Houdini 18.5 Python scripting

Command-Line Scripting

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Accessing hou from a Regular Python Shell

By simply importing the hou module into a regular Python shell, you can easily integrate Houdini into your existing Python-based scripts. The first time you import hou, Python will load in all of Houdini’s libraries and initialize an empty Houdini session. The hou module effectively stores a Houdini session, and you can load into that session from a hip file, inspect that file from your script, and input and output information to and from nodes in that session.

In order to import the hou module, you need to tell Python to search in $HFS/houdini/python2.7libs for Python modules. One way to accomplish this is to append this to the PYTHONPATH environment variable before starting Python, and another is to append the path to the sys.path from within Python. The following Python snippet will import the hou module into a standard Python shell, assuming that you sourced houdini_setup to set $HFS and paths.


If you do not run source houdini_setup, you must set the HFS environment variable manually. Also, on Windows, you must append the value of $HFS/bin to the PATH environment variable.

When you import the hou module, the standard Houdini initialization scripts 123.cmd/123.py and 456.cmd/456.py will run.

def enableHouModule():
    '''Set up the environment so that "import hou" works.'''
    import sys, os

    # Importing hou will load in Houdini's libraries and initialize Houdini.
    # In turn, Houdini will load any HDK extensions written in C++.  These
    # extensions need to link against Houdini's libraries, so we need to
    # make sure that the symbols from Houdini's libraries are visible to
    # other libraries that Houdini loads.  So, we adjust Python's dlopen
    # flags before importing hou.
    if hasattr(sys, "setdlopenflags"):
        old_dlopen_flags = sys.getdlopenflags()
        import DLFCN
        sys.setdlopenflags(old_dlopen_flags | DLFCN.RTLD_GLOBAL)

        import hou
    except ImportError:
        # Add $HFS/houdini/python2.7libs to sys.path so Python can find the
        # hou module.
        sys.path.append(os.environ['HFS'] + "/houdini/python%d.%dlibs" % sys.version_info[:2])
        import hou
        if hasattr(sys, "setdlopenflags"):

import hou


When you import the hou module, Python will check out a license. By default, it will use a Houdini Batch license, and use a Houdini FX license if no batch license could be found. If you want it to use a Houdini license, you can set the HOUDINI_SCRIPT_LICENSE variable to hescape before importing the hou module. You can also set this variable from within your Python script with os.environ['HOUDINI_SCRIPT_LICENSE'] = 'hescape'.

By default, the hou module will not return the Houdini license until the Python interpreter exits. However, if you have a long running Python script and want to quickly acquire and release a license, you can call hou.releaseLicense() when you are done with the hou module. Subsequent calls into the hou module will reacquire the license. Note that Houdini’s session data and libraries will not be unloaded from memory until Python exits.

The hou module, when imported by Python or Houdini, will loop through the directories in $HOUDINI_PATH, and for each directory found, append that directory plus "/python2.7libs" to sys.path. For backward compatibility with older versions of Houdini, it will also look for the directories in $HOUDINI_PATH plus "/scripts/python". For example, you can put your Python modules in the directory $HOME/houdiniX.Y/python2.7libs and they will be in the Python search path after you import hou.


Hython is a Python shell that ships with Houdini that is slightly different from the standard Python shell in the following ways:

  • It automatically adds $HFS/houdini/python2.7libs to sys.path and imports the hou module when it starts up.

  • You can pass .hip files on the command line and it will load them.

  • It supports tab completion, and you can press tab twice to list possible completions (on Linux and Mac).

  • You can run hscript commands from an interactive shell by prefixing them with %.

  • It can receive and handle Houdini openport commands while waiting for console input when you start it with the -b option.

By default, hython does not listen in the background for and run commands sent to openport sockets, but you can enable this behavior with the -b option. When listening for openport events, hython uses a different mechanism to read command-line input than the standard Python one. Note that this other mechanism may leave the console in a bad state if hython forks into the background or exits prematurely, and it can behave strangely when editing lines that wrap.

Python scripting

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  • hou

    Module containing all the sub-modules, classes, and functions to access Houdini.

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