Hou­dini 17 (Ban­shee)

| | price Core: $2k / FX: $4.5k / In­die: $269 / Ap­pren­tice: Free com­pany Sidefx web­site www.sidefx.com

3D World - - CONTENTS -

We test out the new fea­tures in this lat­est re­lease of Hou­dini

Some se­ri­ous users of Hou­dini might say that the soft­ware is more of a 3D op­er­at­ing sys­tem, be­cause of its com­plex­ity and ver­sa­til­ity. The new­est re­lease, 17 or namely Ban­shee, is the heav­i­est re­lease in recent years. As usual, the dev team at Sidefx have fo­cused mostly on the ef­fects mod­ules, but have also touched on al­most all other parts of Hou­dini, so just list­ing all of the new fea­tures and en­hance­ments would need a few pages, at least.

As you may have no­ticed in pre­vi­ous re­leases, many new fea­tures are ‘by TDS, for TDS’ kind of tools and the low-level, hard-coded ones are throt­tled back. It’s the same with this ver­sion, and we’ve got quite a few new, ready-to-cook shelf tools. One of the best is the new White­wa­ter tool, which re­al­is­ti­cally sim­u­lates self col­li­sion, co­he­sion etc for all foam, spray and bub­ble ef­fects emit­ted from any kind of FLIP sim­u­la­tions. In the pre­vi­ous ver­sions it was a much sim­pler par­ti­cle sys­tem.

There was al­ways the op­por­tu­nity to en­hance the sim­u­la­tion with cus­tom mod­i­fi­ca­tions or even cus­tom solvers, but usu­ally the rush of a pro­duc­tion doesn’t al­low for such fi­delity chas­ing, which ends up with “looks good, but I feel that some­thing is wrong” re­sults. On top of this, clients are look­ing for rapid re­sults, so fea­tures such as a one-click ‘Per­fect Storm’ tool can be a real ad­van­tage, at least as a high-level start­ing point.

In Hou­dini the TD work, node net­work build­ing and cod­ing are friends, not en­e­mies. Most of the sim­u­la­tion and pro­ce­dural tools are put to­gether by TDS at Sidefx, with high-level node net­works in­side. These are based on deeper-level node net­works, ei­ther with top-down op­er­a­tors and left-right VOPS. The coded nodes can be open source (VEX, the pro­gram­ming lan­guage of Hou­dini and Opencl) or ‘baked’ ones. The solvers them­selves work in this way, thus the nodes and tools that come with Vel­lum – the

big­gest new fea­ture in this re­lease – are fully trans­par­ent, like the Pyro and other solvers, and aren’t black boxes as is the case in other soft­ware. We can dive into them, even un­lock and mod­ify or re­build these net­works in­side. For prob­lem solv­ing, the op­por­tu­nity to re­wire al­most any­thing in Hou­dini feels for me much more nat­u­ral and di­rect than writ­ing code, as ba­si­cally there are cir­cuits con­nected to each other in the com­puter’s mem­ory and pro­ces­sor. I think this is the most fun­da­men­tal ad­van­tage of Hou­dini com­pared with many other 3D pack­ages.

The dis­ad­van­tage of this node-based open ar­chi­tec­ture is that in sim­pler scenes it feels slower than a sim­i­lar one in a hard-coded soft­ware. How­ever, with heavy scenes the ex­tra pro­cess­ing time con­sumed by the node-based ar­chi­tec­ture is rel­a­tively in­signif­i­cant. Fur­ther­more, the low-level VOP net­works can per­form as fast as a hard-coded mod­ule.

Vel­lum is a brand-new, Gpu-ac­cel­er­ated multi-physics en­gine based on the new XPBD model, a par­ti­cle-based dy­nam­ics sys­tem for a broad range of us­age. There are Vel­lum shelf tools for cloth, in­flated ob­jects, hair, grains and a faster al­ter­na­tive for sim­u­la­tions where we used FEM be­fore, like tis­sue and other soft bod­ies. Luck­ily Vel­lum nodes are also avail­able in the SOP con­text, so it’s con­ve­nient to use them for sim­u­la­tion-based mod­el­ling or to sim­plify the scene struc­ture, with­out the need for a sep­a­rate DOP net­work.

I could con­tinue to talk more about this re­lease’s many new fea­tures, and will do so in a fu­ture tu­to­rial, but now I would rather share my thoughts and ex­pe­ri­ences as a look dev/ light­ing artist.

I have used soft­ware such as Maya, 3ds Max and

“The DEV Team con­sider The bug re­ports AND re­lease bug FIXES on A Daily BA­SIS”

Clarisse in pro­duc­tion, but have of­ten found my­self in a sit­u­a­tion where I felt them to be quite re­stric­tive. How­ever, the weak­est area of Hou­dini is still the UI and user-soft­ware in­ter­ac­tion in gen­eral. Sidefx has en­hanced them a lot dur­ing the last decade, but there are still an­noy­ing flaws with the view­ports, the IPR and some other func­tions are quite laggy (the Esc key and Man­ual up­date are our friends), es­pe­cially when com­par­ing with Clarisse. Com­ing from Maya, many parts of the docs felt weak and un­help­ful. It seems that VFX artists just can’t get away from soft­war­ere­lated frus­tra­tions.

That’s why I went back pe­ri­od­i­cally to other soft­ware and did not tran­si­tion fully to Hou­dini. The fi­nal de­ci­sive fac­tor that made me put those other soft­ware aside though was sta­bil­ity is­sues. The most an­noy­ing thing is hav­ing to restart and reload the scene ev­ery few min­utes. Of course Hou­dini isn’t bug-free – in H17 I ran into mul­ti­ple crashes and bro­ken fea­tures which work fine in H16.5 – but usu­ally as time goes on the dev team at Sidefx re­ally con­sider the bug re­ports and re­lease bug fixes on a daily ba­sis, and a new pro­duc­tion build ev­ery month. The cus­tomer sup­port is great, and ev­ery time I re­ceived quick and help­ful an­swers. The com­mu­nity and the re­sources on the in­ter­net – as it should be with a suc­cess­ful soft­ware with 30+ years past – are also bold and help­ful.

the en­hanced ter­rain erode tool – here with de­fault set­tings – works nicely on real-world data

Bot­tom: the node net­work of the Vel­lum solver. It’s based on the POP solver (green node) but quite a few oth­ers are there

Be­low: Like a study paint­ing. I used a statue scan from Bri­tish mu­seum, dropped the fab­ric with Vel­lum then ren­dered with op­tix

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