H20 - SideFX still doesn't get it imho - re artists...

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Many posts from me about H20 today. My apologies. This will be my last one for today :-)

I've spent about 20 hrs playing around with H20 in the last two days, going through the example content etc.

And while this is an amazing release with more new features than I've seen other 3d software put in 5 years combined, I still think that SideFX does not get it when it comes to artists.

The thing is that not everyone wants to be a TD or a developer when using Houdini. Some people just want to create. Not everyone wants to worry about data flows, some people just want to make, for example, clouds.

Speaking of - they look amazing in demos but let me use this as an example of not artist friendly.

Imagine you're an artist and you get extremely excited about the new clouds. You go and download the Billowy Cloud Generator example from the content library. Amazing... You feel excited! Now you open the scene and right away have a wtf moment. Unless you're a seasoned Houdini user - you have no idea, what's going on in that scene. Even if you are a seasoned Houdini user - you likely still won't have any idea. Unless you're a technical nerd, you will want to close it, run, and never come back. And this is still a simple scene If you open the eagle feathers scene (btw the feather renders and speed and the whole eagle ar just stunningly beautiful and fast) that's like what...? Five hundred nodes? lol

This type of approach does not feel like it's with artists in mind. Going back to the billowy cloud generator - nothing in that scene is artist friendly. Why not encapsulate some of these functionalities in some middle layer nodes? Why not build it in a way that when normal artist inclined humanoids look at that - they will just 'get it'.

It's like seeing an advertisement for ordering a cake. You go ahead and order one.

But instead of getting the cake, you get a letter saying, 'here are all the ingredients to make your cake ingredients'. Here are all the chemicals - you can make your own sugar! Isn't it great? And here's some wheat and a grinder and bleach so you can even make your own flour. Isn't it fantastic? No... it's not. Not to mention that sometimes the grinder doesn't work, and you have no idea why...

The problem is that many people just want to get a cake for their kids' birthday. They don't even want to bake it and they definitely do not want to be chemists first.

And I get this feeling with every release of Houdini. It's not getting simpler (other than the dynamics moving to SOPs).

I love the software and the people that make it are geniuses, but with every release it feels like it's becoming less and less of an artist's tool. Every year when I look at something like the cloud example if feels like a seasoned TD with years of experience in Houdini created an example that 99% of artists will never understand.

There's a balance between flexibility and usability and complexity. It's an art. It takes time to think through. And it still doesn't feel like SideFX is striking that balance with Houdini.

The only exception, I'll say one of the few areas in years that I feel like it's been designed with artist in mind - is the new animation context! While there's still a ton of work to do there to bring many standard and expected tools, it's amazing! It's refreshing. You feel like an artist! You feel like you can create. You're not looking at vex code, hundreds of nodes, you don't worry about data flows. You don't have to worry about the chemicals. You can bake! The ingredients are simple, they're made for you not for chemists. I really hope that SideFX realizes the importance of providing foundational flexibility but in a way that doesn't scare the sh*t out of artists.

One more example - so in Solaris, you drag and drop AMD material, right? Great! As an artist you'd like to edit it, right? Like frequency of repeats of the texture... You would think that some as basic as that should be artist friendly, right? Nope... Sometimes I look at this and think how much greater this software could be if there was a level of 'nope, you can't release this unless it passes some basic UX / Artists litmus tests'.

Cheers
Edited by LukeP - Nov. 11, 2023 14:59:37
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Well it doesn't sound like Houdini is the software for you then, which is fine. The reasons you complain about houdini are the same reasons the artists who use Houdini, use Houdini. And many, many artists have been using Houdini successfully for many years. You don't have to be a "techical nerd" - as you put it - to use Houdini. If you open any DCC without any prior knowledge you're gonna feel lost, CG is just an inherently complex field with complex softwares.

As someone who starting working primarily in Maya and was constantly limited by high-level, blackboxed tools, discovering Houdini was an absolute godsend. Sure it was a tough transition and I had to learn some code-y things, and what a vector was, and new workflows or whatever but it's an amazing feeling knowing that as long as I can come up with a way of doing something, in can be done in Houdini. I also find it rewarding to learn new things, to feel challenged, and the actual process of creating something. Otherwise I'd just use Midjourney as it can produce better artwork than I will ever be capable of nearly instantly.

I'm not sure of your prior CG experience or if you currently work in the industry professionally, but I opened the cloud example you speak of and if that gave you a "WTF" moment then I don't know what to tell you other than to spend some more time learning the fundamentals of Houdini. You can very easily move the display flag from node to node to see exactly the effect each node has and play with the parameters, you can even open the documentation for each node to learn more. This example is extremely simple and took me less than 5 minutes to understand what's going on. There's only like 5 unique cloud nodes and the rest are just basic Houdini/VDB nodes. And it's fine if you don't understand right off the hop, but it should motivate you to try and learn something new instead of throwing your hands up in the air and blaming the devs for "not getting it". Sounds like you're the one not getting it.

But I'd say it's worth not giving up, there's plently of learning material online, the docs are generally quite good, as well as this forum. Next time post a question instead of a complaint. Better bang for your buck

Cheers
Edited by freshbaked - Nov. 11, 2023 18:14:29
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No worries. Totally understand a different perspective on it. Not everyone will agree with what I said that’s for sure.

Appreciate your opinion on this.
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hello, i actually have video playlist on the topic of making your clouds with VOPs: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLwiP9Y2SCvQgsHI9YZwdQ4etxIM7HOb8I [www.youtube.com]
you will need first two vids to understand the thinking behind the approach. It is an introductory one, but will help you understand how the H20 examples are made - which are pretty great btw.
the node structure from example actually does what it says - you will need to feed your initial geometry at the top, and it will go do its thing and generate clouds out of it. anyway, good luck with the learning
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I feel you on this, Houdini can be quite technical, it took me a couple of trials to wrap my head around it, still not completely there TBH, but I am working on it.

That's the problem with low level applications like Houdini where you have fine control over everything, all that power comes at the price of complexity, my guess is that it's not that easy to overcome the 20+ years when Houdini was mostly aimed at TD's.

But I think that they made serious efforts in the last couple of releases to make it more artists friendly, some of the new tools are rather simple to use IMHO, I think that they are aiming at making Houdini as artist friendly as possible while still maintaining the level of control that makes Houdini such a power house!
Edited by GCharb - Nov. 11, 2023 21:26:23
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I feel you on this, Houdini can be quite technical, it took me a couple of trials to wrap my head around it, still not completely there TBH, but I am working on it.

That's the problem with low level applications like Houdini where you have fine control over everything, all that power comes at the price of complexity, my guess is that it's not that easy to overcome the 20+ years when Houdini was mostly aimed at TD's.

But I think that they made serious efforts in the last couple of releases to make it more artists friendly, some of the new tools are rather simple to use IMHO, I think that they are aiming at making Houdini as artist friendly as possible while still maintaining the level of control that makes Houdini such a power house!

That level of control is precisely why I use it as an artist. Learning it was a bit of a grind for me after decades of linear DCC. But, the learning was less about how to use the software and more about how to wrap my head around setting up my own networks and controls to be as expressive as possible as a more simulated art studio.

Any older fine artist I show Houdini falls completely in love with the potential to iterate. Many less experienced artists I show it too doesn't quite "get it" for anything that isn't a quick button explosion. Either from lack of general artistic experience or wanting to do the least amount of learning as possible in order to make some quick eye candy.

I think people discount or aren't aware that there are many fine artists out there that are used to making their own charcoal, stretching their own canvases and even collecting/processing their own pigments. They actively will seek out and do whatever it takes to get them to their intended vision.

Low level working environments give them life fuel, digitally or traditionally.

I can't touch Maya or similar anymore. I hate being beholden to their idea of how and the order in which I should do something.

The only reason I didn't jump into Houdini earlier was the community's preoccupation with VFX and explosions had me writing it off as a serious creative outlet. Once I stumbled on the modeling work people were pulling off (shout out to Anastasia Opara) and the tools they were able to make for themselves I was sold on the potential, difficulty or UI be damned, I didn't care.

IMHO Houdini is EXTREMELY artist friendly. The tutorials are not and the example scenes in general are not. But it only take a single good hook to get us 100% on board. But, that hook is going to be different for everyone. I do wish people would stop assuming we want everything handed to us and done for us. At a certain point all they want is to have as much or as little control as they please in a workspace they can design for themselves with the closest hand to hold being as far away as possible.

Digital commercial artists are a different story... :P
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i suppose one should learn blender and geometry nodes because its pure artistic ?
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The thing is that not everyone wants to be a TD or a developer when using Houdini. Some people just want to create. Not everyone wants to worry about data flows, some people just want to make, for example, clouds.

I'm just wondering. And how do you imagine an even simpler way to create clouds? Like painting clouds with a brush in a viewport?

And it seemed to me from your post that you somewhat underestimate all artists by saying that they only need black boxes to do their work. That's just your take on the issue, but it seems like you shouldn't speak for everyone.
I just noticed that we artists are happy that now we have such a tool to revise the cloud creation pipeline and make it even more convenient.
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d3dworld
i suppose one should learn blender and geometry nodes because its pure artistic ?

I suppose you're being sarcastic, but Houdini actually has much better "artistic ergonomics" than Blender's geometry nodes. (Mostly due to Python states)
Edited by kodra - Nov. 12, 2023 12:21:56
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I'm just wondering. And how do you imagine an even simpler way to create clouds? Like painting clouds with a brush in a viewport?
ironically, it's surprisingly easy to setup as well
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“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”.

I've read threads over the last few days that might be summarised as:

The artist end of the spectrum: H20 is too **** complex, we need simpler and more artist friendly tools!
The VFX TD end of the spectrum: What's in H20 for us? We need more VFX control and power!

It must be tough being a developer : )
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One thing that I think could be done, that would help those at the more 'artist' end of the spectrum would be the creation of some complementary examples in the content library - perhaps marked 'simple example'.

The 'lol bubbles' and 'billowy cloud generator' are perhaps two good cases.

Bubbles: 5 to 10 bubbles, perhaps with an animated clip SOP so the viewer can see and understand the geometry structure.
No textures, no background cove, no lights - just plain geometry and sticky notes.

Simple billowy cloud: just one cloud. The network runs through the basic geometry, volume and noise nodes with notes. Again no textures, lights etc, just visualised VDB.

These would probably take no more than 5 mins each to set up. Opening a project with significant network complexity or one requiring multiple cache rebuilds isn't friendly to a new or more artistically oriented user.
Edited by Mike_A - Nov. 12, 2023 20:00:29
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One thing that I think could be done, that would help those at the more 'artist' end of the spectrum would be the creation of some complementary examples in the content library - perhaps marked 'simple example'.

The 'lol bubbles' and 'billowy cloud generator' are perhaps two good cases.

Bubbles: 5 to 10 bubbles, perhaps with an animated clip SOP so the viewer can see and understand the geometry structure.
No textures, no background cove, no lights - just plain geometry and sticky notes.

Simple billowy cloud: just one cloud. The network runs through the basic geometry, volume and noise nodes with notes. Again no textures, lights etc, just visualised VDB.

These would probably take no more tan 5 mins each to set up. Opening a project with significant network complexity or one requiring multiple cache rebuilds isn't friendly to a new or more artistically oriented user.

Yeah, 100% this. I find these example files are made with a "demo" mindset. They look good on H20 Keynote, but overwhelming for someone who's not already familiar with the concept.
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if nothing else, this discussion gives me some ideas for next YT videos/tutorials 🎇
Edited by osong - Nov. 12, 2023 19:50:17
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Bubbles: 5 to 10 bubbles, perhaps with an animated clip SOP so the viewer can see and understand the geometry structure.
No textures, no background cove, no lights - just plain geometry and sticky notes.

Simple billowy cloud: just one cloud. The network runs through the basic geometry, volume and noise nodes with notes. Again no textures, lights etc, just visualised VDB.

These would probably take no more tan 5 mins each to set up. Opening a project with significant network complexity or one requiring multiple cache rebuilds isn't friendly to a new or more artistically oriented user.

The simple cases should be done in the docs that are shipped with Houdini. If they don't exist, then please log bugs for that. The content library examples are often to satisfy the people that ask how to do the stuff that they see in the launch demos.
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Mike_A
Bubbles: 5 to 10 bubbles, perhaps with an animated clip SOP so the viewer can see and understand the geometry structure.
No textures, no background cove, no lights - just plain geometry and sticky notes.

Simple billowy cloud: just one cloud. The network runs through the basic geometry, volume and noise nodes with notes. Again no textures, lights etc, just visualised VDB.

These would probably take no more tan 5 mins each to set up. Opening a project with significant network complexity or one requiring multiple cache rebuilds isn't friendly to a new or more artistically oriented user.

The simple cases should be done in the docs that are shipped with Houdini. If they don't exist, then please log bugs for that. The content library examples are often to satisfy the people that ask how to do the stuff that they see in the launch demos.

Oh, yeah, this is a good point. Some Houdini nodes have good examples with them, but some have zero.

I'm sure sure if we're supposed to log bugs for these tho. For sure SideFX already knows which nodes don't have examples? If they want I'm sure an internal 5-line python script can list them all.
Edited by raincole - Nov. 12, 2023 21:45:54
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One thing that I think could be done, that would help those at the more 'artist' end of the spectrum would be the creation of some complementary examples in the content library - perhaps marked 'simple example'.

The bubbles thing is just a rememsher on pscale. You can easily make a simple 2-3 node particle system and put the remesher at the end to see what it does. Does this really need a dedicated example ?

Same with clouds, the docs have extensive info on what the nodes are, how to use them, examples of what various params do and step-by-step instructions on how to do simple setups. What more would you get with a 'simple' example scene ?

Maybe I'm just not getting the issue here.
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d3dworld
i suppose one should learn blender and geometry nodes because its pure artistic ?

I suppose you're being sarcastic, but Houdini actually has much better "artistic ergonomics" than Blender's geometry nodes. (Mostly due to Python states)
good morning , no i,m not i was just asking that,s all.
you guys are the houdini pros you know better.
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I agree that computer graphics is hard - and by extension houdini - ultimately being good at anything requires both thinking and effort; a different paradigm to using AI.

Houdini will certainly benefit from further development, however Houdini's core power is allowing artists to manipulate numbers to create art; and that involves thinking and problem solving - which isn’t easy.
Edited by Neil78 - Nov. 13, 2023 03:27:01
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hopefully the devs will say that houdini is really artist friendly
in this topic.
Edited by d3dworld - Nov. 13, 2023 10:38:36
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