Houdini for Game Cinematics
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Houdini for Game Cinematics
18 August, 2018

Nikolay Skolkov talked about his presentation that covers a few techniques for the incredible cinematics in Houdini: sandstorm, rust spreading, flakes and more.


My name is Nikolay Skolkov. I was born in Minsk and grew up there. Just like the majority of people working in the CG industry, I taught myself.

It all started when I discovered the Internet. I was amazed by the websites and used to spend hours studying how they worked. I put a lot of effort into understanding the specifics and finally started to make my own sites. Then the era of the Flash technologies came and they instantly gripped me. One of my friends introduced me to Maya 3.0. That was the milestone which defined my career in 3D graphics.

For quite a while, I had been producing Flash and 3D content until I was picked up by Wargaming where I work now as a CG Generalist. And that rocks.

Houdini for Game Cinematics 

The presentation is focused more on the expansion algorithm applied not only to rust but to anything that can be contagious in some way. For example, mold, freezing, infection, and so on. Probably the effect wasn’t properly named. Rust is just a question of shading which I wasn’t even going to touch. I used simple shaders.

Instead, I speak about the expansion and the preparation of procedural geometry. Going into the details of this process would take too long. It would be more convenient to download a source scene and watch for yourself. The file also contains comments for convenience. You can download the HIP file here. Please don’t hesitate to ask any questions.

Flakes Animation

To animate paint flakes we used a standard model which combines the particle dynamics and the subsequent copying of the flakes geometry into particles. The mechanic is simple. It can be better understood by analyzing the scene in details (follow the link above as well).

Sand Storm Simulation 

The biggest plus of the effect is that it took little time and it’s fully procedural. The effect represents nothing but a neat combo of two noise generators. I’ve uploaded this scene, too, and it’s available at this link. It shouldn’t be hard to understand the details, even for a rookie. Anyone can take it and play with the noise settings, adjusting and trying to get results with which they are satisfied. This is the way I learned and understood the search for the proper noise pattern.

Houdini Review

Houdini itself is very appealing; it almost has no “black boxes”. A user gets full and flexible control over the internal processes, be it procedural geometry, simulation or animation. In addition, it’s the simplest suite to start with on your own. The only disadvantage is a high barrier to entry. However, once you overcome this barrier, your further Houdini learning will be faster, because it’s very logical and consistent in all aspects.

If you asked me for a tip for those who plan to start learning Houdini, I would recommend starting with particles and rigid bodies’ dynamics as these effects have rapid feedback. They are calculated faster in comparison to water or explosion simulation. Besides that, you’ll get a basic understanding of dynamics. Still, it all depends on your background. You should have good knowledge of math, as it’s the only language that can describe everything that happens in both real life and the VFX world.

What’s also good about Houdini is that is has a list of pre-installed presets. It’s enough to click just one button on a tool panel and there you go with a setup of a simple explosion or simulation of a liquid. Then you can modify certain parameters paying attention to how the simulation changes.

Nikolay Skolkov, CG Generalist at Wargaming

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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