dont have any programming knowledge, but nevertheles I find houdini very aproachable an i feel like i have been driving in second hand car and now I am in ferrari.
documentation and tutorials are also very good and the workflow and possibilities just blew me away.

11 November 2004, 10:53 AM
Houdini is the best 3D software package I've ever used, 'nuff said. As for specific features/ functionality, "why it's better", there's far too much to mention really. I'll get back to this later, or answer specific questions.

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