From faster, more flexible particle tools, to a new lighting workflow, to the adoption of open standards such as OpenEXR 2 and OpenSubdiv, Houdini 13 will increase productivity and allow for bigger more impactful VFX. Whether you are a feature film VFX artist, a game developer or a commercial studio, this new release brings you new and enhanced tools that will meet the most demanding production requirements.



Particles have always played a key role in the creation of VFX in Houdini even as Rigid Body Dynamics, Fluids and Cloth effects have begun to take over. With Houdini 13, particles have been fully integrated into the dynamics context for better behaviour, more control and interaction with other simulation tools. This vex-based architecture is multi-threaded and allows for speeds up to 10x faster and cached results that allow for scrubbing back and forth in the timeline.

To control these particles, there is a new stream concept as well as the use of VEX-based expressions which are much faster and more flexible. There are also new tools and forces such as the Axis Force which uses 3D volumes to control particles.


To create realistic destruction effects, the industry is moving to the use of finite elements. In Houdini 13, the Finite element solver brings this leading edge technology to the forefront.

The Finite Element solver analyzes the stresses on an object then either bends or breaks the object. It can also be used for soft body effects with volume preservation. With the new Finite Element solver, Houdini 13 will take the simulation of digital destruction (and gooey slimy objects) to the next level.


A new lighting workflow has been built around the use of Alembic and Packed Primitives as a way of efficiently managing massive datasets.

This new workflow offers a new Data tree view for working with the Alembic files and assigning materials and light assignments. This new workflow is linear out of the box and along with improvements to the quality and performance of Mantra offers a powerful set of lighting tools. In professional production pipelines these new tools will offer a robust solution that makes Mantra’s physically-based rendering a very attractive option.


The Bullet solver in Houdini is now more accurate and supports most geometry types out of the box. it is much faster and scalable and can be used in conjunction with packed primitives for efficient instancing of pieces. There is also a new debris shelf tool for adding detail to really sell a shot.


The FLIP fluid and Ocean FX tools in Houdini continue to evolve with a new mist solver, new shelf tools and a new Fluid surfacer that is much faster. A new ocean material is available and the integration of FLIP fluid sims and larger OceanFX surfaces is easier than ever.


Houdini continues to support industry standards which make it easier for artists to work in a multi-application environment.

  • Alembic by ILM and Sony Imageworks plays a key role in the new lighting workflow in Houdini 13.
  • OpenEXR 2 by ILM is now supported to allow for deep compositing of Mantra renderings in Nuke.
  • OpenSubdiv from Pixar which provides viewport subdivision display, geometry-level subdivides, Mantra integration and continued support for crease weights.
  • OpenVDB from DreamWorks Animation continues to evolve and played a big part in making the new particle surfacer faster and more memory efficient.


Packed primitives are a new initiative to take the concept of a delayed load archive and put it right into Houdini. It offers a generalization of the Alembic file format that supports all geometry types in Houdini.

A complex model can be packed up into a single primitive for efficient management of huge datasets and faster cooking with a lower memory footprint. It offers a hierarchical structure and multiple visualization choices and allows for efficient instancing when using Houdini’s copy node.

Packed primitives can be used when lighting and rendering a scene or when simulating lots of similar objects. This new technology will offer efficiencies throughout your pipeline and will let artists work more interactively with big scenes.


Feature List:



New Particle Engine
Houdini 13 introduces a new particle simulation engine in the dynamics network (DOPs). The new particles are much faster, especially for very large particle systems. You can use the tools on the new Particles shelf tab to set up and manipulate these new particles.

Solver Integration
You can use the new particle nodes to manipulate the fluid particles in FLIP fluids and the objects in the Bullet RBD solver.


Integrated into DOPs
Dynamics particle nodes are implemented in DOPs as a series of microsolvers which a POP Solver applies to the particles in a POP Object. This allows you to wire the new particle nodes together in the same way as the old particle networks.

Particle Tools
New particle shelf tools include Axis Force, Point Attract, Curve Attract, Curve Force, Flock, Force, Wind, Interact.


The new particle nodes include force nodes such as POP Force and POP Wind designed to be wired together in the new particle way as microsolvers rather than as data. Regular DOP forces such as the default gravity node can be used to affect particles as well.

Volumetric Forces
The Axis Force tool applies a force around a specified axis. The axis is either a line resulting in a spherical force or a circle resulting in a Torus-shaped force.


SOLID OBJECTS | Finite Element

Finite Element Solver
Houdini 13 includes tools for finite element matter (FEM) that can simulate hard and soft bodies with interior properties. This allows you to model, for example, internal shifts of mass in a soft body, and realistic fracturing of objects under stress.

Soft and Hard Constraints
You can smoothly influence the simulation with an existing animation that is used as a target. You can animate the rest state to create similar effects that don't depend on the current position/orientation of your object. Both hard and soft constraints are supported and can be controlled separately on all points of the tet mesh. Hard and soft constraints can also be created by making attributes such as pintoanimation, targetstiffness, targetdamping, targetP or targetV. Spring contraints are supported as well.


Solid Tools
The tools on the new Solid shelf tab let you create and work with solid objects: Solid Object, Organic Tissue, Fractured Solid Object, Deforming Collider, Rigid Collider, Embedded Highres Object, Follow Target.

You have the choice between volume-based and geometry-based collisions. The volume-based collisions use signed distance fields (SDF), and the geometry-based collisions support both polygons and tetrahedrons. The geometry-based collisions use continuous collision detection, so that collisions will be detected reliably even when objects move at high speeds. For both types of collisions, the global collision response ensures that the whole Solid Object responds realistically when collisions occur.


Anisotropic Force Model
The anisotropy controls on the Solid Object allow you to better approximate materials such as wood that are stronger in some directions than in others. You can also modify the material directions by providing UVW coordinates. The volume preservation settings allow you to accurately simulate organic tissue.

Local Properties
You can modify all properties of your Solid Object using attributes such as stiffness, damping, rest position, fracture threshold, fracturepart, etc. These properties can be modified even during the simulation using a SOP solver. You can also use a SOP solver to remove tetradrons during a simulation.

Proxy workflow
The proxy workflow allows you to deform and fracture a more detailed rendering geometry along with a low-res simulation geometry that deforms and fractures. For non-fracturing simulations, the cloth deform/capture tools can be used to create smooth looking deformations.


Rigid Body Dynamics | Bullet

Faster Bullet
The Bullet solver has been updated and is significantly faster and uses less memory. The majority of the performance and memory usage improvements come from the new threaded solver and the new RBD Packed Object, which stores large numbers of objects in a much more efficient manner than the RBD Fractured Object and RBD Point Object.

Debris Tool
The new Debris shelf tool creates debris particles from animated rigid bodies. This tool works with RBD packed primitives.


More Geometry
Bullet solver now works on more geometry types including packed primitives, NURBS and Bezier curves, meshes, polygon soups, VDB primitives, and metaballs.

Faster Fracture
Voronoi fracture is about 2x faster with the Cluster Pieces option on. Improved performance of the Voronoi Fracture solver when handling large numbers of impacts.

Bullet Interrupted
Bullet simulations are interruptible and show progress in the status bar.


Constraint Networks
The Constraint Network replaces the Glue Network Constraint and can be used to procedurally generate constraints of any type such as glue, spring, pin, etc.

Animated Constraints
You can now animate the Constrained object and Goal object parameters in constraint nodes.


FLIP Fluids | Ocean FX

Water behaviour offers more realistic results. Improved velocity extrapolation with better accuracy around the surface of curved containers. More accurate tetrahedral method for computing collision weights.

Uses new POP-style forces and other particle dynamic operators connected to its “Particle Velocity” input. Source Volume can be used to control life expectancy and variance with a life attribute on the emitted particles. It can also group particles by source using the Output group parameter.

New Surfacer
The new particle surfacer is much faster and gives consistently better results. Less noise and good control over sheeting. Powered by OpenVDB.

A new “Extrapolated Velocity” option for under-resolved particles reduces stringiness in splashes. You can still switch to the “Treat as ballistic” behavior to match previous results.


The Points From Volume SOP, Particle Fluid Tank SOP, and Fluid Source SOP now have Scattering density and Oversampling parameters. These let you create extra particles at and below the surface of geometry or volumes. These additional points help create a flat stable fluid surface for the solver’s initial state. In the rigs created by the shelf tools, this parameter is linked to the solver’s reseeding oversampling parameter.

Ocean Rigs
The new Ocean FX shelf tab contains useful ocean rigs such as Ocean Waves, Splash Tank, Wave Layer Tank, Wave Tank, Flat Tank, and Beach Tank which creates a FLIP tank simulation of waves breaking on a beach or other shallow water terrain.

Transient Tanks
New shelf tool that sets up a FLIP container that will track an animated object that uses Ocean FX for the water surface. Control over boundary velocity to merge FLIP sim with Ocean FX surface.

Ocean Material
There is a new Ocean Surface Material which is automatically assigned to the ocean geometry when you use the Ocean FX tools. It contains options for streaks, whitecaps, bubbles and foam.


This improved tool sets up the source and solver for a whitewater simulation. Whitewater emission particles are created from a source FLIP or liquid simulation based on several criteria including fluid acceleration, curvature, and vorticity. The simulation uses these emission particles and volumes from the fluid simulations as sources for simulating whitewater with foam, spray and bubble particles.

Mist Tool
This tool uses a Gas Mist Solver that creates a fine spray from a FLIP simulation. It is finer than Whitewater and behaves like smoke as the particles (vaporized water) get pushed around by the air. This is useful in simulations where water is falling from high up. For example, creating a plume of mist from a waterfall.

The Ocean Evaluate SOP can now add a UV attribute to the geometry. You can use this attribute to do texture lookups on baked displacement maps.

Time Scale
The Whitewater solver and Particle solver now have an animatable Timescale parameter. The Whitewater shelf tool sets up the node with the timescale linked to the timescale of the FLIP solver.



You can provide a point cloud to the Fur SOP to use as hair root positions. The Fur object supports guide and clump hairs groomed by external geometry networks. This makes it easier to import and modify curve networks from other DCC apps.


The Fur procedural is faster at handling skin geometry containing lots of small primitives.


The Fur object now preserves any N (normal) attribute on the skin geometry. The Fur SOP now gives better results on non-planar polygons.


Shading and Lighting

Data Tree View
This editor gives you a unified interface to edit parameters and attribute values on deep hierarchies of nodes and geometry including transforms. This pane offers multiple views of the scene, for a streamlined workflow-centric approach to lighting and scene organization.

Object View
The Data Tree’s Object Appearance view allows directly editing of Alembic archives, and/or packed primitives and lets you modify their display and render properties. You can use this view to set the display of a sub-object in an Alembic file hierarchy to display as a point cloud, bounding box and other levels of detail.

Light Bank
The Data Tree’s Light Bank view is a light-centric approach to lighting a scene; making it easy to do quick lighting changes, and get a global overview of all lights and their settings. Quickly view and edit values on all lights in the scene, including linking, soloing and muting lights.

Mantra Performance
Improved memory and speed for large scenes. Improved support for Alembic and packed primitives. Mantra also includes Out-of-frustum screen optimizations.

OpenSubdiv in Mantra
You can now render geometry as subdivision surfaces using the OpenSubdiv library. Mantra now uses OpenSubdiv style creases instead of linear creases.


Linear by Default
Houdini is now set up to work in a linear color space/gamma of 2.2 by default. The File compositing node now loads 8-bit files as 16-bit and automatically converts sRGB color space to linear. VEX texture functions that work on 8-bit images will now convert the images from sRGB colorspace to linear. You can override this with a variadic argument. The iconvert command line utility now now applies a gamma correction to color planes when converting to/from 8-bit color. You can choose to turn this default behavior off.

Enhanced Blur
More camera parameters are motion blurred, including focal length, aperture, window, and depth of field. Turn on Transformation motion blur in raytracing. New shutter ramp property for even more realistic blur.

HQueue in the Cloud
New machine types and pricing has been introduced ranging from $0.12 to $4.99 USD. Details and instructions are now part of the Houdini 13 documentation. Amazon cloud support has been expanded to Singapore and Tokyo in addition to US East (Northern Virginia), US West (Nothern California) and EU (Ireland).


Improved ray tracing for physical subsurface scattering (SSS). Since the quality now matches the point cloud method, and raytracing is easier to use, it is now the default on the Physical SSS VOP and Surface Model VOP.

Material Components
All BSDF lighting models in the Surface Model now support export components on the Mantra ROP. This makes it easier to set up AOV exports for all lighting in the final rendered image. The labels for these components can also be customized on the Surface Model VOP. This allows you to add additional BSDF models with unique exports.

The RenderMan display driver supports progressive rendering. Added “extreme offset”, “focus region”, and bezier-style shutteropening camera options. Added an option to control whether to add comments to the RIB stream. Enhanced support for co-shader workflow in SHOPs and VOPs.

Lens Shader
The camera projection type can now be defined by a Lens shader. The shader is a CVEX program that generates rays from screen coordinates. An ASAD lens CVEX shader is provided as an example.



The Geometry object now has controls on the Render tab to display and/or render the geometry as a subdivision surface using the OpenSubdiv library. The Subdivide SOP now lets you choose to use OpenSubdiv algorithms to subdivide geometry.

Packed Primitives
Houdini now supports packed primitives, a generalization of the Alembic format. Packed primitives are un-editable references to geometry in memory or on disk. They are very efficient to display and use in geometry and dynamics networks.

Draw Tools
You can now draw curves and volumes onto existing geometry for artistic control.


Alembic Output
Saving packed primitives to Alembic files uses the instancing features in Alembic 1.5, which means that shared geometry will have shared nodes in the Alembic tree giving smaller file sizes. The output of non-deforming RBD packed primitive simulations are saved as shared geometry nodes under transform nodes.

Polygon Soup
Some brush tools such as the Paint, Comb, Group Paint, and Sculpt nodes now work with polygon soup primitives. The Ray node now also support polygon soup primitives. You can now use polygon soup primitives as an input to scatter points. The Point Cloud Iso node can now output a polygon soup.


VDB Volumes
Added support for interpolation of affine VDB transforms in the Sequence Blend SOP. The Volume Stamp SOP now multiplies a density point attribute by the value in the density field. (In fact in multiplies any values in identically named attributes and fields. VDB to Spheres SOP packs spheres into a surface volume. The VDB Smooth SDF and VDB Reshape SDF SOPs now support alpha channel masking.

Shortest Path
The Find Shortest Path node finds the shortest path between two points along the edges of a surface. You can exclude edges, paint a cost attribute onto points, and set certain edges as one-way.



User Interface

Alt Viewing
You can now use Alt as the view key instead of/in addition to Spacebar. Some view key combinations have changed to accommodate the use of Alt.


Touch/Pen Menus
You can now set menus to always appear to the left of the pointer instead of the right (Edit > Preferences > General user interface, turn on Left-hand menus). This is useful for right-handed people using touch/pen displays.



File Input and Output

Houdini supports demand-loading Alembic data. The viewer can display geometry from an Alembic file without storing a copy in memory, and mantra can “stream” geometry from an Alembic file instead of loading it all into RAM. You can apply geometry nodes to demand-loaded Alembic primitives that do not move points. You can also load Alembic data as Houdini geometry, allowing you to edit the surfaces.


OpenEXR 2
Houdini now supports reading and writing OpenEXR 2.0 deep pixel format. You can now write arbitrary attributes to OpenEXR files.