RE­VIEW: Houdini 17

Daniel Bukovec, FX TD at Weta and Henry Dean, free­lance rig­ging TD dis­cuss the lat­est up­dates to Sidefx’s tool

3D Artist - - CONTENTS -

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

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