If someone were to be learning Houdini, what areas should they put extra effort in if they may later want to go into gaming?

I’m not quite sure how to say this concisely. I tried searching for a post like this but couldn’t find one. Feel free to let me know if there is one.

I’ve been getting into and learning Houdini for a while now. I’m making sure I’m proficient in all areas in general. (pyro, fluid, particle, modelling, etc). My current pathway is doing film/tv VFX for some years until I get bored or tired of it.

I know Houdini in film/tv is used differently than in gaming, so if i were to eventually move into gaming, I’d have to definitely focus on improving gaming pipeline-specific areas. However I was curious if, during my studies of Houdini for this, there were some areas I could pay a little extra attention to in the meantime that will benefit me if I later jump to gaming.

Sims? Modelling/Assets? Particles? Pyro? etc.

I hope this question makes sense.

Fluids, Pyro and rigid body dynamics

Both game and film VFX use the same core fundamentals of Houdini. The area that they differ is how the fundamentals are applied. Lets say that you wanted an explosion. For both applications you would need to create a source for the simulation then tweak your simulation and materials settings for your end goal. Here is where it gets more interesting. In film you may need to place it in your scene. Only render the volume in the scene and then bring it into Nuke to composite it. In games you might place a camera above the explosion that tracks it. Then render 32 frames with several lights, used to generate a normal map out of (cheaper than a light map). From these frames you pack the normal, alpha, and emission into a 1024x1024 rgba flipbook. Now in the game engine you create a material that uses your new awesome flipbook texture. This material is applied to a particle system that spawns a few particles. These particles play back the top of the simulation to create the explosion in engine.

The biggest difference that you will find is the techniques that are used for game VFX. Many times we are limited to camera facing cards or simple meshes with a panning material. Houdini can help generate content for games. But think of it as a means to an end, instead of a full solution. Anything that you learn in your Houdini journey can be useful in the future. But there isn’t anything that you need to add extra attention for learning Houdini in my opinion.

Areas that you can pay more attention while using Houdini is principles of art theory. Things like timing, shape, motion, color, etc. Jason Keyser made a nice playlist for some of these concepts applied to games https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLQD_sA-R5qVKVYw3EVuRT7fSJsVukLEhD. These types of concepts will translate anything vfx related and help you in your career.

Now if you want to start playing with Houdini for games check out Andres Glad they have really great videos too https://www.sidefx.com/profile/Partikel/. If you have access to pluralsight, I would highly suggest to follow this course https://www.pluralsight.com/courses/houdini-vfx-games. It will help with how to go from a Houdini sim into a full on explosion in Unreal Engine with screen shake! Make sure to check out the gameshelf SideFX has been making. There are a lot of great digital assets there to help you. If you want to give yourself a challenge you can try to use Houdini each of the monthly sketches here. The current months sketch is destruction. There is still enough time to blowup a statue or two!


Holy. Thank you so much for the extensive info. I figured fundamentals are transferable and the most important but the extra info is exactly what I needed.

I’m in the midst of finishing up some education and my demo reel for fx so I’m trying sooo hard to not put all my time into gaming fx because im breaking into film/tv first (or SideFX’s paid internship)–the gaming side is so fascinating though. I’ll definitely check those resources out on the side. I’ve been watching some panels on SideFX’s vimeo on the subway regarding its use in gaming and how beastly some people are with it in general so I wanted to see how I could apply that knowledge. Or just use it as inspiration.

I’m going of on a tangent at this point though. Thanks again for the resources. I really appreciate it! I’ll check out the monthly sketches too!

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I would suggest taking an effect and start looking at ways to make the assets in Houdini. @Ben_Esler listed some great resources.

Once you’ve made the asset, perhaps you could look at ways to automate it, ie: you now have to make that same asset 20 times, how would you make it faster. Looking at @Partikel 's videos is a great example of how he’s made a bunch of assets and will give you good insight into how it could be done.

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