Side Effects Software has announced the release of Houdini with onion skinning, new shader building tools, crowd ragdolls and Houdini Engine. This new version enhances modeling, rendering and animation tools to meet the needs of generalists, animators, lighters, and game makers while the VFX tools become faster, more scalable and more efficient at handling big data.
Houdini has traditionally offered strong procedural modeling sometimes at the expense of its interactive workflow. With improvements made in Houdini, modellers are now able to work intuitively in the viewport with the new tweak edit workflow, edge sliding, soft selection highlighting and new tools such as PolyBridge and PolyExpand 2D. For working with hi-res models, new retopology tools make it easy to build low-res geometry by drawing right on top of high-res geometry.
Rendering in Houdini is faster and richer with improvements to the Mantra renderer such as checkpointing and render view feedback. Shader building has been enhanced with a new shader library, a rebuilt Shader FX menu, layered materials and a cartoon shader.
Houdini also includes an implementation of Disney’s physically-based Principled Shader which is designed to provide artistic flexibility with a minimal set of controls. In addition, a library of royalty-free PBR Ready Textures will be available on sidefx.com for use with Houdini’s shader building tools.
Material stylesheets create a production-level workflow for creating and managing material overrides that work well with Alembic files and packed geometry. Easily set up random textures and variances in material settings to give a unique look to a collection of similar items such as crowd agents.
RenderMan and RIS shading support is fully integrated into Houdini. RIS shaders are available in the RIS Shader Network SHOP and Houdini’s VOP context provides a native environment for building RIS shaders with OSL support.
“Pixar and Side Effects have worked together to create a first class experience for lighters,” says Chris Ford, Business Director - RenderMan, Pixar Animation Studios. “Houdini offers interactive shader building tools which make it easy for artists to achieve the look they desire.”
Houdini comes with a complete set of RenderMan BxDF, Pattern, and Integrator RIS shaders as well RIS light shaders and Camera, Light Probe, and Rolling Shutter RIS projection shaders. There is also a new RIS render node which allows the RIB and RIS render nodes to have cleaner interfaces specific to each mode.
The animation workflow in Houdini is better than ever with onion skinning, a pose library panel, an improved character picker panel and enhancements to the dope sheet. This makes it easier to pose and keyframe characters in Houdini.
New lightweight female and male rigs provide sample characters that artists can use to explore the animation tools in Houdini. Houdini also includes dual quaternion support for deforming twisting geometry and preventing volume loss.
Houdini for Games
The modeling improvements in Houdini will be particularly useful for game artists who use Houdini to build procedural assets for use in game editors such as Unity and Unreal. The PolyExpand2D tool makes it easy to compute straight-skeleton and is ideal for road generation.
Houdini also includes texture baking and viewport support for UDIM textures, world-space normal maps, UV mesh boundaries and overlapping UV regions. Game makers can now import and export tangent-space normal maps and convert bump and displacement maps to normal maps.
Ragdoll dynamics have been added to the Houdini crowd tools along with limb detachment, fuzzy logic and better crowd behaviour. It is now easier to set up material and geometry variations and tools have been added to set up explicit target locations. There is also an Agent Cam tool which creates a camera and attaches it to the head of an agent for point of view shots.
Houdini will make VFX artists more productive and capable of bigger, more dynamic FX. The new adaptive PBD lets artists focus grain simulations on particles that are involved in collisions. New viscous fluids tools such as Lava, Melt Object and Emit Steam give artists quick access production-ready effects.
Fluid and PBD simulations can now be distributed to multiple nodes on your farm to create and manage bigger sims. Distribution allows artists to work beyond the capability of any one computer and the results fit together seamlessly when rendering. A FLIP fluid simulation with a billion particles or more is now easily achievable.
For artists working in other applications such as Autodesk® Maya®, Cinema4D®, UE4® and Unity®, the Houdini Engine makes it possible to open up Houdini Digital Assets in these apps. Houdini works in the background to cook the node networks inside the asset and the results are delivered to the viewport of the host application.
Houdini Engine has been designed to separate the API front end from the compute back-end. This allows for multiple sessions per host, multiple threads per host, greater stability and can be integrated without library conflicts. This thin client has made it possible for independent developer Hideki Suzuki to complete his 3DS Max plugin.
Houdini includes improvements to the Maya plug-in such as support for ramp parameters while the Unity plug-in now has support for paint input.