Houdini Hard?

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I want to learn a ton about dynamics and particles, and heard that Houdini and Maya are the way to go. But every person always says “Houdni is awesome, unfortunately it has a steep learning curve and is very difficult to pick up”.

For those who are also new and possibly have input on this id like to know. I plan on learning both, and would like to know exactly whats so hard about Houdini.
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Messing around helps you learn a lot. The documentation is always there, and simple dynamics are easy to set up. It's when you start to customize stuff where it gets hard, but hey, anything this deep won't be easy.
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Well, Maya and houdini…

First, they are both available for FREE (as in Free Beer, with the limitation you cannot take it to a party )

- They both watermark the rendering. Maya PLE is VERY OBSTRUSIVE in doing so, whereas houdini stays decent. I am thinking about comping in their logo in a bigger size. This round goes to houdini !!

Comparison stops here, because I was not amused about mayas watermarking. But I think I have heard roumors that maya has a pretty basic 3d-tracker built-in… would be cool to have in houdini also, but you can always use vodoo (it's free…)


For the learning curve….
I wish houdini had more “written” tutorials, as the videos, which are usefull indeed, are sometimes too silent, and watching them on my “internet backup machine” causes sometimes heart attacks, if any system sound goes off… I am personally also more a “fast memorizing reader”, so it is easier for me to flip pages to recall a feature, than memorizing the timecode and rewinding the video. Also I often think to myself: “Come on mister!! get to the point!!”

The online help is a nice feature, but leaves some questions. Sometimes you have to follow a few links until you get the desired information. (e.g. local variables for the copy SOP. Why do I have to look up the point SOP for copys locals ?? It's distracting… What I miss also is kind of a this-menu-item-does-this-and-that overview. (Or I missed it, giving up looking for it. No flames please !! )

In summary, I prefer houdini over other 3d packages for now. Blender is also really cool, but lacks from documentation too, and has a really heavily short-cut based GUI (also not my fave yet), but is is FREE (as in free speech) and open source.

Yeah, BTW, POVRAY top them all !! Full control over almost anything, but not interactive ! (SCNR!)

Thats for now, still making some small steps, stumbling, and getting up again, but I'll give it a more serious try than other packages.

Justr my $0.002
If you can't script/program it, it's no good at all !
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WhoDjini
Justr my $0.002

2 mills? Woah… Actually though, very good review.
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Houdini is often described as hard by people who are used to other applications - so really it's just that Houdini is ‘different’…

as for learning Dynamics…
the MOST important thing I would say about that is to start SMALL - load and poke around in ALL the example files on the help card for all of the dynamics nodes…
then when trying to do a project on you're own - stay SMALL…
DON'T try to do some giant ‘transformers smashing through a building’ insanity - there will be far too many things going on that you'll just get lost…
and keep in mind that ALL of the things you see in films are the combinations of many separate effects - and some of them don't involve dynamics at all, hand animation, comp tricks etc…
so to sum up -
help files
small projects
large effects are often many small effects combined.
Michael Goldfarb | www.odforce.net
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WhoDjini
First, they are both available for FREE (as in Free Beer, with the limitation you cannot take it to a party )

Sort of, Maya did away with their PLE, and now only has a 30 Day Product Trial.
Stephen Tucker
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WhoDjini
First, they are both available for FREE (as in Free Beer, with the limitation you cannot take it to a party )

Sort of, Maya did away with their PLE, and now only has a 30 Day Product Trial.

I didn't had a look after last years DL of their PLE. As mentioned, I just did the typical “simple cube in empty environment” render, saw the tsunami-mark(R) over the ENTIRE render and… uninstalled it after a weeks grace period again.

My principal rule is also, if it is a “trial” I accept certain limitations, but for a complex SW like all of the 3D/DCC packages are, I think 30 days are way too short to get a feeling if that SW suits my taste of doing things. There are of course day, when I spend 12+ hours in front of my machines (mainly SPARCs) coding around. But there are also days, where I leave them alone. So 30 days are WAY too short for me !

@arctor:
I don't think houdini would be _that_ hard if it had a manual. Something a physically present 3D artist could print at need to have it in his also physically environment. The procedural approach is indeed (at least for me) first seen. But I like it! Still needs some improvement though !

As for starting small, I did a “pin grid” in about 8 hours after having houdini for 5 days. ( I stumbled upon a maya tutorial in a 3D world issue (??) )

Currently, I want to do an odforce inspired rubics cube. Modelling was done in 30 minutes, now I try to figure procedural grouping and blocking rotations, where they would interfere.


@heydabop:
Jupp, am a bit humble, its just my point of view, as always ! Glad you liked it.
If you can't script/program it, it's no good at all !
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If you want to make good dynamics, you must learn Houdini first

Houdini is hard to learn after long time Maya using - this is my case But for Effects creation - houdini is the best tool.

I work in studio with Maya users. And i`m must work on Maya too, every day . But this is pain, because i feel - “This very stupid… This really stupid.. This slow..In Houdini i can do this in 10..20 times faster…”

I work in maya, only because all user around me work in maya.

Houdini give you the full control of FX process.

1. Look video tutorials on site and PDF for old Houdini versions.
2. Documentation - of course.
3. Look to site gallery, look to films - for inspiration.
4. Make little effects, and try to made full process pipeline with rendering and composing.
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i am in houdini now for about 6 weeks, but using 3d cgi apps since 1993 at sgi.

houdini has been easily the most difficult to use application i have ever encountered. EVERY step is a hunt or mystery to solve.

i believe this is because so much of the philosophy of houdini is to give the user TOTAL control over every aspect. this leads to what i have done so very often. i'll make a change on some parameter setting and unknowingly kill the entire effect.

doh!

furthermore, so many effects are so very slow to show, that tweaking is almost impossible. the lure of simulations is dampened by the lack of multithread support.

having total control, the programmers must assume you know what you are doing when you change any setting, so there are no warnings when the rookie alters something he should not.

total control means that there is a ‘top down’ aversion to creating any ‘blackbox’ solutions or pre-setup effects. some small headway has occurred with the addition of pyrofx shelf additions, but this is really small as the pyrofx are still extraordinarily complex and unintuitive.

some of those that have powered through the learning curve now have an opinion that everyone else should HAVE TO do the same to EARN the power of houdini. just like a doctor who tortures the interns out of tradition. LOL.

now, on the flip side, the learning curve has kept the supply and demand for houdini technical directors at a primo pay grade. the power of houdini is there and unquestioned, while the learning curve is so steep that few artists achieve a useful level of skill for a production environment. so, houdini TD can demand big big bucks for services.

this is another DIS-incentive for gurus to teach what has so painfully been learned.

omg, i am preaching on a soapbox now… sigh…

programmers, please, take a look at the speed of maxon c4d's rendering engine and cloth simulation. maxon is almost 800% faster polygon for polygon.

programmers, consider an entirely new level of interaction for rookies. a ‘desktop’ for example, where ONLY BLACKBOX solutions exist. use some other app as a guide for creating the interface. desktop: maxon c4d for example would feel comfortable to someone used to that app. desktop: lightwave would feel comfortable to someone used to that app. etc, etc.
a series of ROOKIE SHELFS that include houdini effects that mirror the effects in said other application. results should be as similar as possible to those in the other app, and the parameters SHOULD BE LIMITED to those available in the other appl.

WHEN the rookie is wishing for more control, then he/she can opt out of the rookie environment.

houdini upper management:
DO YOU WANT NEW USERS? then you MUST address this learning curve.

okay, rant over.

back to my current houdini mystery, pbr. personally, i think col. mustard killed pbr with the wrench in the drawing room… sigh.
Edited by - May 25, 2009 16:44:51
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Hello! I've been using Houdini for over one year but I've been studying fluid effects since The Abyss in 1989. I agree this Houdini is very hard, but it must balance being hip and cool while being awesome and powerful. (And trendy too!!!) I find DOP fluids very hard to master but I keep trying, because frustrating is the new fun!

Have a great day!
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@ smaugthewyrm

some of your comments might have some merit but would be resolved by better documentation and learning tools (though this is improving every day)

however I have to disagree with you about what you call ‘blackbox’ solutions, shelves etc…
that Houdini doesn't have these is exactly why people use Houdini - ground-up control over every aspect of a scene.
in a studio situation ‘blackbox’ solutions (often bundled up into HDAs) are built by senior level TDs and then given to animators who only need a few controls.

Houdini is different, not harder.
if someone uses Houdini as their first 3D application they don't encounter the same kinds of difficulties as someone who started in Maya/XSI etc…because they are not trying to make Houdini behave like those other applications - this can't really be done, Houdini is different. not better, not worse, just different.

I started with Maya years ago and I'll never go back…

and as nice as some ‘blackbox’ solutions are in/for other applications (fumeFX is a popular example) I find I can spot them in seconds - because they always look the same…
Michael Goldfarb | www.odforce.net
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I find Houdini more logical and so much better to dissect problems. I have been able to do things with Houdini I would of struggled with in Maya.

To lever anything decent out of Maya you need to script it or rely on one of the many scripts thats been created to actually get any use out of the basic tool set. You only have to see the MR integration or renderlayers to see that.
So to think that making Houdini more like maya or max or any other application makes me shudder.

“Houdini is a pipeline in a box. Maya is a box that you have to build a pipeline for”


2 cents
Edited by - May 26, 2009 02:47:03
Gone fishing
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whatever the solution, the fact remains that most users know the non-houdini way. also, the fact remains that the houdini community would be stronger with more users.

houdini is wonderful, and powerful, no question. BUT it is not even considered an option for most students because of its learning curve.

product conversion, or the moment when a user decides to use a NEW application primarily is very very rare with houdini. this is a growth limiting aspect.

i would not suggest that pyrofx shelf items are ‘blackbox’. so, imagine if you will, 4 FULL SHELVES of similar items. then imagine that they are all tweaked slightly and placed so as to be INTUITIVE for a MAYA professional or for a 3dmax professional. now, there is a possible houdini recruit.

that person will be able to get something attractive created and become hooked on the H10 way. THEN he/she may dig deeper and opt for the
'advanced' interface.

i'm just say'n…
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hi!

when You start learning maya or any other software, You do not have a clue about the toolset, not to mention solving specific problems.
This takes years to master.
Watch the hscript&expression tutorials(which is the very fundation of H), and do others to see the toolset, to learn it.


just my 2c
daniel bukovec | senior fx td | weta digital
qLib – http://qlab.github.io/qLib/ [qlab.github.io]
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houdini is wonderful, and powerful, no question. BUT it is not even considered an option for most students because of its learning curve.

Part of me thinks this is more of a problem with the current generation of students than with Houdini. Visual Effects is a hard (but fun) industry and it bothers me when so many people lack the tenacity to learn the tools of the trade because they're deemed ‘difficult’.

Lastly, it would be great if Houdini had more ready made shelf tools for various effects, but ultimately Houdini toolset is designed to be atomic. I think the general philosophy has always been to first develop the atoms then the black boxes later. If people are put off by this methodology then perhaps Houdini isn't the best choice for them and there isn't any harm in that. Different software caters to different people.
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