REVIEW: Houdini 17
Daniel Bukovec, FX TD at Weta and Henry Dean, freelance rigging TD discuss the latest updates to Sidefx’s tool
Daniel Bukovec and Henry Dean gets to grips with the new version
When you do shot work in production, it is really important to be able to iterate as quickly as possible on an effect.
You want to quickly execute a complex fracture via optimised proxy geometries with the new convex decomposition, auto-generate constraints and throw that into a rigid body simulation, which then drives a pyro simulation. You want a fast turnaround.
Houdini 17 delivers on that with the new framework for material-based fracturing (built-in concrete, glass, wood material types), and a very fast pyro sourcing broken up into micro tools, which makes it easy to control with a vast array of tools already existing in the geometry context. it lets you concentrate more on the artistic side of things instead of fighting with technical difficulties; it’s worth mentioning that there are no black boxes.
Vellum is a beast on its own. You will find this new framework really fun to play and work with. While only in its first iteration, it is already closing a lot of missing gaps to the software, like hair simulation, soft bodies and grains all working together. it’s very easy to set up and can be used in both geometry and dynamics contexts.
The new, completely redesigned whitewater system will blow you away, too – it is a big step up from the previous iteration.
Small features, like easier creation of viewport visualisers, support for alembic layering, a new particle fluid node, the ability to retime geometry and volume caches, extracting transformations and centroids to name a few, come in really handy in everyday work. You will run into these little gems as you explore the new release.
Sure, people want everything at once, and no doubt i would be happy to see certain older parts of the software revamped, but developers listen and implement. This is a huge release, and indeed, certain parts are already revamped for the better.
in terms of character rigging, there are some big, high-level tools new to Houdini 17 which will be, maybe conspicuously, absent in this review. These are the new Facial Autorig Module and the Pose Space deformation tools. The first reason for this is there has simply not been enough time to develop a well-informed opinion as yet. The second is that, what is most exciting for riggers are the improvements to Houdini’s heart and soul as a platform for tool building and problem solving. They are the low level building blocks that enable us to rapidly prototype, iterate and engineer solutions for any (un)imaginable task or problem. Fortunately Houdini 17 also has no shortage of these.
Houdini 17 is no exception, providing many long (and not so long) asked-for improvements for riggers and animators. Many of these lie in the area of ui and viewport interaction, with substantial changes to the playbar and improved channel management, a new Python viewport API, improved viewport interaction for bones and nulls, and transform handle updates amongst others. We’ve also now got an updated bone deformer, with a much cleaner ui, superior attribute handling/caching and much improved (in some cases vastly improved) performance! This comes alongside a completely reworked Blendshape node, which opens up many exciting new workflows. There is frankly too much to get through!
As a platform for character rigging and animation today, Houdini 17 is proving to be a massively powerful tool.
There are, of course, still things left to tend to – amongst the most crucial for character work: rig evaluation is still slower than it should be in many cases, and the animation ui could be improved further. Beyond these hurdles, there’s a character-work paradise achingly close to hand in Houdini, and version 17 is definitely paving the way – so get stuck in! it’s fun in here!
Daniel Bukovec and Henry Dean
This comes alongside a completely reworked Blendshape node, which opens up many exciting new workflows
BOTTOM LEFT Vellum is an easy-to-set-up unified solver for cloth, hair, grains and soft bodies
MAIN An example of Pose Space Deformation off (the left half) and on (the right half)
BOTTOM MIDDLE The Pose Space Deformation toolset calls in blendshapes based on angle rotation (useful for character rigs, posing and shot finalising)
BELOW The RBD Material Fracture has inbuilt presets of concrete, glass and wood