What holds yourself/studio from adopting Houdini more?

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I think the question really should be "How is Houdini being used in a studio and who is using it". If you look at many of the Houdini related job postings, they always seem to ask for TD skills...computer science and math backgrounds. No offense but it seems like nerd first animator second. So if you have this great tool that a "genius" can wire up in the pipeline to do all the fancy stuff and have all the boring grunty animation work get done in Maya, there won't be a huge demand to expand the number of Houdini seats. And the people they hire to use Houdini will just feed the same beast.
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Death by a thousand paper cuts:

1. There is no work flow. You spend too much time jumping around. I can traverse up and down a Nuke tree for hours without having to stop and think about where a node or parameter is. I change a thing, I see the result and keep going. This also makes it easy to hand another artist a Nuke script without much explanation - they just read down the tree. Houdini scripts are usually spread out over too many levels and contexts to make them easy to share and understand. Solaris, Vellum and sparse pyro are going in the right direction but let's do it everywhere.

2. HDAs are overkill. I would much rather have Nuke's Toolsets so I can save groups of nodes without going into build-a-tool world, i.e., make it easy to save and reuse node chains, like when you put down a Component Builder node set. That nifty pscale trick Simon did in the Titan cables video? Make it trivial to to grab, reuse and share that set-up.

3. Axe the OP. I personally hate the OP vernacular. /mat and /stage tell me something rather than being random acroynms my brain has to stop and decipher. Again, the paper cuts. It feels related to that whole thing where people talk about Prisms once in awhile. It's a blast from the past but really, it isn't helpful, especially when you start explaining things to newbies. And LOPS / Solaris / USD / stage / is...I don't know, something.

4. The help docs. The help docs have long felt like they were written at a command line prompt. No judgment but for VEX you get this kind of thing: <type> attrib(<geometry>geometry, string attribclass, string name, int elemnum) which is cludgy at best. Rarely did you get a real world example, e.g., pos = point("defgeo.bgeo", "P", 3) which is all you really wanted. They're getting better and now I see screen grabs for node trees occasionally (e.g., crowds). I remember when they added them for ForEach loops and I was blown away. Too often though, its just "this sets up this attribute," without real help as to what it does in the context of that node. I know a bunch of old school users will bang away at how great the docs are but it feels people without a CS background often aren't well-served by the docs. CGWiki, PixelFondue, Entagma fill in the gaps but that they are so necessary to understanding Houdini is also telling.

5. Who's on First. I second the AttributeCreate example someone posted above. I would add the nontrivial time it takes to sort out how to get an attibute from one place, e.g. a VEX wrangle, to another, a parameter in a node can get confusing as all hell. Also what you can feed into a parameter (e.g., expression, VEX, pattern-matching, etc) can trip you up. It feels like moving attibutes around could be much cleaner but I'm sure there are very good reasons it is not. I know we're in experienced user territory now but looking back at the time it took to learn it, it feels like it didn't need to be that hard.

These are some of the things that have made Houdini a stuggle for me to use and advocate for it. It's a great DCC but this is the first year in 10 I've seriously considered not reupping my license. It's powerful but pretty unique and with so many really great and very accessible tools (Unreal, Axiom, Blender, Nomad, etc) it feels like the time to final frame is pretty high.

For background, I've used Houdini since v.11, mostly for effects on indie films. I started in 3D with Shake, then Nuke, then Houdini so I can't compare to Maya or 3DSMax. My core s/w is Houdini, Nuke, Substance and Nomad on a Mac (a whole ∆ painful topic).

Thanks for the chance to add the feedback.

TL/DR: Houdini's ratio of Productive Work to Why Isn't It Working? is very low because Houdini lacks a cohesive UX.
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I think houdini is mainly used by td or pipeline person. If you want to increase seats you should polish some artist tools that used by most common user.
Houdini do not lack tools but lack polishment.

PS.the weakness aspect of Houdini is just the strongest in C4D or Blender. So you could simply use and feel them as a new user, then you can get the feeling of artist tools.
Edited by jerry7 - April 21, 2022 18:52:10
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Kevin,

You can do all your work in one level inside SOPs. There is nothing stopping you, that is how most Artist's
work with it. The shelf tools splitting things into all manner of separate containers is just how they are setup.
You can work entirely in one level, see all your references, the flow of the network, everything.
Again, there is nothing but you deciding how you want to go about structuring your scene.


L
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2. HDAs are overkill. I would much rather have Nuke's Toolsets so I can save groups of nodes without going into build-a-tool world, i.e., make it easy to save and reuse node chains, like when you put down a Component Builder node set. That nifty pscale trick Simon did in the Titan cables video? Make it trivial to to grab, reuse and share that set-up.

You could just grab the nodes to a shelf.
ikoon
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I like Houdini as it is (including the way SideFX is evolving it and here I would like to thank!).

I think that a broader library of curated help examples and "production" templates might help. I know it is very hard to create and maintain such library. I know it is controversial to promise "fruit without struggle". But even people who spent years in fair and honest sop&dop struggle can be lost in KineFX or LOPs land, or in any new context, or solver or amazing new tool. And time is so scarse.

It might be enough to extend the Content Library, promote the help files, add nice and clear animated previews. Add images of the network for the experienced users ... they might see if this is the right file without opening it. Also, aren't many of the help files obsolete?


Broader "production help files" might include:
  • common simulations (different scales, conditions, also "creative", something you might see in commercial)
  • motion graphics (to "magicaly" reveal a text, or a logo, or geo, something you see on the instagram)
  • other examples (create nice terrain with a bridge, procedural house, add secondary motion to your animated character, ...)
  • library of materials (also "fancy" mograph, procedural)
  • library of nice studio lighting?

Then, in Houdini, for the beginners... you might have a "step by step" guide, which will create ROPs, to render with AOVs, or export to unreal, or other sw? Is it possible to set up a small farm with a "step by step" guide?
Edited by ikoon - April 22, 2022 03:53:46
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lewis_T
You can do all your work in one level inside SOPs.
Lewis, Nor sure I follow you. For example, if I build a crowd agent in SOPs, I then have to put down a DopNet, dive inside and start building the crowdsolver network. It's this diving in and jumping up I wish Houdini didn't have. I want to build it all on one flat level.
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raincole
2. HDAs are overkill. I would much rather have Nuke's Toolsets so I can save groups of nodes without going into build-a-tool world, i.e., make it easy to save and reuse node chains, like when you put down a Component Builder node set. That nifty pscale trick Simon did in the Titan cables video? Make it trivial to to grab, reuse and share that set-up.

You could just grab the nodes to a shelf.
I've known you could do that for a million years and it never occurred to me to do it. Thanks!
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eikonoklastes
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.
This is a really important point. Although I've watched the videos about the new features I can't remember these nodes at all. I probably forgot about them between seeing the teaser videos and actually using H19.

That's true for many, many things. For example, it's only been about a year since I discovered the amazing Match Size node, which I use all the time now. But I see many instructors still putting down Tranform nodes and typing in the old $CEX, $CEY, $CEZ when the Match Size node would instantly give them the same result.

The same with modeling. It would appear to me that this area has had tons of improvements, but there is zero learning material out there discussing it in-depth. I recently found this guy, and when I saw him model in Houdini I was absolutely blown away (check e.g. here at minute 2:20)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bse3aqnFowQ&t=140s [www.youtube.com]

I had absolutely no idea how much you can do directly within the viewport and how quickly you can perform modeling steps.
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Digipiction
The same with modeling. It would appear to me that this area has had tons of improvements, but there is zero learning material out there discussing it in-depth. I recently found this guy, and when I saw him model in Houdini I was absolutely blown away (check e.g. here at minute 2:20)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bse3aqnFowQ&t=140s [www.youtube.com]

I had absolutely no idea how much you can do directly within the viewport and how quickly you can perform modeling steps.

Thanks for the kind words. I spent tons of time exploring modeling workflows within Houdini and there is definitely potential for hard surface modeling, not much effort SideFX would have to make it a super solid solution for modeling.

The Big 3 for me would be...

1. Find a better solution for selecting geometry and flagging nodes when working with more than one node stream in one Geo Container. For switching between Geo Containers, I would be happy with the ZBrush solution with ALT+LMB on the ghosted object.
2. Symmetrical Selection as part of the Selection Tool
3. Improve consistency issues with existing tools and improve the existing tools as much as possible.

4. BONUS: Find more intuitive ways to use modeling tools e.g. more intuitive PolySplit tool and Edge Loop tool...

Now potential is there, but the bigger problem is that people have the impression Houdini cant do it and that is sucks, so they don't use it, which ends up with little effort on the molding side to improve things.

For everything else, I pretty much agree with most people's comments. For UI change I will bet we get something with H20. Its a nice round number to announce a bigger change and a new era of Houdini!!

P.S. - Please can we get shorcut for Starting and Pausing Karma on Solaris?!
Edited by SIgor420 - April 23, 2022 16:37:11
QA Specialist | 3D Artist | Core4D Community Manager | https://twitter.com/ISeveric [twitter.com] | https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x78cuYgegHc [www.youtube.com]
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Digipiction
Mask Along.../Mask From...

Sorry, but what are these amazing features everyone seems to know of? Google "Mask Along Houdini" doesn't give the answre.
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raincole
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Mask Along.../Mask From...

Sorry, but what are these amazing features everyone seems to know of? Google "Mask Along Houdini" doesn't give the answre.
I can see why Houdini gets a bad rap sometimes, even when it's entirely not it's fault.

SideFX put out the tools, mentioned them in the release notes and people ignored them.

In here, after explicitly mentioning the tool names, people can't find them on their own, even though pretty much everyone knows that the Tab menu has the best search function out there.

Definitely feel for the devs.
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kevinthebright
Lewis, Nor sure I follow you. For example, if I build a crowd agent in SOPs, I then have to put down a DopNet, dive inside and start building the crowdsolver network. It's this diving in and jumping up I wish Houdini didn't have. I want to build it all on one flat level.


I was referring to jumping in and out of multiple obj level containers.
I really don't follow your aversion to even having everything in SOPs, with dopnets inside it.
SOP = surface operators, geometric changes. DOPs are required to be temporally aware of values, you need this separation.
Wanting to somehow have geometric editing exist in the same level as simulation shows a lack of understanding how the
application is structured, and why.

You can simply build that dopnet setup how you like, save as an hda, and never need to dive in, you can simply allow inputs
and parameters to be on the top level. This is part of the whole thing that sets houdini apart. It is NOT a 3D application, it
is a 3D operating system. A lot of SOP level solver wrappers now exist so you can work exactly how you want to, and if they
don't, there's nothing stopping you from wrapping them up yourself. Being able to wrap them up with zero programming experience
is a very powerful feature that you cannot do in other applications.



L
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What might be confusing people is that those sops are actually called Distance Along/From. Mask Along/From is the exact same sop but renamed and with the mask option toggled on. (See screenshot)

Both show up in Houdini's tab search but searching the internet will probably just show Distance Along/From because that's the actual sop name.

If I remember correctly (probably not) the Distance Along/From was introduced as a replacement for Falloff in around H18.
I think Mask Along/From was added more recently as a shortcut for the mask toggled on. (I'm not sure why as it seems a bit overkill to me)

Attachments:
Dist_Along.jpg (66.1 KB)

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lewis_T
I really don't follow your aversion to even having everything in SOPs, with dopnets inside it.

Right, just my preference and the first thing that popped to mind in answering the question. For me, the Vellum Solver, the pyro sparse solver, are a great step in that direction. And for sure, there are many things about Houdini I wish I had time to learn. Super fun app.
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for me is symmetrical selection and being able to edit multiple objects at the same time.
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eikonoklastes
That's true for many, many things. For example, it's only been about a year since I discovered the amazing Match Size node, which I use all the time now. But I see many instructors still putting down Tranform nodes and typing in the old $CEX, $CEY, $CEZ when the Match Size node would instantly give them the same result.
Houdini has a usability problem. If a user needs to snap an object to the floor, a super common task, what would possess them to search for the Match Size node?

I've been using Houdini for years and it still drives me nuts each time I type Plane in the node search box while the app is adamant it is a Grid.
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Houdini has an image problem, the irony is that 2 talks from FMX2022 and OFFF2022 literally promote the "bad" side of it. Look no further:

Accepting The Pain |
Getting a Motion Designer to use Houdini

https://www.sidefx.com/houdini-hive/offf-2022/#entagma [www.sidefx.com]

if that is not bad enough, how about this title:

Houdini is only Stupid if You Are
https://www.sidefx.com/houdini-hive/fmx-2022/#stupid [www.sidefx.com]

This bullshit elitism helps no one. I myself have been teaching Houdini, but never it came to me that questioning people's intelligence is a great idea and a nice ice-breaker.
Seriously.
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osong
Houdini has an image problem, the irony is that 2 talks from FMX2022 and OFFF2022 literally promote the "bad" side of it. Look no further:

Ha, this is amazing. I get the humor/irony and it's definitely amusing. It's funny because it's true... Buuuuut, you'd never see that from ZBrush (the crown prince of painful UI) or C4D or Maya. Just bad marketing.

- This message brought to you by Bruised Thumb Hammers: "It only hurts the first couple of times!"
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zb has good UX, when you actually start to use it and appreciate the ease of scrolling/collapsing of palletes, etc. mouse=bad, pen=good. also that is besides the point
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