Those animations look amazing!! Great job!
Very cool review of the making of Spellbreak. Would be even more cool to see some videos inside UE4 showing how they do a few very specific things unique to them.
This was so helpful for me. I'm hoping to adapt your tutorial to pull off something similar comparing modern satellite imagery with historical maps. No topo, so my steps should be simpler, but I'm a novice with Blender and you've really helped. Thanks!
Bonsak Schieldrop gave a great talk about his work with Houdini and various ways you can build amazing digital masterpieces. It’s a great introduction into the creation of digital art.
As a designer and an artist, what makes digital art so interesting and engrossing for you personally?
For me digital art is both a blessing and a curse. Blessing in the sense that you can always change direction, erase, undo and save a new versions of your work. As much as I love this freedom it can be very hard to keep your focus sometimes with endless possibilities at your fingertips. Now and then I miss the drawing classes at architect school with just charcoal and a piece of paper. But with that said I totally embrace the digital way of doing things. But I always try to set up on some kind of framework or ruleset for my projects to keep them focused and drive them forward.
Could you talk about your approach to the Houdini projects? How does your process usually start? Do you work with the references? Do you start to fiddle with the sliders in Houdini and create some noise and work with it?
The other day a friend of mine posted images with sculptures by the American artist Anthony Howe on Facebook. I’ve never heard of him before but was blown away by his kinetic sculptures. So I decided to try to make a simple case file showing how I would approach making something like this in Houdini. It’s nothing fancy and could easily be made in other 3d packages but it uses a couple of techniques that are key to Houdini.
In this project i’m only defining the attributes “up” and “pscale” for the Copy SOP to use. This is done to give the copied objects the correct orientation and a variation in scale. The attributes are defined on the line object before it is used as a template by the “copy_make_stem” node. Further down the stream the “pscale” attribute is used again by the “polywire_give_stem_thickness” node as a value for the polywire “radius” parameter. You are free to define your own attributes of course but it takes a little bit of setting up on the Copy SOP.
The animation is rendered in Redshift. Redshift is my favorite renderer. It’s integrated very nicely into Houdini and it’s super fast. One frame of this project takes less than a minute to render in HD, with DOF. If you open this project in Apprentice or you don’t have Redshift, then you can use the “Render with Mantra” take. It wont look the same as the Redshift render though. It’s a rather quick and dirty project but I’ve tried to add notes to each node to make it easy to understand.
How do you work with the geometry in Houdini? Could walk us through your production process? What do you do with the nodes, what do you do with the textures and images? Cause your geometry looks very rich and versatile, it looks so different from anything you expect to see.
What do you like about the procedural nature of the geometries you get? How do you work with them? How do you manipulate them in a procedural way to get these amazing results?
Could you talk a bit about the more practical ways you are applying Houdini in your work? What elements do you use to create the videos, the animations, maybe some interactive elements?
How would you advise approaching Houdini for a newbie? What kind of project would be best to start? How difficult is it to build stuff with Houdini in general? Maybe there’s something that you need to read, study first?
I would say a combination of doing projects and doing tutorials is a good combination. But start simple. Don’t try to destroy Manhattan on your first project. Focus on a few things first. If you’re into explosions, focus on that. If you like hydro dynamics focus on that. Don’t try to learn everything at once. And doing only tutorials does not really give you the experience with wrangling problems in Houdini on your own. So start making your own projects in Houdini right away.
There’s a lot of tutorials on SideFX. Some are made by SideFX, but there’s also a lot of material made by other people/vendors. SideFX are really doing a great job organizing this material. You’ll find free tutorials but also paid/subscription based tutorials. I have used Pluralsight a lot. They have both basic tutorials but also quite advanced material. You definitely don’t need a paid subscription to learn Houdini though. You’ll find a lot of tutorials elsewhere on the net but some of those are made with older versions of Houdini so if you’re just starting out you might get confused by things not looking like it does in the latest version. But there is one site you should bookmark right away if you want to learn Houdini and that is Tokeru. Here you’ll find a lot of solutions to everyday problems in Houdini (with example files) It’s basically Matt Estela’s (animal logic) notes to himself when he was learning Houdini. You’ll learn a lot studying that material. I would also highly recommend that you spend time on both the SideFX forum: SideFX and odforce. Houdini has a great community with complete newbies in one end of the spectrum to total wizards in the other. People there are always very helpful. So good luck and I hope to see you on the forums someday.
Bonsak Schieldrop, VFX artist
Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev.