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Very impressive article Jake! You are very talented.
nice article! i love seeing the breakdowns.
Saber Jlassi talked about some of the very cool things you can create with Houdini and use in your game. You can sign up for the course, which highlights all of these techniques in more detail over here. Rebelway has a lot of very cool courses!
My name is Saber Jlassi and I’m a Freelance VFX artist & a Houdini Instructor. I started about 11 years ago working in archviz and 3d commercials In Tunisia where I’m from. Then I moved to London to work for MPC commercial as a Generalist TD where i did a variety of tasks that involved, Lighting, Shading, FX and tool developments, after that I moved to Framestore Film and worked as a Senior Lighting TD.
While working at Framestore I got contacted by Blizzard and decided to take the opportunity and moved to the US and joined Blizzard Cinematics as a Senior Technical Director lvl I and lvl II, Creating tools and designing pipelines for the Compositing, Lighting, 2.5D , FX Departments as well as working with production on solving challenging Problems.
I have been using and learning Houdini for about 7 years on and off, and using it full time for the last 4 years.
All the 3d packages are designed to do a specific thing and be used in a specific way and offer very little options to be customized and most of the time it is a black box.
Houdini is much more than a 3d package, it is a framework for 3d development, and at certain level this is the kind of tool that you need to master to create your own tools that can be used to create the art that you want, whether it’s an environment and or an explosion.
Houdini provides an insane amount of flexibility to create and design tools with very little scripting required.
Houdini comes with a lot of advanced tools to create geometry, and offers tons of options to manipulate points and with all of that it comes with tools designed primary for FX that can also be re-purposed and used to create 3d geometry and in my case I made an extensive use of vdb volumes to create complex rock formations.
Getting Assets Ready for the Production
The final result is very flexible in terms of poly-count and Houdini can automatically optimize it so you only get geometry in areas with high curvature. You also have the option to generate a perfect quad mesh without any retopologizing needed.
We can also generate low-res meshes and extract all the maps needed or real-time rendering, for example: displacement maps, vector displacement, tangent maps, occlusion, thickness and more.
I have had very good results with low-res 9 to 30K polygon meshes, and with using the extracted maps to bring back all the details needed for real-time rendering.
Once we switch to use volumes we can do much more complex processing to the data in comparison to using geometry, we can push and pull voxels, substruct data and do all kinds of complex booleans that will result in generating a perfect valid mesh.
I’m utilizing all of the Houdini procedural noise, voronoi, worley, cellnoise, antialaised noise to name a few, and by mixing all these procedural textures we can easily create very complex patterns.
All the textures used in the project were procedurally created using Houdini COPS which offer us access to all of the noise patterns, and by simply mixing all the maps and layering mid, small, and big noises pattern, coloring each with a specific ramp, we can build very interesting materials.
I also created a system that allows me to generate tileable textures, and the fact that I can do this for example is something Houdini is unique at, If you don’t have a solution you can easily make one and use it, and this tiling system was created without scripting a single line of code.
In fact the entire project and workshop have zero scripting.
The course is designed to emulate working in a real studio, so the first thing the student will learn is how real production works.I have designed a small pipeline that will be used throughout this project and it will offer tons of features that will greatly improve the speed of which we create assets and version them, as well as gathering all the data in what we call layout scenes.
The course is also packed with tons of advanced shading and lighting techniques as well as setting up a color pipeline to emulate working in Feature film.
Then we learn how to generate low-res meshes and extract all the maps needed to create the environment in UE4.
Apart from FX artist, I think anyone who needs to generate tons of 3d assets for VFX and/or Games needs to learn Houdini SOP very very well, and from there each artist can make use of the tools available in Houdini to speed up their day to day work flow and /or comes with completed new solution to solve new problems.
The fact that we can design tools and use them to create photo realistic environments is a huge achievement, and honestly I cannot think how I would approach or dare to tackle such a problem if i didn’t have Houdini.
Once we create all these tools and assets we get all the extra flexibility that Houdini proceduralism offers, we can literally generate tens of thousands of unique assets overnight with zero human intervention.
The other main advantage for me, is the fact that everything is done inside of a single package, texture creation -> model creation -> lowres generation -> maps extraction -> shading -> lighting -> fx -> rendering and we can also do compositing.
And this by itself saves tons and tons of time and money for studios and artists.