10 Advantages of Using Houdini for Motion Graphics

Home / motion graphics / 10 Advantages of Using Houdini for Motion Graphics

10 Advantages of Using Houdini for Motion Graphics

Houdini, created by Toronto-based SideFX, is a full 3D software package that can perform animating, modelling, dynamic simulations, rendering, and composting.

It continues to have a growing user base in the VFX industry, both with indie and big-budget productions, even earning multiple awards for its breakthrough procedural-based technology.

Among the feature films and TV shows it has been used are Moana, Iron Man, Zootopia, and Game of Thrones. It also develops 3D software for a number of video games produced by huge names like EA, Ubisoft, and War Gaming.

The advantages of Houdini are immense, giving it its well-earned place as one of the go-to software for 3D animation:

1. Proceduralism

The lexical definition of proceduralism refers to the adherence to established procedures—a feature that Houdini excels at.

The application is built with efficiency in mind, as it can create systems that will then create more elements. This comes with a few benefits:

  • You can always go back and change the way you built something, instead of starting from scratch
  • You can save time when you need to edit or overhaul an object or character since all you would need to do is go back to the system you created
  • You can create reusable motion graphics system using its robust toolsets

For instance, a simple chair can be created using any software. However, with Houdini, you can create a system for making chairs. This would allow you to control aspects of that chair, including its height, number of legs, or overall style.

Modeling may be too simple, but proceduralism is especially helpful when you need to add visual effects and simulations.

If the director, for instance, wants a certain element changed and you are already five weeks into production, you would only need to trace your system’s history and apply the edits. You would not need to start from scratch and take another five weeks to implement the change.

2. Fully Integrated

Unlike other software, Houdini does not require any additional plugins to create the effects that you desire. The core functionality of Houdini would allow you to create explosions, smoke and fire, realistic fluid movement, or crowd layouts.

On top of that, you can also build your own customised plugins to hook into the Houdini interface. You can do this so you can create any effect that you can imagine. When you’ve customised a plugin, Houdini would run this upon startup.

3. Render Engine

You can do away with third-party renderers when using Houdini. The software comes with its own built-in renderer called Mantra that comes with two operating modes: physically based raytracing (PBR) and micropolygon rendering.

PBR is the recommended default setting, as it can simulate real-world light, shadows, reflections, secondary bounces, etc. You would not need to write your own shaders.

Micropolygon rendering, on the other hand, is recommended for scenes that involve fur, smoke, or sprites. You can also use it to match your existing footage.

Mantra’s strength also lies in the way it handles a lot of data. A simple scene of a fruit may not perform well using Mantra, but if you want to render 12 million of the same fruit, you will be able to appreciate how well the engine handles it.

4. Render Farm Control

A render farm (a computer system built to render CGI) benefits graphic designers and directors alike as it allows for easy collaboration via cloud-based servers.

HQueue, Houdini’s distributed render and simulation manager, consists of a server and a farm for processing nodes/clients. It provides the avenue to work on a project within a local network. With HQueue, a team can submit jobs from their workstations to the farm. It also works on any platform that can run Houdini.

Another benefit of this powerful CPU-based software is that you can render or simulate on the cloud. You do not need to install HQueue; you can submit your project directly to the cloud.

HQueue goes beyond rendering, as you would also be able to distribute other types of work (e.g. any script) within the network.

5. Integrated Dynamics

Houdini’s dynamics node (DOP) network creates objects and establishes the connections between each of them. It would then figure out the solvers needed to simulate their interactions.

These solvers include rigid bodies, grid-based fluids, particle fluids, particle systems (for dynamic simulations), and cloth and wires. One of the many strengths of Houdini is that its dynamics are all integrated. For instance, cloth and rigid bodies can interact, while gasses and fluids can affect particles and rigid bodies.

6. Node-based Interface

A node-based software provides an alternative to layer-based tools, with the former creating effects by making each node interact with another.

Houdini uses a node-based interface, creating an efficient motion graphic procedure. Compared to layer-based systems, Houdini can let you position various elements as you see fit without changing all the elements for every layer.

For instance, if you want to blur or colour another element, you only need to connect a blur node to the node of a particular object. And if you want other elements to be blurred, you only need to wire them to the blurred node.

Paired with Houdini’s procedural system, its node-based paradigm also means your changes can be automated. If you change inputs or parameters, you can get different results but remain to be within your control.

7. Create And Manage Complex Systems

Thanks to its node-based interface, Houdini can let you create complex systems. First of all, you do not need to create plugins anymore. Secondly, you can wire the output of one node into several other nodes to easily create complex systems.

For instance, say you need to create a CG city. Instead of writing a code and modelling the entire city, you would only need to set up a few nodes to create it. You can then manipulate certain elements by changing various nodes.

8. Build Your Own Shader

Other software would not let you near the inner workings of their shaders. Artists would be given options and they would tweak it in accordance to how they want it to look. With Houdini, however, you can create your own.

Mantra’s shading model is based on bidirectional scattering distribution function (BSDF) to control how light is reflected off the surface. Although there are default materials included, you can customise your own so you will have lighter and more efficient shaders that will perform the way you want it.

Houdini operates in a way that assumes you already have a background with shader writing or previous RenderMan experience.

9. Attributes

Houdini also excels at how data is stored and processed through the software. Data is stored in attributes, which you can then manage and manipulate to create any desired effect.

These attributes are data stored in objects, primitives, points, and vertices. These can be used anywhere in the program; you also have the option to manually create one.

Particles, for example, have attributes. These attributes are important when particles interact with geometry. To help visualise this: a cloth simulation would need a geometry attribute for stiffness. This attribute could then be accessed throughout the entire program, not just via the dynamics network.

10. Experiment and Innovate

For a designer, the research and development phase happens when various designs of the same concept are created. Think of a traditional designer drawing different logos for the client to pick from.

The flexibility and power of Houdini software would allow you to come up with 3D scenes and effects that could then, later on, be implemented into your production. Your imagination is the limit. Houdini’s node-based system and proceduralism feature provide the avenue for artists to continuously learn and explore.

Houdini truly shines when projects involve complex simulations, heavy geometry, effects work, and particles. If this is what your business needs, give us a call. Our team of professional designers specialise in using Houdini software in producing motion graphic videos.