Shelf Tools tutorials (or lack thereof)

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I've been watching a great deal of tutorials as I learn Houdini, and while I appreciate a lot of the foundation-building aspect from the likes of Steven Knipping and the the Entagma guys, it seems like the focus of their teaching is on building everything from scratch while ignoring for the most part the wealth of readily available Shelf Tools.

I'm looking for some tutorials which use exclusively Shelf Tools to achieve certain types of effects. I have found a handful, but for the most part the tutorials seem to want to accomplish everything from scratch….what gives?

I don't want this to be mistaken by me asking for a lazy way to get what I want out of Houdini, but SideFX obviously wants its users to take advantage of Shelf Tools or else why did they bother to include them in the first place?

Any recommendations for tutorials which are expressly geared toward understanding and using the Shelf Tools?

Many thanks!
>>Kays
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There are a few tutorials SideFX created a while back, with “Off the Shelf” in their title. They are quite old however, and the workflows have changed. This one is probably mostly relevant, but the Ocean Waves have definitely changed a lot in the last 5 years.

Hope that helps a bit!

I'm o.d.d.
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Thank you, yeah I watched that one. Was hoping for more. So far the closest to use shelf tools consistently seems to be the MIX Training tutorials…I like them but boy is there a lot of rambling going on!
>>Kays
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Got the same problem as you! So far I could no find tutorials solely focused on understanding and using the Shelf Tools… The best I found so far were from mix training.
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I'm not sure I understand the request…
the existing Shelf Tools are a combination of a bunch of different things:
shortcuts for instantiating single nodes - primitives, delete, Paint Capture Layer etc
shortcuts for establishing basic setups - making a constraint, creating muscles, fracturing geometry etc
a place to put your own tools

I doubt that an entire workflow could be done just using the tools provided on the shelf, many times users will use the shelf tools to establish a basic network that shows them how to begin building a more complex setup.

the docs have more info:
http://www.sidefx.com/docs/houdini/shelf/index.html [www.sidefx.com]
and each Shelf Tools has it's own help card
Michael Goldfarb | www.odforce.net
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SideFX
www.sidefx.com
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I'm not sure I understand the request…I doubt that an entire workflow could be done just using the tools provided on the shelf…the docs have more info


Hello Michael,

Ok, let me elaborate. I suspect you're a Houdini ninja, but for the sake of argument please put yourself in the shoes of a complete noob like me.

Yes, I expect that in some cases, using nothing but the shelf tools on one's imported (or modeled) geometry is pretty much just fine. For instance, let's say I want to bring a building crumbling to the ground and make it look cool:

Step 1: Geometry Node > File > Import some .obj building that I have in my collection (this is the one non-Shelf tool step).

Step 2: Shelf Tool Shatter to break up the building geometry.

Step 3: Shelf Tool RBD Fractured Object on my building.

Step 4: Shelf tool Ground Plane

Basically I have everything I wanted just using Shelf Tools and nothing else besides my File node.

I could keep seasoning to taste, add Shelf tool Debris and Shelf tool Pyro, and of course texture and light the scene to my liking.

The point is that yes, it's absolutely possible to get an entire workflow from Shelf tools and not much else. The Shelf tools built into Houdini seem incredibly powerful, yet the SideFX online documentation is (sorry to say) laughably vague.

Take for instance the description of the Shelf tool Shatter:

http://www.sidefx.com/docs/houdini/shelf/shatter.html [www.sidefx.com]

If I need to do something as simple and basic as add more shatter pieces, that online documentation is not going to explain that to me. Contrast and compare with the excellent Solidangle Arnold online manual which goes through each and every function on each node, and the almost-as-good Redshift one.

The above-linked tutorial on the Flat Tank Shelf tool is an excellent example of what I'm talking about – short, sweet, and incredibly helpful! I wish there were more just like it for the other Shelf tools like Pyro, Particles, Oceans, Cloth and so on.

I don't mean to sound like an ingrate or a lazy bum who wants everything handed to him on a silver platter. Quite the opposite, I'm willing to put in the work to learn all this stuff, but there is a point where the information provided is neither useful, not yield an efficient usage of my time.

I mentioned Steven Knipping because he comes across as someone who genuinely cares about teaching Houdini, but what he covers in 2 hours+ of his Dynamics Destruction tutorial, can be basically achieved with a couple of Shelf Tools clicks.

I'm not saying that more advanced tutorials are not welcome. The likes of Entagma are excellent resources for where I am hoping to be in a few years, but for right now I sure would love to see more tutorials like the Flat Tank one!

Anyway, thank you for allowing a bit of a rant on this, I hope you take it in good spirits.
>>Kays
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https://vimeo.com/256654600 [vimeo.com]
Tomas Slancik
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Method Studios, NY
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If you're looking to start building your own shelf tools, the toolutils python module can be a big time saver. I don't think it's documented, but the source code itself is usually documentation enough. For general hou module documentation there is the very rich HOM documentation. You can always right click on a tool you like and start looking at it's sourcecode code for tips on how to build similar tools.
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Thank you JSmack. No, I'm not quite at that pay grade. Was mostly wishing for a resource of tutorials which mostly utilized and explained the usage of the various Shelf Tools already available in Houdini, as opposed to building the various equivalents from scratch. I am finding a wealth of tutorials, and yet as I see all of these Shelf Tools in Houdini, I have no idea what they do nor how to instance them correctly. Case in point, what in the world does Wire Object do and how does one set it up correctly? The Houdini instructions offer some (not great) assistance, but it'd be really helpful to see someone use it in a real-world scenario.

I guess my goal is that, once I achieve a certain level of knowledge in Houdini, I will start creating these tutorials myself since I'm sure I can't possibly be the only one who is curious about how all these Shelf Tools work.
>>Kays
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I think empathy needs to be given to this subject for any Maya user coming to Houdini, one could achieve 95% of their needs using nice shelf buttons in their native program.


When ever I look at a shelf tool in Houdini I question if I should use it or set it up myself or build my own shelf button. I never know if the button is for my convenience to actually use or a demonstration.

I think this highlights a dilemma in Houdini's UX. The shelf portrays how user friendly Houdini can be when wrapped by a more technically adept artist who is taking care of it. It is not a statement of how user friendly it actually is or how much end to end coverage exists for an artist coming from a more conventional friendly program.
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