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What are your thoughts about Houdini?

Forum for users who have migrated or are migrating to Houdini
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owei
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What are your thoughts about Houdini?

Post by owei » 15 Jan 2016, 16:08

Hello there!

This is a thread I wanted to start already for a long time. Now I´ll do it ;) As I´ve been talking to some guys from sidefx during our UeberTage events in the past two years, I know that they are very interested in us, good old Softimage users, in terms of switching over to Houdini sooner or later. All of them are awesome guys and really dedicated to their product and willing to change and improve it further
In order to give some more feedback to them from our little community, I would like to ask you to share your thoughts about Houdini.

Do you have experience with Houdini?
How deep is you knowledge?
Can you point out strong and weak spots of Houdini?
What are your suggestions for improvement?
What do you think about the "Houdini Indie" version?
What are you thoughts about the pricing and their upgrade plan?
Will you consider to license one or more copies of Houdini in the near future?

Looking forward to you thoughts!

Thanks and cheers!
oliver

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Re: What are your thoughts about Houdini?

Post by Bullit » 15 Jan 2016, 18:35

Do you have experience with Houdini?
I followed only some tutorials and read many commentaries in Houdini forum.
How deep is you knowledge?
see above.
Can you point out strong and weak spots of Houdini?
Ease of use is not strong, from reading are some issues with scale in some simulation situations that brought a chill down my spine due to the same occurring with 3ds Max.
The good are the most flexibility in 3D applications, simulations quality probably also the best.

What are your suggestions for improvement?
A internal-gradual learning is the best way for users to get deep in applications. Not big jumps if possible and internal coherence.
Do not violate usual interface standards. Most influential parameters should probably be marked as such. Defeat the perception real and imagined that Houdini is not good for fast work.

What do you think about the "Houdini Indie" version?
I think is good but would be preferably if 3rd party renders would be available.
What are you thoughts about the pricing and their upgrade plan?
Upgrades plans seem to be on expensive at more than half of the full price.
Will you consider to license one or more copies of Houdini in the near future?
I consider Houdini Indie for the moment.

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Re: What are your thoughts about Houdini?

Post by Rork » 15 Jan 2016, 20:20

He Oliver, great idea! :)

- Do you have experience with Houdini?
Yes. Worked on two commercials recently, all finalized and rendered with Arnold in Houdini 14. Modeling was done outside Houdini, and imported as FBX. Swapping models was very easy this way.

- How deep is you knowledge?
Still in the early learning stages, mostly shading and rendering. Haven't had the time yet to properly sit down and 'test the waters' in other areas of Houdini. Or H15 for that matter :-s

- Can you point out strong and weak spots of Houdini?
The strong points equal its weak points regarding learning it, especially due to the fact that Houdini is 'all procedural'. This makes it a very complex application with a very steep learning curve in certain areas.
Also the fact that certain parts of the program work not similar to the competition (e.g. jumping in and out of node groups, SHOPS, VOPS, DOPS etc.) adds to the above.
But once you get into that 'flow' so to speak, the real power of Houdini starts to emerge. People who used ICE a lot will see a lot of similarities.
One of the weak spots imho is the lack of overview with complex scenes/networks. What data goes where in the stream? Where is it coming back? There could be more visual clues to linked networks etc.
Other than that I think we all know that H15 is a very powerful and deep program that will allow for multiple-angle workflows, and not restrict you with certain showstoppers.

- What are your suggestions for improvement?
Houdini 15 already did a lot in terms of modeling/shading/texturing/lighting, and this helps getting more familiar more quickly.
I still feel areas like rendering and passes can be more open to certain workflows regarding overrides of shaders/textures, like in SI ;)
Regarding the UI, UI speed etc. it would be nice to have some more 'power'. Like <cough> in Maya. (ducks and runs.....)

- What do you think about the "Houdini Indie" version?

Houdini Indie is great, but the difference between this and the regular version is still a step too far for most freelancers. What would be great is a 'in between' version for freelancers, a Indie that will allow a 3rd party renderers, e.g. Arnold. A lot of us are sitting on (sometimes multiple) render engines, but cannot use them due to the Indie restriction.

- What are you thoughts about the pricing and their upgrade plan?
See above. For freelancers the prices are very steep, especially when you include the maintenance and want to use the FX version.

- Will you consider to license one or more copies of Houdini in the near future?
Yes, but personally I would like to see a Indie version with 3rd party rendering, of course with an adjusted price level. Also a option to pay for support/maintenance would be nice.
I do realize this is a long shot ;)

If I can come up with more thoughts I'll edit this post.

rob
SI UI tutorials: Toolbar http://goo.gl/iYOL0l | Custom Layout http://goo.gl/6iP5xQ | RenderManager View http://goo.gl/b4ZkjQ

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Re: What are your thoughts about Houdini?

Post by Mathaeus » 16 Jan 2016, 00:59

Ok I'll try to be positive as much as possible, this time :)

Do you have experience with Houdini?
Used Indie since first Indie release, for private projects and some experiments. Nothing for direct making money or having a deadline, but still, very important for me. For now, Houdini is closest equivalent to some SI and ICE patterns: deformations of curves or polygons, heavy usage of nurbs, rendering of all that in same package.

How deep is you knowledge?
Feel familiar with VOPs SOPs and Mantra, static VDB, Wire solver, a bit of FLIP, little bit of FEM. Still using cheat sheets for expressions. Know almost nothing about Rigid bodies, POPs, Crowds, Pyro or Sand Solver.

Can you point out strong and weak spots of Houdini?
Strong: ability to load 3d files as live footage. Mantra is nice, very complete path-tracer - I like features like volume rendering. Node ergonomics, like RMB for connecting.

Weak: Generally out of standards defined by Maya, Max or Softimage. Hard to predict which features are implemented in very different way, which are simply missing (straight alpha output or 'visible in reflection' for example). Too much of 'fitting of features' into existing framework, especially when it comes to kinematics, or Houdini ideas about animation constraints. Lack of universal 'cross-hierarchy' like SI groups. Weak support for arrays in VOPs. Over complicated connection between SRT and VOP networks.
Finally, insisting on one framework for all - which works to some extent somewhere ( rendering, SOPs), but behaves as an offense when it comes to rigging and animation.
Has no script editor output like SI, Maya or Max.

What are your suggestions for improvement?
Let's talk about (what I think) is possible: better modeling SOPs, like stronger Cookie SOP (booleans), Quadrangulate, more orientation toward quads. Remesh with usable triangulation at boundaries. Beveling at corners just like rest of world. Improvement of Tree view, and all 'list type' navigation and control. Specialized window for animation like Maya Channel box (which doesn't take K key as expression, automatically). Maya or Max interaction mode or at least, respect to interaction standards.
By all means, further flattening of context, much stronger support for arrays in VOPs.

What do you think about the "Houdini Indie" version?
I'd feel much better with "Houdini Lite", with limited set of features, but able to accept plugins, with usual license.

Will you consider to license one or more copies of Houdini in the near future?
Most likely, will extend Indie license in August.
The renderer "turtle" used by this scene, is not currently available. The "turtle" renderer will be used instead.

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Re: What are your thoughts about Houdini?

Post by druitre » 17 Jan 2016, 14:16

Hi Oli, good idea this thread. I'll add my thoughts even though I don't think they're very useful (not enough experience yet), but let's combine the wisdom of the masses eh? :)

Do you have experience with Houdini?

I bought an Indie license last year and did some R&D for a month or two

How deep is you knowledge?

My main goal was to create a convincing cloud-covered sky plus flythrough, so I delved into the volumetric cloud stuff.

Can you point out strong and weak spots of Houdini?

The strong point is that what I wanted to do seemed to be very well implemented, the weak point that for me it was hard to understand the terminology used, also to get a clear idea of the best workflow. (The one obviously having to do with the other, and with my noobishness)

What are your suggestions for improvement?

Houdini comes across as a psychotic entity to me: on the one hand, it offers some very user-friendly presets that allow one to create very complex and high quality simulations straight away, but on the other hand everything is wrapped in a language that I find utterly obscure (VOP, SOP, DOP etc). Added to the inherent complexity involved in having to do everything procedural. So, it can turn out to be easy to set up something complex but very hard to then follow that up with something simple.

So my suggestion would be to get rid of the VOP, SOP, DOP etc naming conventions. And/or, in the same area of thinking, have a layer in between the user experience and the internal workings. Remove the obscurity where possible.

What do you think about the "Houdini Indie" version?

I bought a license the moment I heard about it, so, I think it's a brilliant move. The only thing is, as others point out, the lack of support for 3rd party renderers. I'd be willing to pay more if it had that.

What are you thoughts about the pricing and their upgrade plan?

Very steep for studio use, I'm happy with the Indie version.

Will you consider to license one or more copies of Houdini in the near future?

As said, I have Indie, which I'm happy with. Only if I get proficient enough in Houdini to warrant it, I'd convince any studio I'd be working at to get a full license. At the moment I'm not there yet though.

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Re: What are your thoughts about Houdini?

Post by bb3d » 17 Jan 2016, 22:18

Do you have experience with Houdini?
I just watched a few tutorials and tried to play around with it a bit but never used it for any project yet.

How deep is you knowledge?
Very basic.

Can you point out strong and weak spots of Houdini?
Hard to say with my limited experience, but in general I would say that Houdini is a very powerful software that lets you create anything if you are able to really master it. Weak side is still the complexity.

What are your suggestions for improvement?
Make Houdini more efficient and intuitive for "normal" bread-and-butter modeling and animation jobs. I am not a TD, i am a generalist, therefore I need a "artist friendly" 3D app that helps me getting things done, instead of slowing me down with complicated technical processes.

What do you think about the "Houdini Indie" version?
Very fair price point, but without support for 3rd-party renderers it's quite useless for me, because Mantra is way too slow for my needs.
I would pay more for the Indie version if it would support 3rd-party renderers. As soon as Redshift for Houdini is availalbe (inlcuding OpenVDB volumetric rendering) it would be the absolute dreamteam for any volumetric effects.

What are you thoughts about the pricing and their upgrade plan?
The "big" versions of Houdini are not affordable for me, Houdini Indie would be the only option.

Will you consider to license one or more copies of Houdini in the near future?
As soon as SideFX opens Houdini Indie for 3rd-party renderers offering it within a price range below 1000€, I would consider buying a license.

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Re: What are your thoughts about Houdini?

Post by SamHowell » 21 Jan 2016, 15:30

Do you have experience with Houdini?

I have been using Houdini at work for 50% of the time for the past 12 months alongside Softimage. Used Houdini Apprentice for the 12 months before that in my spare time to get up to speed. So 2 years part time experience.

How deep is you knowledge?

I have so far covered Flip, Pyro, Cloud FX, Crowds, Particles, Grains, Cloth, Rigid bodies, VOPS and Mantra. A small amount of modelling and rigging.

Can you point out strong and weak spots of Houdini?

Strength

If you have the time and the willingness to learn, you can pretty much do almost anything.
The community is insanely generous.
The produral workflow is a great timesaver and very efficient if you have the time to do it correctly.
Handles massive data with ease.

Weakness

It's image. Houdini has a lot of baggage. People assume it's overly complex and difficult before they even try it. Sometimes this means they may not even try it in the first place. They also assume it's only for particles and FX. I'm not sure what you can do about this, other than marketing (btw, the Side Effects website could really do with some modernising).
Sometimes you need to work quickly, very quickly. Sometimes you need to bash out a rough concept in no time. This is mostly the case for the TV work I do. In these situations I'm afraid you just don't care one bit about procedural workflow. Sometimes you just need to do some destructive modelling or throw something together in a hurry. That’s where Softimage and C4D wins.

What are your suggestions for improvement?

Performance. I would happily sacrifice accuracy for speed in most situations.
Houdini Cloth needs to match the performance and feedback of Ncloth or Marvelous. Anything less and it won't get used, simple as that.
The wire solver is too slow. Match the performance of Softimage dynamic strands.
A comprehensive library of crowd actors and animation cycles for the crowd simulator. Look at Gaolem and match that.
Include an unbiased GPU renderer. Something like, Octane, Cycles, Thea.
More shelf tools (ie. auto-rigging, environment generator, destruction toolkit, mograph tools). I have found reverse engineering them a very good way to learn and they are generally useful when you need to work quickly.
Houdini has a cheeky little compositor tucked away just like Softimage. Don't let it stagnate. The Indie users would love a decent compositor without having to fork out for Nuke or After Effects.
Cloud FX needs some animation tools.
More VEX presets. Most of what I have learnt so far is from the presets, please include more for the most common tasks.

What do you think about the "Houdini Indie" version?

Indie is a very good idea. Great way to get the next generation.
Mantra is not really useable in production without a render farm. Not much use to a Freelancer or small studio. Please reconsider 3rd party renderers with Indie (especially Octane).

What are you thoughts about the pricing and their upgrade plan?

N/A – My employer deals with this.

Will you consider to license one or more copies of Houdini in the near future?

N/A – My employer deals with this.
Last edited by SamHowell on 26 Jan 2016, 13:17, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: What are your thoughts about Houdini?

Post by bb3d » 21 Jan 2016, 22:52

SamHowell wrote: Mantra is not really useable in production without a render farm. Not much use to a Freelancer or small studio. Please reconsider 3rd party renderers with Indie (especially Octane).
Houdini can export Alembic and Octane Standalone can import Alembic. Maybe with some scripting magic involved, this process could be automated up to an acceptable level of interactivity. This could circumvent the Houdini Indie restriction. Did anybody try such a workflow? (Sorry for OT)

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Re: What are your thoughts about Houdini?

Post by NNois » 22 Jan 2016, 02:27

Hi, here's mine:

Do you have experience with Houdini?
About 5 months

How deep is you knowledge?
Enough to replicate all the "hard" stuff i was making on soft. Modeling / Animation some Ad works and Some Complex Mograph systems essentially (so yes, no "vfx work" at all).
But not Enough speaking about a wider knowledge i benefit in soft, like rigging and simulating (bullet etc) but i'm fairly confident Houdini is a win-win on this.

Can you point out strong and weak spots of Houdini?
+positive+
Houdini is way ahead of Softimage about doing complicated and big setup. If like me your project always end up including:
- A fairly complicated scene with ice nearly everywhere
- Involving mesh and simulation caching mechanisms (not working well in soft)
- problems with motion blur (not working well too with ice)
- odd things withs clones or things to compensate the weakness of ice modeling not possible in simulation modes.
- tricks using instances with ice instance time shifts to compensate the fact you can't read an complex anim setup at a different time. (you will dream of houdini packed geometries)
- having hard time dealing with ice context and loose precious production time to get strange things done
- stucked when obviously you need to code in c++ or something else you don't have the skills and the time for it.
- no more crash when rendering with IPR while you are doing lookdev work
-> IMO Houdini is for you and simplify x10 all of this because it's all build in fluid ! You will gain a huge speed of production.

-negative-
- You will have to spend time understanding an expression language and a not very consistant list of variable between each node
- the documentation is technical and doesn't include YOU the "artist" guy from Softimage. The doc is like a hieroglyph when you don't know the software but make sense when you know it ?!?? odd and that's a very part where i'm stuck.

What are your suggestions for improvement?
Houdini 15 is very great
- they seems to be moving for a unified way of dealing with expression/vex language and they need to continue that ! i thing there is too much possibility to write expressions or code things in houdini.
- mantra is really awesome in quality and power (i've done some 100M poly renders full gi without a problem) but need to catch-up with speed a little with arnold
- the viewport is strange, very strange and not very readable, needs to be clearer by choosing a better color scheme (overlay of selection/ antialiasing/ display of dots, lines etc are more distracting than usable).
- modeling need a last upgrade to be really enjoyable.

What do you think about the "Houdini Indie" version?
Seems a good deal

What are you thoughts about the pricing and their upgrade plan?
Dev's seems more committed than ever, so their price are fair

Will you consider to license one or more copies of Houdini in the near future?
Yes

cheers

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Re: What are your thoughts about Houdini?

Post by SamHowell » 26 Jan 2016, 13:23

bb3d wrote:
SamHowell wrote: Mantra is not really useable in production without a render farm. Not much use to a Freelancer or small studio. Please reconsider 3rd party renderers with Indie (especially Octane).
Houdini can export Alembic and Octane Standalone can import Alembic. Maybe with some scripting magic involved, this process could be automated up to an acceptable level of interactivity. This could circumvent the Houdini Indie restriction. Did anybody try such a workflow? (Sorry for OT)
Alembic export seems to work quite well for basic things. Things can get quite difficult with exporting attributes though. Octane 3 appears to have volume rendering which would probably be tricky with Alembic. I should imagine most Indie users would happily pay a supplementary fee on their license in order to use 3rd party renderers.

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Re: What are your thoughts about Houdini?

Post by Rork » 26 Jan 2016, 14:04

SamHowell wrote:I should imagine most Indie users would happily pay a supplementary fee on their license in order to use 3rd party renderers.
I think it's one of the most requested options among freelancers, and yes, happily pay something in-between Indie and FX for that option.

rob
SI UI tutorials: Toolbar http://goo.gl/iYOL0l | Custom Layout http://goo.gl/6iP5xQ | RenderManager View http://goo.gl/b4ZkjQ

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Re: What are your thoughts about Houdini?

Post by Fianna » 29 Jan 2016, 00:10

Hi Oli+guys - this thread has been nice to follow. I just want to clarify and ask whether you would opt for 3rd party rendering in Indie with the same resolution restrictions that we have for Mantra (maximum 1920x1080 for animations), or want no restrictions at all but have additional fee for that option.

-fianna

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Re: What are your thoughts about Houdini?

Post by Rork » 29 Jan 2016, 10:41

Hi,

Often you're not just rendering for TVC (normally HD), but also for print. Especially for product advertising.
In that case the 1920x1080 restriction still is a major.. well.. restriction ;-)

And paying extra for removing both restrictions is logical imho. The pricing for the 'regular' versions of Houdini (with 3rd party rendering) is a big hurdle for a lot of freelancers.

rob
SI UI tutorials: Toolbar http://goo.gl/iYOL0l | Custom Layout http://goo.gl/6iP5xQ | RenderManager View http://goo.gl/b4ZkjQ

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Re: What are your thoughts about Houdini?

Post by owei » 29 Jan 2016, 11:21

And hi Fianna, nice you are chiming in ;) As I already discussed with Paul during our recent meetings, I always wanted to sum up Softimage user´s opinions about Houdini and give some hints about how Softimage users would like to work with Houdini. So this thread may help you already a little on figuring out,what SI users think. A more specific discussion about workflows would also be a good idea, I guess.

Here are my thoughts:

Do you have experience with Houdini?
Yes, a little, but not in production.

How deep is you knowledge?
I´m getting an idea about how Houdini works and what is possible. I´m still far from being "productive" with it. I´m doing tuts as often as I can and I´m trying to modify stuff or even built parts on my own from scratch.

Can you point out strong and weak spots of Houdini?
Strong:
- extremely deep and it has a huge scaling potential
- everything is tweak able, if you know what you (can) do
- versatility and asset handling is great
- allowing to experiment and go different ways/sidetracks in the node tree
- strong built in simulation algorithms
- stable

Weak:
- naming like dop, vop, sop, rop shop etc is REALLY confusing for beginners and it almost drove me off ;)
- node based approach is great, but not always suitable for "generalist" stuff
- amount of clicking is insane (hopping in and out of nodes..)
- messy, icon packed UI for no reason
- keeping stuff tidy is almost impossible on complicated setups
- no pass system (I don´t mean takes, I mean something like in Softimage)
- no easy way of overriding stuff (like in "groups" in Softimage)
- information about objects and nodes are scattered


What are your suggestions for improvement?
- the UI could be much more streamlined and more consistent, less icons, more text menues
- expand "tree view" to a "real" scene explorer like in Softimage (still found no equivalent to SI´s explorer in other packages, basically I do 80% of my work with the explorer, keep stuff tidy, building structures and hierachies, grouping and building passes. It all happens in the Explorer)
- introduce a new "layer of abstraction" and collect scene and object data on a higher level and make the access to it easier (hopping in and out nodes and stuff like this..bring it into the "tree view")


What do you think about the "Houdini Indie" version?
It´s a nice offer for learning and using it commercially, but not suitable for me. Restrictions to fullHD and no 3rd party renderer are deal breakers.

What are you thoughts about the pricing and their upgrade plan?
I don´t get the huge price difference between a node locked (4,5k) and floating (7k) licenses, in the initial price AND the upgrade plan costs (2,5k for node locked and 4k for the floating license).
I think, smaller studios (2 to 5 seats) can hardly spend so much money. My suggestion is, to bring more flexibility to the pricing scheme, that fits individual needs better, if over all pricing will not be lowered. For example, just being entitled to the major updates instead of daily builds..but therefore a much lower fee.
Tie the node locked version to a dongle, so it can be carried around.

Will you consider to license one or more copies of Houdini in the near future?
Yes, but the only option at the current pricing is the node locked version. Considering, that the upgrade plan almost is three times a much as Softimage´s was.

Cheers,
oli

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Re: What are your thoughts about Houdini?

Post by BenR » 29 Jan 2016, 17:54

Hi Fianna,

I am also a freelancer and have an Indie license. I would be very happy to pay extra for an indie+ version which could use 3rd party renderers (Redshift here).

I also have a question about the $100,000 gross revenue limitation for 3rd parties I create content for. First of all, when someone hires me to create an animation, I am not about to ask what their gross revenues are. I mostly do scientific animation and I assume that most of my clients fall outside that range. This is what keeps me from using Houdini Indie in commercial work. Is this how the limitation is supposed to work - i.e. limiting whom I can provide end content to? Or is it really meant to prevent Indie users from creating content that is used by a bigger studio in their pipeline?

Thanks!
Ben Rogall

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Re: What are your thoughts about Houdini?

Post by Hirazi Blue » 30 Jan 2016, 13:47

I know this probably won't happen,
but I would really like to see the return of a perpetual licensing system for Houdini Indie like the old Apprentice HD had.
I would be more than willing to pay (some) more for this option.
And as I am a mere hobbyist a version with a perpetual license might even be restricted to non-commercial usage again…
;)
...

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