What holds yourself/studio from adopting Houdini more?

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raincole
Also I strongly disagree with all the "if Houdini is simpler, it will be less powerful". Like... really? In what way? Do you have a different definition of "powerful"?
You ignored what I said right after that, about the need of higher level tools, which I think is what you're also saying.
In this case, powerful means the versatility to change what's under the hood of that tool if said tool doesn't quite meet your needs right of the box. That implies complexity as you have to know what's going on there in order to modify it properly. As far as I know, no other 3d package offers you that power to this level, you get a black-boxed tool which, if it's well built, will serve you in 90%-ish of the time, but when it doesn't, you're out of luck.

To reiterate my point, complexity is not the issue as that arises from the procedural atomized nature of the package, which is what gives technically inclined users the power (this word again) to create or adjust tools to meet their needs. But yes, again, I strongly agree with the fact that Houdini needs more love for the less technically inclined users, especially in the areas in which Houdini's not absolute king - sims.
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Hi.
That is a good point with the shorthand. In class I say SOPs and then they all ask me why does it say obj. The other one is can TOPs and PGG just be called the same thing? I know technically they may be two things, but it is rather confusing.

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Perception from outside is that houdini isn't a generalist software for doing simple task. Which is mainly wrong.
There a lack of "human" tutorials which don't go into network unnecessarily.

The fact, as others said, is that UX could be better and sop modeling tool hasn't well updated.

Hard to develop more without fall in a sort of wish list..
Just to name few points :
- Coming from a softimage background, pivot/handle/snap aren't well arranged here to make them as efficient as they must be to use (even if functionalities are here).


- About modelling tools, all little sop experience/ability improvement can make difference, listen feedbacks users and more invest time on it.
We all come from different horizons, just mix all ours feedbacks and get the best !

- There terribly missing 3d library models on houdini side.
The lack of a complete model file format (which include materials), sort of subscene, make unable to simply "share/sell" models. hda, as powerful it is, isn't adapted for this so simple task.
So it take it time at the beginning to build our 3d library and still the question is "how to save it ?".

- Management of external files is terrible : "Pre-Flight Scene.." way too long on larger scene with many dependencies (more than 30min) and unusable.
So we can't use references outside project structure folder and decide at the end to copy/move all dependencies to local (to share/archive project for example).


One real benefit of houdini that is we can work like in any other softwares, create geo, move, deform interactively inside viewport AND the bonus is we can go further with nodes when needed.

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For modeling improvements, I'd like to see symmetric loop slice, a better knife tool, a better polypen tool, improved sculpting, and a more intuitive way to set action centers to transformed objects. All this is doable currently in Houdini, but much more of a struggle than in other programs. That said, I love Houdini and it is my primary 3D tool (though I use Blender, Modo, zBrush, 3dcoat, Rhizom UV, etc. as needed).
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I definitely would say that I use Houdini as the main tool for my work but what I’m missing are some modeling and basic sculpting features. I don’t need Houdini to replace zBrush but most other 3D applications feature at least some sculpting toolset. (That you can usually also use on regular geometry)
Especially when you’re creating blendshapes for animation.
And in these cases it’s hard to justify doing the whole rigging an animation part in Houdini if you have to switch softwares to fix a blendshape.

This would be helpful in other aspects as well. For example if you’re dealing with photoscans and are doing some automatic cleanup in Houdini but then if you have to put in more manual work you end up switching softwares, to get some different modeling and sculpting tools.

I honestly don’t really expect to see something like that as I would have no idea how to make it procedural. It doesn’t have to be or maybe only parts of it are but I’m not sure if SideFX wants such a non procedural area in Houdini.
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I've not so huge experience in 3D world but after playing for a long while whit C4D and Houdini I can say that if you open a huge C4D scene with a lot of objects, Xpresso rules, tags, and so on let me say that it is easier an equivalent complex scene in Houdini where following the path between the nodes you can understand better and faster. So, for me, Houdini is not more complex than other 3D applications. Somewhere I read that Houdini is just a fast and powerful tool that handles a huge matrix number (its spreadsheet) by applying mathematics rules. As well as all other 3D software. Fortunately, in Houdini this is visible/accessible and you can see it and use it also as a debugger or control.
I don't have issues using Vex (after spending years in C programming, vex is like a toy for me) but absolutely for me is crazy using Vop or any other tentative to replace programming with some horrible block logic.
The interface needs a refresh, for me, but because you can customize this is my last issue.
I'm trying to understand Solaris but let me say that it is not easy.
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motionpunk
I thought it's a no brainer when it comes to design to have simple tools in order to deliver sophisticated designs. An AD is not a TD. The best ADs around can do miracles with low level tools.

I run a patreon page with 500-600 students and no one wants to see an H tut unless I put it side by side with c4d and explain everything only with nodes. I was also afraid to touch H cause of watching tutorials online that include VEX/convoluted explanations of simple tasks. And I am quite technical person myself.

Houdini comes with low-level API which is powerful but not trivial to use. There are low-level nodes like Voronoi Fracture Points and low-level USD access via the Inline USD node et cetera. But then again, low-level is not an extra layer of simplification. For obvious reasons I leave this matter to TDs. My point is that over the last six years SESI has made Houdini accessible to artists as well. The Rigging Series Collection is an excellent bridge for artists into TD space. Agreed, an AD is not a TD. Therefore, we delegate.

I don't understand mentioned "low level tools" in context given, though. A search yielded no useful results: https://www.bing.com/search?q=%22low+level+tools%22 [www.bing.com]

You stated that "While I can understand SOP level operations, nodes and vellum, I cannot understand DOPs, vex, vops etc." I encourage you to add these to your arsenal. Otherwise, you're only able to teach an unsustainable subset of Houdini. Convoluted explanation of simple tasks usually indicates a PEBKAC error. You cannot hold VEX responsible for that.
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I honestly don’t really expect to see something like that as I would have no idea how to make it procedural. It doesn’t have to be or maybe only parts of it are but I’m not sure if SideFX wants such a non procedural area in Houdini.

You don't need to make it procedural tho. Houdini, as any other 3D software, is to serve its users. Not to serve some gods of proceduralism. Plus Houdini already has TopoBuild and Edit SOP. Neither of them is procedural.

The only problem is Edit SOP sucks (TopoBuild is rather simple, but it's at least very predictable.) I don't know about others, but I can never properly smooth or sculpt a part of mesh with Edit. By "properly" I mean just like any other app, Blender/ZBrush/3DCoat/whatever.

If anything, Curve SOP is not procedural either... but everyone agrees it was a correct decision to make it, right?

Plus, Houdini actually has a "non-procedural, but non-destructive either" feature. It's called Recache. But as far as I know, only Attribute Paint can utilize it. Ideally there should be a Super-Sculpt node that can cache your stroke and replay them if the upstream mesh changes.



And in these cases it’s hard to justify doing the whole rigging an animation part in Houdini if you have to switch softwares to fix a blendshape.

In my limited experience, Houdini is about as good(speak: bad) as Blender when it comes to character animation. But it's for the opposite reason.

In Blender, while it doesn't have Pose Space Deformer, I can quite easily make corrective shapekey, thank to its sculpt mode, but its rigging constraints are hard to understand. It's not node-based... hell it's not even a stack like modifiers. I can never figure out which constraints are resolved first.

In Houdini (KineFX), constraints are crystal clear. They resolve just like any other SOPs. The order is always unambiguous. But corrective shapes take forever to make, and you probably will end up with GoZ Import all over the place.

I guess people still use Maya for a reason...
Edited by raincole - April 10, 2022 12:34:50
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- For our team, the biggest obstacle is time: there’s barely enough of it to get shows out the door & maintain something resembling a work life balance even though we’re all remote. Trying to maintain skills/techniques in the software packages we already use is hard enough – learning new software (any at all) is even more challenging – especially when you want to get outside, enjoy your family, or get some sleep.

- Transitioning from the mindset of “Everything is an Object, and each object has an axis, a position, a rotation, a scale, some points, some polygons, etc” to “Everything is Points, and these points have attributes like position, normals, etc - and these points can be put into groups, and these groups of points can have an axis…” -- this is a HUGE paradigm shift for people to wrap their brains around, and it doesn’t always come intuitively.

- I'm seconding this: The language barrier (SOPS, POPS, DOPS, CHOPs, VOPS, SHOPs) is extremely intimidating and confusing - you can hear it in people’s voices as they say the words out loud. Sure, some people get it – and that’s great. But a lot of people don’t – like most of us they’re introverted artists who’d rather not say anything and just go back to what they’re comfortable with rather than say something. I’d strongly recommend removing all OPs from the app's naming conventions as soon as possible, as they don’t really add anything to the experience.

- Also seconding this: The lack of a universal falloff feature needs to be remedied ASAP. Every time I’ve had to explain to a brand new user how to setup falloffs manually without using MOPs ends in disaster; it's ridiculously complicated for a beginner. Users should be able to make falloffs as easily as they can in C4D, and every applicable node in H should have a ‘Falloff’ slot right next to Group. It would be incredibly helpful, and would be used in every scene.

- A continued effort needs to be made to simplify the basic day to day tasks an artist is used to performing in another package while maintaining functionality for those who need it. A lot of things of things that could be very simple are very complicated. Example: the Attribute Create Node. There’s so many toggles & switches & fields! It’s incredibly overwhelming for a new user who just wants to make a simple pscale slider. Most experienced users simply bypass this node altogether and make a wrangle with f@pscale=chf("pscale") to keep things clean.... which in turn leads teachers to show their students this line of VEX code instead of using what should be the very basic Attribute Create node - simply because that node is busy and complicated, further propagating the idea of "You need to learn code in order to do anything in Houdini"

- An enormous part of the Houdini marketing blitz (intentionally or not) is VFX & simulations, and so many users jump in expecting to get great results relatively quickly – or are encouraged by their employers to do so, without knowing any idea of the complexities of the underlying grammar of attributes & VEX that are so essential for making those simulations art directable and looking good. There needs to be a major push to educate non-houdini users (especially the employers who want to bring simulations into the pipeline) about what’s involved, and the sort of mundane skillsets that their artists will need to learn before they can start getting to “the cool stuff”. Sure, there’s always going to be a few wizards who start learning H and in short order are dreaming in VEX (we have one on our team) but these folks are the exception to the rule, not the norm. The rest of us are staring at our screens for hours trying to figure out why our solvers aren’t solving even though we’ve toggled all the toggles, hoping that someone responds to our forum post and finds what’s wrong with the setup, otherwise we’re just miserably stuck.

- Until everyone on our team can learn H, it will never move beyond a specialist tool for us. One of the greatest assets of C4D is that everyone knows how to use it. A deadline in just a few hours and someone comes down with the flu? Not a problem, virtually anyone else can jump right in on their scene files in a pinch & finish up. A past client wants to make a tiny amend to a project from two years ago? Our executive producer doesn’t need to bother anyone on the team; he can just open up the Cinema file himself over the weekend, make the small material tweak, submit it to the farm, insert the frames into the AE, export it, send it to the client on Monday, and it’s done. Universal tool knowledge allows for immense cooperation amongst the team, and that’s incredibly important for a creative company to thrive.

[Edited the following statement to clarify "...removing all OPs from the app's naming conventions as soon as possible..."]
Edited by Luke Letellier - April 11, 2022 16:47:15
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Luke Letellier
I’d strongly recommend removing all OPs from the app as soon as possible, as they don’t really add anything to the experience.

I wouldn't be a fan of that decision at all (and yes I am aware that I am the person who raised it as an issue here). So, while I do think it adds a barrier to new users, it is an extremely concise and handy shorthand to use within Houdini. I also like that it gives Houdini its own personality as opposed to any regular app out there. My vote is to keep it, but I'll leave it to the marketing gurus to figure out how to minimise its exposure to newer users.

Luke Letellier
The lack of a universal falloff feature needs to be remedied ASAP.
The recent Mask Along.../Mask From... nodes address this more than adequately. Again, there's very little exposure to them for some reason and people still defer to VOPs/VEX to set these up.

Luke Letellier
A lot of things of things that could be very simple are very complicated. Example: the Attribute Create Node. There’s so many toggles & switches & fields! It’s incredibly overwhelming for a new user who just wants to make a simple pscale slider.
I think the recent Attribute Adjust nodes do an excellent job at simplifying the initialisation of attributes, and since their introduction, SideFX have been constantly tweaking them to be more efficient and full-featured. Again though, they don't have much exposure, and so people still use relics like Attribute Create to initialise their attributes.
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I never heard of Attribute Adjust until now. Still seems suboptimal from a UX perspective. The "None" tooltip is the icing on the cake.

I agree with Luke's overall point, if a non-technical user wants to create an attribute then they should be able to use the well-named Attribute Create node and get the job done. There is just too much... stuff... in there now. It's way easier to use VEX, so that's a sign that the node UI isn't well put together.

Edited by BrianHanke - April 11, 2022 15:50:55

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No Brian,

What a lot of you need to remember, is that quite a few nodes in Houdini are very old, but still somewhat useful.
Attribute create is not as fast or flexible as some other options for example. Everything is VEX under the hood, and
the reason Houdini is able to do what it does is for 2 reasons. First is that it doesn't abstract anything away, and
the second is that because it doesn't, Artist's learning to use it also learn to think in that way.
That is where the power comes from, not just the tools, but how the tools shape the users thinking.

You can submit requests for features, but pretty much every example listed in this chat can be wrapped up into an otl
and it's there for you forever. That is kinda the point of houdini, that you can abstract things if you want, and it requires
no coding at all to present less experienced users with a nice tool to use.

Regarding the contexts, I never had a problem with it, but that is because I stumbled across a great post by Jeff W, that should
pretty much be in the first page of the official Docs.

In essence, a Hip file is just a archive of folders, with text files describing nodes, their settings, etc. What you see in houdini is the archive unzipped into something you can interact with. You can literally unzip a hip file on disk and it will turn into a bunch of folders with text files. Guess what those folders are? The contexts.
No different than you organising your music, pics, videos, etc into folders on your PC.
The thing about the contexts, is that they act as simple folder/file management, but also filter out all nodes that aren't able to work on the data/context you are in.

I'm not defending it, coming from Max and Maya to Houdini was a very hard slog, but I don't think anyone suggested for a second that the app wasn't the most difficult to learn. When things are that difficult, you need to consult the Manual, not go stabbing around in the dark hoping to "get it."

My advice for sidefx, is to include a version of Jeff's response to "how houdini works?" Which is on odforce.
I wish I had read something like this when I started out.

How does Houdini work! [forums.odforce.net]


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What a lot of you need to remember, is that quite a few nodes in Houdini are very old, but still somewhat useful.
Attribute create is not as fast or flexible as some other options for example. Everything is VEX under the hood, and
the reason Houdini is able to do what it does is for 2 reasons. First is that it doesn't abstract anything away, and
the second is that because it doesn't, Artist's learning to use it also learn to think in that way.
That is where the power comes from, not just the tools, but how the tools shape the users thinking.

Agreed. Houdini definitely has a paradigm of its own that requires the artist's mind to change, and it's this hurdle that's often the least appreciated & understood; its the baseline grammar of the language.

My thoughts above were really in response to the general question of "Why hasn't your team adopted Houdini more?" Trying to make the app friendly for all artists in all scenarios is Mission Impossible, and will probably result in the loss of your core group. But you also don't want to stagnate your growth. I don't envy being in that place.
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Totally Luke.

I think honestly, that post from Jeff, if you take the time to read and conceptualize it, gives you such a leg up into understanding how/why houdini does what it does. Can't recommend it enough.

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I never heard of Attribute Adjust until now. Still seems suboptimal from a UX perspective. The "None" tooltip is the icing on the cake.
I think the UX is about as streamlined as it can get. In your example for Attribute Adjust Color, you drop down the node, the attribute is correctly named (Cd), set to the correct type (vector), initialised to the most commonly used geometry type for that attribute (points), and is set up so that all you have to do is click a colour picker to change the value. From a UX perspective, I think that that's very well set up.

For Luke's example - an Attribute Adjust Float defaults to pscale, so just drop it down and you can immediately drag a slider to set it.

I'd like to hear your thoughts on how the process could be made even easier.

The UI is definitely busy to look at, but again I think it does a good job of keeping only the essentials up there before you can actually set the value, and all the finer controls (of which there are a ton) are hidden.

As for the "None" tooltip, I guess that goes into a bug report, which I'll do now.
Edited by eikonoklastes - April 12, 2022 00:40:03
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The recent Mask Along.../Mask From... nodes address this more than adequately.

Could you elaborate it a bit? Which nodes are we talking about? Google only gives me Mask by Feature SOP.
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I'd like to hear your thoughts on how the process could be made even easier.

The UI is definitely busy to look at

I see your point, and now that I dig a bit more I agree it's a big improvement over Attribute Create.

I think the "busy to look at" part is the core problem for non-technical users, and it goes for most of Houdini. Maya, C4D, even ZBrush (which is really saying something) do a pretty good job at surfacing only the most commonly-used basic tasks and (slightly) burying everything else. I'd say you could safely toss at least half of the Attribute Adjust parameters into an "Advanced" tab and that would already feel a lot better. I've done that myself with many nodes. I have custom UIs for a ton of a stuff, especially in Solaris: materials, ramps, Karma render settings, etc.

It's amazing that Houdini is so customizable, but it shouldn't be the job of the artist to essentially design the software's UI before they can start working efficiently. I'm not an expert on this topic, but I think if SideFX hired a UI/UX expert to apply some of the science of interface development it would result in some great improvements.
Edited by BrianHanke - April 12, 2022 09:59:24
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Considering that the most common way to set a 'simple' attribute is with a wrangle, I would say the only aspects you really need exposed initially would be the class, type, name, and value. Maybe some smart coding in the background to change the value field based on the type chosen by the user. The rest can be in an advanced tab.

So, while I do think it adds a barrier to new users, it is an extremely concise and handy shorthand to use within Houdini. I also like that it gives Houdini its own personality as opposed to any regular app out there.

I hear where you're coming from; I like the idea of Houdini having it's own flavor as well. But its also important that we don't become 'the old boys club' and intentionally keep it difficult for new users to join just because it was difficult for us to join. How we keep the balance between the two is thankfully not my full time job.
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I know Solaris is trying to solve some of Houdini's limitations in those ways, but I haven't spent the time to learn it.
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Price! Inside our small Studio I use Houdini Core. I would love to use FX for some projects, but FX is way to expensive. So at least in the Studio Situation I´m never be able to wield the full power of Houdini.

Combine Core and FX and make an attractive price with easy flexible licensing. (Currently it reminds me of Maya Unlimited back in the days or Windows Vista)
Edited by CV - April 21, 2022 05:34:36
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