Some beginner questions regarding environment rendering

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Hi!

I'm new to Houdini and 3D. I consider to use it for cinematic rendering. So no realtime or gaming. Mostly environments and hard surface. Some animations, but mostly camera only. No rigging.

During my research I didn't find good answers to these three questions:

(1) Considering my goal (HQ cinematic renderings), is it possible to work without retopology?

Reason for asking: I want to use boolean operations and other procedural mesh operations. I think this could save me a lot of time, especially since I want to do environments with a lot of objects. As far as I have learned, these methods (esp. boolean operations) are not really good for getting a clean mesh topology. But do I need a clean topology at all for my purpose? Or is this more an optimisation step for games and rigging? Could I just work with high polygon meshes and ignore quads? Or is this considered as wasteful, messy workflow?

(2) I also would like to use triplanar mapping instead of texturing using UVs. Same story here: I learned that UV unwrap and mapping is quite labour intensive and more important: requires a good mesh topology. My thinking was to use procedural materials (shaders?) most of the time and some textures for hero objects - applied with triplanar mapping. So no UVs at all. Is this plausible? Or am I missing something?

(3) I noticed a sculpt node in Houdini but didn't really find some reference regarding manual view port sculpting. Is this possible in Houdini, for some basic organic shapes? Or is an external solution like ZBrush mandatory?

Thanks for any advice!
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1 - yes, but for hard-surface models that have some “organic” features (rounded parts - think cars/sport-bikes/sci-fi robots), you'll find that working with good topology is much easier for you in the long run and on the eyes of the viewer. for rigging/animation, good topology is a must

2 - you'll be limited with what you can do with procedural textures/materials w/o UVs

3 - sculpting, if you're referring to what I'm thinking, must be done in a sculpting package (Zbrush, 3dCoat, etc)
For some quick nudges and adjustments, “sculpting” in DCCs is good enough.
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Hi rmu welcome to the Houdini's forum.
If I understood what is your goal… maybe Houdini is not a good tool for you… probably Blender will suite better you needs.
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Forgot to add: try different approaches and see what works in tune with your desired effort input and what produces the results you're satisfied with. In time you'll be able to figure out the details.
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Thanks for your replies! @pickled: yes, I will try different approaches for sure. I'm just asking for opinions and general advice to speed up my learning process.

Regarding Blender: I considered it. But I think Houdini has some unique features which are really beneficial for me. Please let me explain. I want to do environments. Which means lots and lots of details, many objects in more or or less large scenes. I learned stuff like this takes time, even in teams. I work on my own, which means even more time. I'm not impatient, but a more efficient workflow means I could do more complex work in the same time.

The procedural nature of Houdini seems really promising to me that's why. I can add tons of details and variation without the need to do it manually for each object. And I can modify it afterwards very easy. Without such feature I wouldn't even consider to do environment art on my own in 3D! Procedural creation is THE reason I want to use Houdini.

And that's why I was asking about boolean mesh operations and procedural creation in general. I really like what this workflow seems to offer. But I learned here and there, that booleans are bad for topology. And bad topology makes UV work hard, which is needed for texturing.

So let me rephrase my question: if retopology is crucial for top quality, how is it integrated in a procedural workflow? Manual retopology as final step? I cannot really believe that, because this would kind of negate the whole procedural approach of Houdini, wouldn't it? Or is automatic retopology possible and good enough meanwhile?

Thanks again for any hint!

P.S.: to add an example of highly inspiring work for me: this environment work of Stéphane Bourez [www.artstation.com]. It's done in Houdini. I know this is professional work. But one has to set goals ^^
Edited by rmu - Oct. 21, 2019 18:28:52
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Sorry to rerail this thread but I think is highly related: Is there an almost total lack of procedural UVing tutorials or I'm missing something?
I started a year ago a relatively similar path as the original poster explained (no previous experience in 3d software in my case, focus on environment and highly detailed scenes greatly helped by Houdini procedural nature) and I'm finding similar doubts regarding uvs, textures, procedural shading workflows for this kind of scenes. I'm sure anyone who has worked profesionally inside the CGI/VFX world will see these issues as trivial but some of us are really lost! haha
Edited by jarenas - Oct. 22, 2019 03:23:15
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just a suggestion, but your three main points/wishes make me think that 3DCoat would be a pretty good candidate app for you.
There are more than a few artstation artists who use it with similar goals I'd say.
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@jarenas

I just discovered this great tutorial by David Pekarek: Procedural texturing in Mantra - wood [vimeo.com].

As far as I understood it, there's no UV mapping needed here. These “textures” have infinite resolution and are geometry independent. This should really help with environment scenes, containing a lot of procedurally created details.
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My advice to someone starting a 3d journey like this is to diversify very quickly. If another software looks like it will help you, use that too. There's no harm in using Blender, Houdini, 3dcoat, zbrush, substance painter etc together if you get the results you want. I've found over the past 13 or so years of professional work that sticking to one software can oftentimes be a quick route to being slow.
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