Houdini 18.0 Dynamics

Distributing fluid simulations

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The Distribute tool sets up the networks of a simulated object so that it can be solved in parallel on multiple machines using HQueue.

Particle fluids, cloth, wire, and single grid-based fluid containers are distributed using slicing, where the space in which the effect happens is partitioned and each slice is solved on a separate machine. Grid based fluid containers are sliced using a certain number of divisions per side. Particle fluids, cloth, and wire simulations do not have boundaries, so you must slice them manually (below).

For sliced simulations, the nodes on the network will talk to each other to communicate information across the boundaries between slices.

For clustered fluid simulations, each cluster container solves independently, even if they overlap with other cluster containers. For smoke and pyro simulations this is often acceptable since the output volumes blend together visually.


Distributed simulations are supported only on macOS 10.14.4 and above.

Methods of distributing fluid simulations

No Partitioning

This is a distribution method you can select from a pop-up after clicking the Distribute Particle Fluid tool.Sends the entire simulation to another machine to be simulated as a whole.


This is a distribution method you can select from a pop-up after clicking the Distribute Particle Fluid tool. It allows you to partition the source into chunks along the X, Y, or Z axis. These pieces will be simulated simultaneously, but don’t transfer particles between frames. It much faster than the slicing method, since it doesn’t need to wait for each partition to finish simulating a frame before moving onto the next.


The Slice and Slice Along Line shelf tools allows you to slice the space containing a particle fluid so that different machines on the HQueue farm can simulate different parts of the fluid. These tools give you more control over the direction and hierarchy of the pieces. This method also transfers particles between slices at the end of each frame, which is more precise but also more expensive.

Set up distributing sliced simulations

Slicing the fluid space

Slicing the space containing a particle fluid allows different machines on the HQueue farm to simulate different parts of the fluid. You can put a particle fluid simulation on the farm without slicing, but it will simply simulate on one machine instead of in parallel.

There are two tools on the Particle Fluids tab for slicing a particle fluid simulation into separate regions for distribution:

  • The Slice along line tool. This is the simplest way to slice up space, by creating a specified number of equally spaces slices along a certain direction.

  • The Slice tool. The tool lets you slice the space using a hierarchy of intersecting planes, allowing you to divide the space in arbitrarily complex ways.

Each region requires an individual machine on the HQueue client network, so only set up as many regions as you have machines. For example, using the Slice along line tool with Number of regions set to 8 would require 8 machines on the HQueue network.

How to

  1. On the Particle Fluids, Cloth, or Wire shelf tab, click the Distribute tool.

  2. Select the particle fluid, cloth, or wire object and press Enter.

    This creates a few nodes in various networks for distributing the simulation:

    • A distributedsim HQueue Simulation render node in /out to render the simulation out to HQueue.

      This render node sends the distribution job to the HQueue server.

    • A distribute_objectname object in /obj to load the simulation files created by the HQueue clients back into Houdini.

    • A DISTRIBUTE_objectname_CONTROLS Null node in the DOP network.

      This node is mostly a placeholder for values. The render node explicitly sets values on the "control" Null DOP such as the tracker address/port and slice divisions, and then multiple distribution-aware DOPs in the network reference the value on the control Null.

  3. If you want to change the default path pattern for saved geometry files ($HIP/geo/dist_${SLICE}_$F.bgeo.gz), go to the Scene level (/obj) and double-click the distribute_objectname object to go inside. Select the loadslices File node and change the File parameter. See using expressions in filenames for more information.

    The path should be relative to $HIP.

How to view a simulation slice without running it on the farm

The Distribute tool modifies the network to ready it for distribution. If you try to play back the simulation after these modifications, the network will only calculate a slice of the whole simulation, and several nodes will generate network traffic trying to talk to HQueue peers.

If you want to check the simulation on a single machine, you can use parameters on the "control" Null DOP created by the Distribute tool to temporarily switch the network back to non-distributed operation.

To...Do this

View a slice without distributing the simulation

  1. On the DISTRIBUTE_uprespyro_CONTROLS Null node in the DOP network, turn off the Distribution checkbox.

  2. Set the Slice parameter to the slice you want to view.

How to use particle fluid distribution with FLIP

Using particle distribution with tanks can sometimes lead to a loss of fluid. Turn on the Distributed Pressure Solve checkbox on the FLIP Solver to avoid this issue. This will account for pressure in the tank and result in smoother seams between slices.

Set up a distributed narrow band FLIP tank

  1. Create a FLIP tank using one of the tools on the Oceans shelf. Narrow Band Particles should be enabled by default.

  2. Use the Slice tool on the Particle Fluids shelf to slice the particle fluid.

  3. Use the Distribute tool, and choose Slicing. This will set up the networks so that it can be solved in parallel on multiple machines using HQueue.

Set up a distributed whitewater simulation

  1. Create a whitewater simulation using the tools on the Oceans shelf.

  2. Select the whitewater to distribute and click the Distribute Particle Fluid tool on the Particle Fluids shelf.

  3. Choose between No Partitioning and Clustering as the distribution method from the pop-up dialog box.


    If the whitewater is pre-sliced using the Slice or Slice Along Line tools, there will also be an option to choose Slicing.

    Selecting No Partitioning allows you to send your entire simulation to another machine. Selecting Clustering will allow you to divide up your simulation into chunks that will be simulated simultaneously on another machine. Both options will create an HQueue Simulation for your distributed simulation.

  4. Choosing Clustering will set your Partition Type to Clusters on the HQueue Simulation render node. Click the Jump to operator button on Cluster Node parameter to jump to the partition_emission Subnetwork.

  5. Set your clusters using the Divisions parameter.


    You should set your particle fluid divisions parallel with the flow direction, because these clusters will be simulated independently and don’t transfer particles between frames that are born in separate clusters.

    In the following example, a Beach Tank is divided along the Z-axis, which coincides with the flow of the waves up the beach.

Set up distributing clustered smoke and pyro simulations

  1. Create a clustered smoke or pyro simulation from point sources using the Smoke Cluster or Pyro Cluster tools on the Pyro FX shelf tab (see clustering).

  2. On the Container Tools shelf tab, click the Distribute tool.

  3. Select the container you want to distribute and press Enter.

    If you are distributing a clustered simulation with multiple containers created by the smoke/pyro cluster tool, you can just select one of them.

    (Alternatively you can select the DOP object in the network editor and then press Enter in the viewport.)

  4. If the object has multiple containers (for example, it was created using clustering), a dialog box appears asking if you want to distribute the simulation using slices or clustering.

    (If your simulation is so massive even a single clustered container at a time is too much to run on one machine, you can click Slicing to distribute separate slices of each clustered container.)

  5. If for some reason you have more than one object importing the results of the simulation, a dialog box will ask you which object should be set up for distribution (see how the tool modifies the geometry network below).

  6. The tool will create and select a HQueue simulation render node. Set the node’s HQueue server parameter to the name of the HQueue server machine and port name (for example hq.company.com:5000).

    If you are slicing, you can set the Slice Divisions parameter. The default 1, 1, 1 slices does not actually divide the container into multiple subdomains. Increasing these values to 2, 2, 2, for example, will slice the container into 8 smaller boxes for distribution.

Distributed clustering behind the scenes

In the Geometry object that imports the simulated fields you distributed (for example, import_pyro_build), the Distribute tool adds a DOP I/O node to write the generated cluster fields to disk using a ROP Output Driver on the farm.

When the HIP file is run on the farm (below), the HQueue render node does the following:

  • Sets the global $CLUSTER variable to the cluster number being generated on this machine.

  • On the Cluster Points node (pointed to in the HQueue render node’s Cluster Node parameter), it sets the Cluster Filter parameter to the $CLUSTER variable, so the source network will only generate source points for that cluster number.

  • It cooks the ROP Output Driver (pointed to in the HQueue render node’s Output Driver parameter) which causes the simulation to cook and writes out the geometry for the current cluster and frame.

The Distribute tool also creates a File Merge node in the network to import the cluster fields generated on the farm and reintegrate them on your machine. It sets the display and render flags on this node so when you view the HIP file on your machine it uses the cached geometry files.


The filename pattern for the output geometry files is set on the File Merge node and referenced from the ROP Output Driver, so if you want to change it, change it on the File Merge node. The pattern must incorporate the $CLUSTER (cluster number being simulated) and $F (current frame) variables.

Turn off the live simulation

Once the HQueue network has generated the geometry, you should stop the original simulation network from cooking, since you now have the end-result cached.

Do one of the following:

  • Turn off the visibility of any scene-level objects that require the simulation to cook.

  • Turn off simulation in Houdini: right click (or pressing and holding on) the simulation menu in the bottom right corner of the main window and turn off Enable simulation.

  • Start a fresh new .hip file that simply loads the generated particle fluid geometry files using a File surface node.

Run the distributed simulation on the farm

  1. In the main menu, choose Render ▸ Edit render node ▸ distributedsim. In the parameter editor:

    • Set the frame range you want to simulate.

    • Check the Slice divisions parameter. The product of the three components should equal the number of regions in your particle fluid simulation (for example, 3, 1, 1 for a simulation with 3 regions).

      This number is set automatically when the Distribute tool creates the render node. However, if you then go back and change the number of slices (for example, by changing the Number of regions parameter on a Slice Along Line node), you need to update this parameter on the render node.

    • Set the HQ Server to the hostname and port of the HQueue server, for example render.example.com:5000.

  2. In the parameter editor, click Render to send the job to HQueue.

    The render node sends its information to the HQueue server. The HQueue server sends commands to its client machines to load the .hip file and simulate and save a slice of the particle fluid simulation per-frame. The individual client machines save their generated geometry cache files to the shared network directory.


Learning dynamics

Colliding objects

Simulation types

Non-DOP simulations

Next steps