Would Houdini be overkill for me? (Static form creation)

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I am primarily a concept artist and illustrator with an interest in procedural forms and a specialization in architectural/psychedelic design. Here are some examples of the stuff I make in Max, with the hopes that I can turboboost the creation of similar stuff in Houdini.






I am interested in creating forms like this in Houdini:








Also, creating swarms (3D scattering) for my images. (I already have 2D scattering covered via MultiScatter in Max.)

I am not very interested in motion graphics right now compared to making static forms/scenes for illustration, game levels, and some 3D printing on the side. My main software platform is currently 3DS Max/V-Ray, which I plan to continue using to compose most final static scenes. So the plan would be to use Houdini to create assets to bring into it (as well as UE4 down the line). I have not invested serious time into learning bottom-up procedural generation within Max (like MCG/scripting) because it seems like a potential dead end. Whereas Houdini seems like the type of software that I would never want to move from once I've learned it. As in, a better long-term investment.

Other creators have recommended Houdini to me because of the “way I think” and because of how flexible it is compared to Max for generating the kind of architectural/biomorphic/mathematical forms I love. But then I consider the opportunity cost of the learning time. While I have experience with node-based work (mainly procedural V-ray materials), I have no background in vector math, dot matrices, etc… and I have only scratched the surface on scripting (Maxscript). I am just not sure if learning all that would be overkill if I can just get 95% of the way there by further developing the hardsurface modeling/digital painting I already know how to do, even if takes longer per asset. But I'm bumping against some limits with the way I'm doing things now, specifically the ability to iterate on a type of form for complex scenes like cities.

I am also considering Grasshopper within Rhino as an alternative to Houdini, although I am not very experienced with Rhino and it is not intended for a game/illustration pipeline. But if Grasshopper is designed for generating static forms, and if it takes significantly less time to get up and running in for that, maybe I should bypass Houdini for now?

If I'm not interested in making things move, would it still take ~3 months to get to a point where I can make anything “useful”?

I'm still on the front end of my career with decades ahead of me so I'm thinking some investment might pay off over the years, but am still not sure if the mental effort would be better spent elsewhere for similar/better results. I would be giving up significant income/opportunity/creative energy to focus on this and I want to make sure it is worth the tradeoff.

I would love to hear Houdini users' thoughts on this. Especially if there are any recommended learning tracks for someone with my goals. Thanks!
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No, this is perfect for Houdini, go for it

Btw really cool artwork
Edited by animatrix3d - March 11, 2019 12:46:09
Senior FX TD @ Industrial Light & Magic

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I'll be a bit less enthusiastic than Animatrix and go with “it depends”

You state: “I have no background in vector math, dot matrices, etc… and I have only scratched the surface on scripting (Maxscript). I am just not sure if learning all that would be overkill if I can just get 95% of the way there by further developing the hardsurface modeling/digital painting I already know how to do, even if takes longer per asset.”

That gives me a bit of pause in eagerly recommending that you jump over to Houdini. The first question to you would relate to the if-it-ain't-broken saying. Are you finding limitations in MAX that you can't overcome? Is it negatively impacting your work?

You seem like a pretty smart guy, but in 3 months you're still likely going to be grappling with the basics and trying to wrap your head around WTF a Quaternion is.

When I jumped over to Houdini from C4D, it was because I was hitting walls with C4D and I needed to work with an application which could handle volumes, fluids and physics more robustly (and without thousands of $ add-ons). So for me it was a pretty cut and dry decision. For you, it depends! ;-)
>>Kays
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From what I can see in your images, you will love Houdini.
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Zirnworks
I am also considering Grasshopper within Rhino as an alternative to Houdini, although I am not very experienced with Rhino and it is not intended for a game/illustration pipeline. But if Grasshopper is designed for generating static forms, and if it takes significantly less time to get up and running in for that, maybe I should bypass Houdini for now?
According to Grasshopper nodes [rhino.github.io], actually I'm not sure is it GH *itself* a shortest path compared to Houdini. Even basic GH set, without all these addons, is looking like a vector math wonderland, compared to comprehensive, but still generic ‘DCC style’ set in H.
However, there are another parameters, like general background. Imho Houdini is more about ‘beauty of code’, where resulting model or render is a kind of representation of ‘node art’ or ‘code art’ - plus of course simulations, solvers and such. So that's reason for optimistic ideas, how Houdini is ‘ideal’ for everything procedural, actually people just don't care that much.
Rhino and Grasshopper are coming from very CAD environment, so I'd be pretty sure you'll be able to find much more of practical tutorials for your goals, how to create this or that, possibly skipping the technical parts, at least when you're close to CAD world. Perhaps not so flexible, but don't forget that flexibility in Houdini is not granted, it's your job to enable it. It's not going without price of long times to evaluate, where any small inconsistency somewhere in graph of hundred nodes, could create unwanted result.
While ago I was experimenting with similar [forums.odforce.net], space ships and suits stuff. Today I'd probably choose a mix of any classic modeling 3d app, Blender or else, and CAD nurbs app (Rhino and Grashopper, MoI and Elephant, F360, whatever). Partially because CAD NurbS engines are far stronger than in any DCC (and Houdini nurbs is not best one, nicely to say, even in DCC). Mainly, because they are just up to task.
When it comes to learning the vectors and such, I'd go with Houdini, definitively. Also, H is unmatched in creating a beautiful networks
Edited by amm - March 11, 2019 19:46:29
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Houdini isn't overkill. Though if you use the viewport a lot then Houdini will frustrate you; if you use the node network a lot Houdini will delight!
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http://www.entagma.com/ [www.entagma.com]
Check their websites and see if Houdini could be helpful for you
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Hi Zirnworks welcome to Houdini's world.
To make your way easy you can try this way to learn:

01 - Introduction to Houdini 15
by John Moncrief - Pluralsight
02 - HOUDINI FOUNDATIONS BOOK (https://www.sidefx.com/tutorials/houdini-foundations-book/)
03 - Introduction to Houdini https://www.sidefx.com/learn/collections/introduction-to-houdini/ [www.sidefx.com]
04 - https://www.cgcircuit.com/tutorial/houdini-for-the-new-artist [www.cgcircuit.com]

After this you will have a good understand How to start you path in Houdini.
To be honest all images that you showed can be done in Houdini with no problem but first you need put some effort in learn the software all your time will be re-compensate.
Have a good time and any question you are welcome to our forum.
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It'll be a big investment in time to get back to producing work to the level you are currently in Max but once you're there you won't be limited by plugins (or autodesk). As you grow as an artist you'll have room to expand into Houdini.

I've been using Houdini for nearly 3 years now and I'd say it took me a year to really ‘get’ it, and then every few months I have another big revelation about how everything is connected and how data is moved around. This is after using Maya for 14 years, I now dread having to load it up.

You can get a long way without learning vector math but it will definitely help down the road. As someone else said about, check out http://www.entagma.com/ [www.entagma.com] for some cool procedural tutorials, though they're definitely on the technical end of things.

The tutorials section of sidefx is great too.
https://www.sidefx.com/tutorials/ [www.sidefx.com]
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Just chiming in as a H beginner (one year exp): seems your artstyle is perfact fit for what can be done on Houdini. But as everybody mentions above: It will take time and many experiments and courses until it will be useful. I have a background as a graphics programmer (C++, opengl, glsl) and still think it is very cumbersome (but also fantastic!). The reason is the decades of sediment, the mixes of scripting languages, the old tutorials often being totally out of date etc. I view it as an IDE for graphics and not at all simular to a regular DCC.

But if you got time: Go for it! it is a fun process!
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