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Side Effects Software just announced the release of Houdini 15 which comes with onion skinning, new shader building tools, crowd ragdolls and Houdini Engine 2.0. This new version will satisfy the needs of generalists, animators, lighters, and game makers as the VFX tools are faster and more efficient.
“With this release, Side Effects is working hard to bring Houdini’s modeling, rendering and animation tools up to the level of its VFX tools. With more game studios creating content using procedural techniques and commercial studios looking for artist-friendly tools, Houdini 15 offers a well-rounded solution.”
~Kim Davidson, President and CEO, Side Effects Software
Previously, there was strong procedural modeling offered at the price of interactive workflow. With Houdini 15 modellers can work intuitively in the viewport with new tweak edit workflow, edge sliding, soft selection highlighting, and new tools like PolyBridge and PolyExpand 2D. Now for working with hi-res models, new retopology tools make it simple to build low-res geometry by drawing right on top of high-res geometry.
With improvements to the Mantra renderer which include checkpointing and render view feedback, rendering in Houdini 15 is much faster and richer. Shader building has also been enhanced with a brand new shader library, an improved and remade Shader FX 2.0 menu, and layered materials and a cartoon shader.
There is also an implementation of Disney’s physically-based Principled Shader designed for artistic flexibility and minimal set of controls. This comes with a library of royalty-free PBR ready textures that are available on Side Effects website.
Material stylesheets create a production-level workflow for the creation and management of material overrides that work well with Alembic files and packed geometry. Random textures and variances are easily set up in material settings to give a unique look to a collection of similar items like crowd agents.
Houdini for Games
Game artists who use Houdini to build procedural assets for use in game editors like Unity and Unreal will benefit from the modeling improvements in Houdini 15. The PolyExpand2D tool makes it easy to compute straight-skeleton and is ideal for road generation.
This also includes texture baking and viewport support for UDIM textures, world-space normal maps, UV mesh boundaries and overlapping UV regions. Importing and Exporting tangent-space normal maps and converting bump and displacement maps to normal maps is now possible.
Ragdoll dynamics have been added to Houdini 15 crowd tools. You’ll find it comes with limb detachment, fuzzy logic, and better crowd behavior. Setting up material and geometry variations and tools is much easier to set up explicit target locations and an Agent Cam tool creates a camera and attaches it to the head of an agent for point of view shots.
Houdini Engine 2.0
If you’re using Autodesk Maya, Cinema4D, UE4, and Unity, the Houdini Engine makes it possible to open up Houdini Digital Assets in these apps. The great thing is it works in the background to cook the node networks inside the asset and the results are delivered to the viewport of the host application.
The engine has been designed to separate the API front end from the computer back-end. This makes it possible to have multiple sessions per host, multiple threads per host, greater stability and can be integrated without library conflicts. Indie developer Hideki Suzuki completed his 3ds Max plugin and the compiled plugin will be released in a few days.
There are also improvements to the Maya plugin such as support for ramp parameters and the Unity plugin now has support for paint input. The UE4 plugin is still in beta but is set for release middle of November 2015.