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TOTAL DURATION: 1h 15m 44s

Welcome to Houdini. In this lesson you will start from scratch to model, render, animate, and simulate a soccer ball, also known as a football in many parts of the world. You will create a classic bouncing ball animation using the principles of squash and stretch, apply textures and materials, add lights and cameras, and explore the use of dynamics to simulate a group of soccer balls.

These tasks will introduce you to many different parts of Houdini as you create your first Houdini scene, explore the interface and discover some of its most important tools. You will learn how to work interactively in the Scene View and how to use the Network View to manage your nodes as you refine your model and build your animation rig. You will also set up materials and textures on the Solaris Stage then you will render using Houdini’s built-in renderer Karma, and finally create a Rigid Body Simulation.

Houdini Foundations for Houdini 19.5 is now available as Downloadable PDF and a Print-on-Demand book through the Lulu Ebook company. This 224 page book contains 9 chapters designed to help artists take their first steps into Houdini.



Robert Magee is a Senior Product Marketing Manager at SideFX who has been working with Houdini for 20 years. He has created lots of learning material and demos designed to help artists understand how going procedural with Houdini can benefit their work.

More from Robert Magee


  • ozzy561 1 year, 4 months ago  | 

    Just started learning Houdini. Fantastic tutorials Robert, thank you.

  • Mike_A 1 year, 2 months ago  | 

    How would you adjust the animation of the soccer ball while viewing the scene from the camera created in Solaris?

    • rmagee 1 year, 2 months ago  | 

      If you want to keep a close camera/animation relationship then I would have set up the camera at the object level then used Scene Import to get that camera into LOPS. Then you can go back to the object level and animate knowing that the camera will be the same in LOPS - You could also use a Scene Import to bring in the animated soccerball but then you would need a cache lop to get motion blur.

    • rmagee 1 year, 2 months ago  | 

      There is also a LOP import Camera node at the object level where you can take the camera from the stage back to the object level. That wouldn't work in this case though because the bouncing ball was rotated after the USD file was imported into LOPS - you could apply those transforms to the object and then you would have the camera properly aligned with the bouncing ball for tweaking.

  • MarkHawk 1 year, 2 months ago  | 

    On Lesson 09, around 0:55, we export the animation using the USD Export node. When I export it, mine never exports as .usd. Instead, it exports as .usdnc. (extensions, naming, and save location match yours.) When I get to about the 02:39 of lesson 09, I can't import the .usd animation. It can't see the file. When I try and force it or change the extension to .usd, it gives me a flag error. When I try and bring in the .usdnc it flags an error. Both errors say, "Unable to find layer file: Animate (then my path) " I'm using the Houdini Apprentice Non-Commercial 19.5.368. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

    • nogoodgofer 1 year, 1 month ago  | 

      I looked the extension up, and .usdnc is the non-commercial version (it can't be opened by software other than Houdini). I was able to make the file visible by clicking in the bottom right of the import window (it lists extensions) and switching it to the *.

  • MarkHawk 1 year, 2 months ago  | 

    Reached out to another Houdini artist, who explained It's because I am using the non-commercial Houdini. NC = non com. Just like all my scene files are .hipnc.

    • MarkHawk 1 year, 2 months ago  | 

      Bought the indie version and restarted the project. I was able to export a .USD and reimport it to finish lesson 9. Not ideal but I can at least continue moving forward.

      • nogoodgofer 1 year, 1 month ago  | 

        At least you have the pro version, this is cool. To get .usdnc file visibility you switch the readable files (lower right corner in the import window) to the *.

  • SpeLL 1 year, 2 months ago  | 

    Robert, thank you so much for a great tutorials.
    For a beginner it was very useful and interesting.
    In the last episode, we created a simulation in object context, and the backdrop was previously created in Solaris so that it can be reused in several shots.
    So the question is how to reconfigure the scene so that when rendering the simulation in Solaris, the balls do not penetrate through the backdrop?

  • thracekelsick 1 year ago  | 

    Thanks for this tutorial Robert! I'm fairly new to Houdini, (coming from Maya), and this was helpful. I will say it would have been great if project management had been addressed more at the beginning tho. I had to lookup a separate video to try and understand the $HIP & $JOB environment variables, and how to use them

  • Smedina2 1 year ago  | 

    Hi really like the tutorials. I am learning about Houdini, but the soccer ball's UVs did not want to show or download in the parameter panel. What can I do? Thank you

    • rmagee 9 months ago  | 

      Post to the Learning Materials forum - include hip file and screen grab.

  • Ritika_jn 11 months, 1 week ago  | 

    When we export USD, I am getting a .usdnc file instead of the normal .usd file. Why's that ?
    And how can I resolve it?

    • marcusjungerstam 9 months ago  | 

      It's just the non commercial version. You have to get Houdini Indie to get "normal" usd.

  • BunglebeetTV 9 months, 2 weeks ago  | 

    My ball looks way to smooth. Any advice???

    • rmagee 9 months ago  | 

      Hard to tell without seeing your scene. Post to the Learning Materials forum. Show and image and maybe post the hip file.

  • marcusjungerstam 9 months ago  | 

    I'm pretty new to Houdini and this turorial is really great to get up and running. I learned alot! Thanks Robert.

    • rmagee 9 months ago  | 

      Glad that it is helping!

  • JoeRan 8 months, 4 weeks ago  | 

    Thank you for your commitment to making free study materials available!
    It's very difficult to find quality courses without spending money, thanks to you many people like me will be able to lay the first stones to build an important path.

  • bexarclaw 8 months, 2 weeks ago  | 

    Quick tip: if your using the apprentice license, the export extension is .usdnc. (not .usd). You'll need to make note of this when using the File Pattern within the Reference node. Also, I had to switch the "Show files matching" to *, which allow to me locate the geo/soccerball_anim.usdnc file.

  • Lightbox3d 7 months, 3 weeks ago  | 

    downloaded project only got the textures. Tutorial doesn't explain how to assign it either. Lots of missing gaps in these tutorials really...

    • rmagee 7 months, 3 weeks ago  | 

      Assigning the textures can be found in Section 6: Lookdev: Materials.

  • v12345 7 months ago  | 

    I was using the pdf to create this soccer ball tutorial. It took time for me to understand what file selector is next to texture map. was stuck for days due to this. I was trying to open soccerball_color.rat using file open. Hopefully I will complete the tutorials soon.

    • Ra138 6 months, 2 weeks ago  | 

      I completed this tutorial. I just need perfection in camera and lights part.:)
      Yeah, I was lost when I couldn't find the file selector.
      1. Take help from videos
      2. Ask someone
      3. Search help menu.
      4. Read basics pdf , watch the video once again if I get stuck.

  • v12345 7 months ago  | 

    In the parameter view, file selector next to texture map.

  • Ra138 6 months, 3 weeks ago  | 

    So we create the grid while the soccer ball is in the same view.

  • Ra138 6 months, 3 weeks ago  | 

    Where does the ball go while we are creating the grid?

  • Ra138 6 months, 3 weeks ago  | 

    Ok it's on the stage. Initially I wired the grid node within the scene import. Then used undo to do it the correct way.

  • Ra138 6 months, 3 weeks ago  | 

    I could not set the insignia. Just proceeding with steps to complete it without insignia

  • Ra138 6 months, 3 weeks ago  | 

    All my cameras in Solaris are making the ball very big. A single patch covers the whole screen. Unable to get the right view.

  • Ra138 6 months, 3 weeks ago  | 

    Ok used alt+RMB to make the ball small

  • Ra138 6 months, 3 weeks ago  | 

    The ball is above the plane in build but it goes into the plane in solaris. How to correct it?

  • Ra138 6 months, 3 weeks ago  | 

    Step 6 materials unable to get the mat in material path for both soccer and backdrop. Okay I did it...How I did it? I will have to recheck.
    Also I did not find the texture tab mentioned in part 6 step 03. It's simply nowhere to be found.
    What do I do?

  • Ra138 6 months, 2 weeks ago  | 

    Hi there,
    I am unable to perform part 8 step 7 and 8.
    Squash_ctrl handle squash and strech. Please help. Where is this squash_ctrl handle?

  • Ra138 6 months, 2 weeks ago  | 

    Done pufffff

  • gerogero0812 5 months ago  | 

    Just started learning Houdini. Fantastic tutorials Robert, thank you.

    Import of SHOP materials is not supported. Ignored material /obj/soccerball_geo/uvquickshade1/shop_definition/texture_material

    I am getting the above error.
    How can I resolve this?

  • Sam22 5 months ago  | 

    These tutorial series are the most professionally taught I've seen in my 13+ years of experience in 3D. The clarity, depth of knowledge, and practical examples make them exceptional. Thank you for creating such high-quality tutorials!

  • BrianG61 4 months, 3 weeks ago  | 

    I've been following this tutorial, but I'm stuck in Part 9 Step 3. I've followed steps 1 and 2, but I'm not getting the result I should have in Step 3, mainly the bouncing soccer ball is not appearing. I see the lights objects, but the ball and its animation are not there. I'm suspecting it has something to do with where the .usd file is located. The tutorial PDF and the Video say two different things in Step 1. The PDF says set Output File to "$HIP/geo/soccerball_anim.usd", but the video says "$HIP/usd/soccerball_anim.usd" No matter which I use, I get nothing. What am I missing?

    • JasonR 1 month ago  | 

      just spent the last 30 mins trying to solve this, as it was also happening for me.
      in the file pattern try adding " " surrounding the file path pointing to your usd file
      I think it happens if any of your directories leading upto the file contain any spaces

      hope it works for you

  • AndyTheBouncer 4 months, 1 week ago  | 

    Thanks for making this. As a long-time developer and learner, I have one pet peeve about these tutorials I'd like to respectfully express.

    When people are trying to figure out the conceptual basics, it's really important to stay laser-focused on the core concept you're trying to get across. Many programming language example and tutorial authors use variable names like 'var' or 'int' or function names like 'func,' making it difficult for people unfamiliar with the syntax to parse what's a keyword, operator, variable name, etc. Or they might use some weird syntax short form, or counterintuitive logical construct when it has nothing to do with the concept at hand. People writing tutorials for more technical GUI programs, on the other hand, tend to include way too many practices or shortcuts from their own workflow-- like keyboard shortcuts. Sure, keyboard shortcuts are critical to getting professional-level productivity, but using menu options or standard GUI elements to perform tasks gives learners another visual cue for how the program is structured and organized, while shortcuts just add another layer of abstraction to decode. That adds to the cognitive load of new learners, especially those with ADHD and other types of neurodivergence common among both technical and creative types.

    Obviously those things are critical to increasing productivity, but when you're trying to figure out how something works, productivity optimizations just aren't particularly useful.

  • natrianvfx 3 months, 4 weeks ago  | 

    Amazing tutorial, thank you very much! I'm having a blast learning Houdini

  • alialdouseri 2 days, 22 hours ago  | 

    having an amazing tutorial.

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