Learning Houdini Journal 02: Research & Preparation

Nov 08, 2015 at 12:13 pm by -gToon

This is the second entry of what will be a year-long journal on learning the 3D application Houdini, created bySide Effects Software. Houdini is a sophisticated application that is widely used in the production of visual effects for Hollywood films such as Big Hero 6, Mad Max: Fury Road and many others.

Since the first version of Houdini was released in 1996, Side Effects Software has developed Houdini so effectively that the program has three times been recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Plus, many Academy Awards have been given to films that relied on Houdini for their visual effects.

In my previous Learning Houdini Journal, I discussed my personal history with Houdini and why Houdini inspires me. In this entry, I'll go over some of the research I've done and review why Houdini Apprentice is the version (of several) that I'll be learning first.

Houdini Research
Being slightly old-school, I like to research my projects before I start. Of course, the best place to start is theSidefx.com website. The site is well-laid out and easy to use. The forum is quite active and there is a specific forum for the Apprentice version that I'm starting out with. Under the "community" tab, in addition to the forum, there is a gallery, customer stories, events and even Houdini jobs. I really like their listing of outside websites (community links) that focus on Houdini. The links have given me a good start on searching the web for Houdini tutorials, assets and support. The odforce.net site is a great one.

Houdini Start Here

Documentation for Houdini is thorough. There is a very complete manual (online and via the help tab in the application) and links to First Steps in Houdini tutorials. Unfortunately, the First Steps tutorials are built for Houdini 12 and not the current version of Houdini (15). I suspect there are few differences for the beginner, but I still want to start out with learning that is geared towards the current version of Houdini. Don't get me wrong, Sidefx has extensive documentation for the beginner and I'll be using it for sure.

There are only a few books out on Houdini and they are woefully out of date, but the net is alive with Houdini artists who are only so happy to share their knowledge. Half hour of Google searching led me to half a dozen sites with interesting training and tutorials for the beginner. I've mentioned Rohan Dalvi in my previous journal entry, but I also like odforce.net and 3dbuzz.com as well.

I've started my own documentation notebook by printing out relevant pages from the H15 manual. I'll be using the printed version to read through slowly as I start learning. Digital-Tutors has one of the largest collection of Houdini tutorials. I'll be using them as I start learning. And I really like Scott Pagano's "Up and Running with Houdini" at Lynda.com (their only Houdini course, however). Still, Scott's course is dated Jan 15, 2015, so it's reasonably current.

Houdini Apprentice

Houdini Apprentice
Side Effects Software offers 3 versions of Houdini; a commercial version (with two variations, Houdini and Houdini FX), an indie version and a learning edition (Houdini Apprentice). It's obvious that Houdini Apprentice is the version that will work for my needs. It's free, has the great majority of Houdini functionality with only a few limitation (non-commercial, watermarked, etc). You can see a full comparison of the Houdini versions here and see the screen capture below for Side Effects full restrictions and inclusions for Houdini Apprentice

Houdini Apprentice

Finally, I went over the hardware requirements and made sure my system (self built 2 years ago) was up to running Houdini. It was, so I downloaded the Apprentice version and had it installed inside of 20 minutes.

Now it's time to get down to the business of learning. I'll start by reading the first several chapters of the manual and watching Scott Pagano's intro videos along with Side Effects "Start Here" series. Oh, boy, this is going to be fun!

Next: First Steps in Houdini Apprentice.

Sections: Tips + Tutorials

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