On a daily basis, digital artists, like yourself, are being asked to create more shots and achieve more realistic results with tighter deadlines and shrinking resources. To handle the workload and keep focused on the creative process, you will want to learn more about going procedural with Houdini. Houdini offers unprecedented levels of flexibility and control which will enhance the way you work creatively and make you and your team much more productive.

A procedural network is a collection of nodes connected together that describe the steps needed to accomplish a task. In Houdini, everything is procedural which means that modeling, character rigging, lighting, rendering and visual effects all benefit from this approach. Visual effects artists have traditionally gravitated to Houdini because a procedural workflow is ideal for creating effects with particles and dynamics. For other parts of the pipeline, going procedural has many benefits which can be used by studios who want higher levels of productivity and by artists who want more control over the creative process.

Node-based workflow

In Houdini, every action is stored in a node. Going procedural is as easy as placing and connecting, or “wiring” these nodes into networks which give you access to the complete construction history of a scene.

You can then use tools to add to the network or work directly with the nodes to manage the results. You can add nodes, delete nodes, by-pass nodes, and comment nodes. You can also copy and paste nodes or networks between projects. You can even create nodes that contain other networks inside them then share these custom nodes with colleagues. Instead of creating external scripts and pipeline tools to manage your work, the networks give you a pipeline right inside Houdini.

Rapid Prototyping and Reusability

Using Houdini’s procedural approach, artists can quickly prototype a shot using low-resolution geometry then swap-in a detailed model for final output. Because the network acts like a pipeline, the same network can be used in different shots and even different projects while only minor variations are needed to produce unique results specific to each situation.

Houdini also makes it easy to share your tools without writing any code. Houdini’s re-usable networks can be wrapped up quickly and easily into new nodes called Houdini Digital Assets. Whether you are packaging up a visual effect, a character or a light rig, Digital Assets let you hide the network then promote key parameters to build an artist friendly interface.

These assets are, in essence, artist-built plug-ins and can be put into production like any other tool. With artists and technical directors building day-to-day tools this way, on-site programmers can focus on much more challenging technical issues

Revise Deep into Production

By going procedural, all the steps needed to set up a shot are represented by the node networks and making changes to any of these nodes will cascade right through the network to update your shot. This flow of information can be retained deep into production and can be used to make last minute creative decisions that would be too costly in a traditional CG pipeline.

In this way, Houdini makes it easy to respond to director feedback or insert an updated asset into production at any time. And Houdini Digital Assets benefit from a robust referencing system which lets TDs and supervisors manage the assets behind the scenes while artists focus on creating. This version-less approach to managing assets simplifies inter-studio communication and makes sure that costly mistakes are not made.

Managing Complexity and Scalability

In a typical CG shot, there are lots of steps involved which can result in many nodes and many networks. Other 3D applications either avoid construction history or tell you to delete it because their architecture would simply bog down as shots get bigger.

Houdini’s node-based approach is designed to minimize and handle complexity and provides you with many tools for organizing and managing the networks. Instead of deleting history, you learn to use it to your advantage and make it an integral part of your production process.

Data Accessibility

As objects move through a typical animation or visual effects pipeline they accumulate information which is often stored as point or primitive attributes such as velocity, capture weights or UV texture coordinates. While other 3D applications hide this information and attempt to manage it behind the scenes, Houdini gives you many tools for working with and managing this data. This results in a much more powerful and flexible approach that can make a huge difference in production.

This data flow can be especially effective with objects that are animated over time. As a piece of geometry moves and deforms, a procedural network can work with this motion and react accordingly. For this reason, Houdini is a great tool for making sure that effects such as dust, debris, fur, feathers work respond to objects in your shot. By keeping the flow of data “live,” animation can be revised and the effects will update automatically. This reduces the manual labor needed to address these kind of changes which in turn saves you money.

Learn how you can GO | Procedural:

To try out Houdini and experience the advantages of going procedural, you can use the Houdini personal tools to evaluate, learn and develop real projects or contact Side Effects at to talk about your needs and to arrange for a webinar demonstration. There are many ways that Houdini can help you in your work and we look forward to helping you find new levels of productivity in your day-to-day work.


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