Houdini 18.0 Solaris

Primitive matching patterns

How to use the USD primitive matching syntax.

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Many LOP nodes have a Primitives parameter that selects which USD primitives the node applies to. Often you will simply use the GUI to select the prims in the viewer or from a tree. This gives you a space-separated list of the selected paths, for example:

/house/chair1 /house/chair2 /house/table1

However, you can also craft strings that match path patterns, primitive attributes, combine matches using boolean operators, and more.

The pattern matching syntax for primitives is similar to other pattern matching languages in Houdini: a space-separated list of patterns, where the default is to combine the primitives "selected" by each pattern using "or" (union). The primitive pattern syntax also supports combining patterns using "and" (intersection) and "not".


Path patterns

In a path pattern, * matches any number of characters (in a name), ** matches any number of levels of hierarchy, ? matches any single character, and [...] matches any of the characters inside the square brackets.

Match the primitive with the path /Kitchen/Table/Leg1


Match all children of /Kitchen


Match any children of /Kitchen whose names start with Chair


Match any descendants of /Kitchen whose names are Handle1, Handle2, Handle3, or Handle4


Match any children of /House whose names are Room followed by a single character, such as RoomA



To match all primitives in a collection, specify the full path to the primitive holding the collection attribute, and the attribute name (with collections: prefix):

Match any prims specified by the KeyLights collection on the /House/LivingRoom primitive


As a shortcut, you can instead use %path_to_prim/collection_name:

Match any prims specified by the KeyLights collection on the /House/LivingRoom primitive


If your collection is on the /collections primitive, you can use an even shorter form %collection_name:

Match any prims specified by the KeyLights collection on the /collections primitive (This is the same as /collections.collections:KeyLights).



You can enclose VEX code inside curly braces { } that evaluates to (or returns) 1 for "match" or 0 for "no match". In this snippet, @primpath matches the path of the current primitive being considered. You can also use @<attr_name> to access attribute values on the current primitive.

Match any primitives whose type is Mesh

{ usd_istype(0, @primpath, "Mesh") }

Match any primitives with a radius attribute whose value is greater than 20.

{ @radius > 2.0 }

(This is the same as { usd_attrib(0, @primpath, "radius") > 2.0 }.)

Match any primitives with a radius attributes whose value squared is greater than 4

{ float r2 = @radius * @radius; return r2 > 4; }

VEX has many useful usd_* functions for testing USD primitives. For example:

{ usd_purpose(0, @primpath) == "render" }

{ usd_variantselection(0, @primpath, "shapes") == "round" }

{ usd_istype(0, @primpath, "DiskLight") }

{ usd_iskind(0, @primpath, "component") }

{ usd_isinstance(0, @primpath) }

{ usd_isactive(0, @primpath) }

{ usd_isprim(0, @primpath) }

"Or" (union)

You can can combine two or more patterns, to match primitive that match any of the sub-patterns, using a + sign or just whitespace between the patterns:

Match primitive that are children of /house, or children of /yard, or children of /garage

/house/* + /yard/* + /garage/*

Same as above: whitespace between patterns is treated the same as the + operator.

/house/* /yard/* /garage/*

"And" (intersection)

You can combine two or more patterns to select only the primitives that match all of the sub-patterns, using the & operator:

Match any children of /Kitchen that are in the Props collection and also in the Static collection

/Kitchen/* & %Props & %Static 

"Not" (subtraction)

The - or ^ operator subtracts prims that match the pattern on the right side from any prims that match the pattern on the left side.

Match any children of /Kitchen that are not in the Lights collection

/Kitchen/* - %Lights

Match all children of /Kitchen whose names end in Chair except /Kitchen/HighChair

/Kitchen/*Chair ^ /Kitchen/HighChair


Use parentheses ( ) to group patterns together and treat them as a single pattern.

Match all children of /geo except /geo/foo and /geo/bar

/geo/* - (/geo/foo /geo/bar)

Tips and tricks

  • The And (&) and Not (- or ^) operators bind to the closest single pattern on each side. Use parentheses if you want to group multiple patterns together on the left or right side.

    For example:

    /* - /a /b

    …means "/* or /b but not /a". If you want to express "/* but not /b or /c" you need to group the right side together:

    /* - (/a /b)

    (The underlying grammar is pretty simple. All operators except grouping parentheses have the same level, and all binary operators are left-associative. You will often need to use grouping to express exact meanings.)

  • The hou.LopSelectionRule object lets you evaluate the matching primitives given a stage and a primitive pattern string.