Course overview Course overview
Create Dynamic FX for film & games
Intro to FX using Houdini will give an exciting introduction to a variety of FX capabilities in Houdini. This course is designed to focus on VFX that are commonly called for in the film industry today. We will go over procedural modeling, fluid FX, particles FX, rigid body destruction, smoke, and lighting & rendering. Each week we will focus on a certain procedural aspect, while maintaining a wider perspective of Houdini's incredible capabilities. This course will strengthen your practical knowledge in VFX, and give you a greater understanding of Houdini's common uses in VFX companies. | *Note: Students can still take the course with a computer that has less performance, but the computations will take longer and some simulation won't be as high resolution due to RAM limitations. | Houdini's Apprentice education edition software is available as a free download, and is all you will need to take this course.
Intro to FX Using Houdini WHAT YOU’LL LEARN
The more you know, the better.
Your journey starts here
Lectures by Manuel Tausch
Manuel Tausch is the co-founder of Stormborn Studios in Vancouver, Canada, a boutique studio that specializes in Houdini effects. Over the course of 10 years Manuel has worked on over twenty feature films at some of the most prestigious studios around the world, including Weta, ILM and Sony Imageworks. Manuel is always trying to push the boundaries of procedural FX and enjoys building complex setups, programming tools and tackling challenging shots. He loves sharing knowledge and is constantly trying to improve his techniques. Manuel considers Houdini his tool of choice when it comes to building intricate FX rigs.
spring TERM Registration
Feb 11, 2019 - Apr 26, 2019
Oliver Wildt / Winter 2018
It is a great course so far and the things i am most interested are still to come (Particles, FLIPs, RBDs and Volumes) Overall i have zero complaints. I also would like to point out that you really feel that you want to teach people and not just show how stuff is done. This a great thing about the Houdini community in general but its something that should always be acknowledged.
Peter Tong / Winter 2018
I really like the course and the way you taught. I'm excited with those VEX coding and would like to learn more. Looking forward to your more advanced course coming soon. Thanks for you great work!
Grzergorz Olesniewicz / Winter 2018
I like how you've structured this course and how you are teaching. Having knowledge doesn't always mean you have the skill to pass it on to someone, but you definitely have it, that's why I find this course so awesome.
Martino Ferrara / Winter 2018
I want to spend two words on your workshop: for a beginner like me, this course was a real game changer, I struggled a lot, every week, but I know for sure that mastering these materials that you gave us will be the foundations of my future works! (and that's really motivating!)
Alasgar Hasanov / Winter 2018
Thanks for such a unique and interesting course! The course was for sure very unique and intense(the most intense Houdini course I have taken :D).
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Simulating Tower Destruction
Interview with Greg Oleśniewicz
Hello, my name is Greg. I’m from Warsaw, Poland. I work as a Senior Motion Designer in the advertising industry. I’ve always liked watching massive effects in movies or games and I decided that I wanted to know how to do that kind of stuff, so here I am. As for now, I’m focusing on learning as much as I can. I don’t know if it will take me to the games or film industry, but I’m kind of open to that as I love both the same way.
CGMA Course Goals
My goal was to get a grasp of Houdini in general. Before I was watching many tutorials and managed to get through them but without understanding what was really going on. I wanted to start to understand Houdini, not just to learn a few tricks. And I can say I’m 100% satisfied with this course.
It took me a long time to decide on taking it since it does cost a few bucks, but it’s really worth every dollar. Having a mentor like Manuel Tausch who’s actually there for you not just to get by but to help you to improve is what makes the difference. If you can’t decide whether it is worth it and if you should take it – it is and you should. Do it, it’s awesome!
To correctly describe in detail how the simulation works I should write a book about it, but I’ll try to keep it short.
The main word for every aspect of this sim is proceduralism. The tower is built procedurally, the way it’s fractured is procedural, the way it collapses is procedural and so on. In practice, it means that anytime I want I can go back and change anything. It takes more time in the beginning to build all the complex systems, but after that, I don’t have to remodel anything. For example, if I want to change the number of floors in the tower to 5, I can just move the slider to 5 and everything automatically updates. I think in production it is crucial to be able to go back to any step you want and make a quick change.
The sim structure is kind of layered. As I’ve mentioned the tower is built procedurally. As for the fracture of the tower, it’s made with custom-made HDA which uses Voronoi Fracture and looks up the geometry to specify how much and where the cuts should be made. The geometry for the cuts is manually placed as it is more of an artistic choice where they should appear.
The fracturing is divided into two parts: the lower tower part and upper. The lower part gets some initial velocity so it explodes at the beginning of the sim. Then the fractures get constrained with some attributes telling them when they should break.
The bolt is just 2 curves that emit particles, no physics here just vex and some custom attributes. There are a few layers of small effects added to make it look pretty.
The simulation gets triggered with the distance threshold from the bolt and when the lower part explodes the upper part follows.
The collapsing is a physics-based simulation. The only custom additions are limits for the speed of collapsing parts so that they don’t go too crazy.
Smoke & Debris
When the collapsing is done and cached, it’s turned into points which are the source of the smoke and the debris. They share the same source but these two elements are done independently from each other because at this camera angle there’s no need for the debris to interact with the smoke.
First the smoke. This is something that took most of the time to make it look as it looks now. It’s mainly physics-driven with some custom fields here and there to enhance it a bit. The way to make it look good is going back and forth and adding one effect at a time. I’ve added the turbulence, tweaked it until I was satisfied, then added some disturbance and so on. For the sake of the optimization, it’s divided into wedges. The calculation took a LOT of time.
The debris is something Manuel suggested I should add after the course, – and here I want to thank Manuel for staying in touch after the course was finished and helping me to take this scene to the next level. There’s a lot of debris but only a small percent is visible because of the smoke. Nothing fancy with this sim. They re-emitted from the points with some custom initial velocity and rotation. The emission also fades out until the end.
And that’s about it. It just took a crazy amount of time and constantly going back and forth, but is totally worth it.
The start was pretty simple: a few pieces, a small liquid container with big resolution, a few points. With every iteration it’s all growing bigger and bigger, the calculation takes more and more time. It’s really important to start simple and build on top of that.
During the course, I’ve learned a few lessons. The first would be to divide everything into smaller parts and not to try to simulate everything at once. The second – cache everything. It really makes your life easier especially when you are building one effect on top of another.
But the most important thing is that I started to understand the logic behind it all, not just Houdini but also math behind VFX, coding and so on. And I’ve learned it thanks to how Manuel build this course. The materials are really hard, and there are so many topics in the course that I can’t imagine getting all this knowledge in such a short period of time by just watching tutorials online. And trust me, there’s also a lot of things you won’t find in the online tutorials.
I’m really happy that I’ve decided to enroll in this course and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn Houdini. Thanks to CGMA and to Manuel Tausch!
Simulating Destruction in Houdini
Interview with Hadrien Palanca
Hi, my name is Hadrien Palanca, I am a freelance motion designer and FX artist based in France. I do 3D works for commercials, TV, live events, music videos and all kind of stuff.
For me it all started back in 2000-ish, I loved playing video games but I get bored with every game I play real quick. So I started to play with Cinema 4D. For me, it was like another video game where I could play with balls hitting bricks and physics engine.
When I was in college I studied a lot of things (economics, law, history) but not in art. I learned everything by myself (well, with the help of great online teachers also). At that time, I was also involved in a student association (I had a ton of parties!) and we felt the need for some teasers and animated 3D logo in order to sell more tickets for our parties. So I started to learn everything I could in a more professional way within After Effect and Cinema 4D. I immediately enjoyed it and decided to make a living of it.
I have always been passionate about destroying things, so I kept an eye on Houdini but never dared to take the leap until I saw the VFX breakdown of the movie Attraction from Main Road Post. That was it! Too much for me! I decided to take a leap and learn Houdini whatever it’d cost. And it cost me A LOT of time! But in this journey, CGMA helped me a lot.
CGMA Courses for Houdini
I am kind of extreme when doing things. I bought a lot of Houdini courses available on the internet (Rebelway, Applied Houdini, Renascence Program, Pluralsight, and more) and studied them as much as I could (at a given point I was studying Houdini 14 hour a day). I was willing to know everything I could.
At CGMA, I took the 2 Houdini courses for destruction – one with Keith Kamholz, Mastering Destruction in Houdini, and the other with Manuel Tausch, Intro to FX Using Houdini. I am really happy to have taken them in this order because I was still kind of new to Houdini when I took the first one, and Manuel’s course is really tough!
I think by looking at both of my results you can see the progression, especially in the smoke simulation. Those two courses really helped me to learn a lot within Houdini.
Impressive Destructions in Houdini
You want to have a clear idea of what your destruction will look like because you will fracture your geometry according to that. There’s no point to fracture a part of a building which is not supposed to break, right? For this, your geo must be as clean as possible (no intersecting geo or unfolding geo). After that, you fracture it and get it ready for simulation.
Then, you stack multiple sims on top of each other.
The point is not really to build a «physically correct» destruction. Houdini constraints are not aware of weight, for example, a thin paper-like piece of concrete could literally handle the weight of a whole building. The point is rather to build destruction which looks plausible to you and is as pleasing to the eye as possible.
There are multiple technologies allowing to build destructible structures and simulate fracturing. Here, I used the bullet physics engine. It has been designed for games initially and is now widely used in VFX for handling large numbers of rigid body pieces. You work with physics by giving attributes to pieces that the solver will then understand: speedmax, spinmax, gravity, all sort of information that you give to the solver to have the desired look. There are no good or bad settings I believe, there is only what’s working for your project or not working.
If you are interested in the current state of the technology behind destruction, here is a pretty good article exposing the technology that is being used and that will be used in the future.
The dust effect is not that complicated, it is a combination of 3 simulations: particles sim for the dust with grains, smoke sim and a rigid body sim for rocks.
A growing circle around the character (in the Tower Destruction) scatters points on it and according to the center emits more or less smoke/density. Everything is driven by this smoke sim.
Usually, you want to iterate quite a lot and tweak settings, so it’s necessary to start with fewer pieces, lower collision resolution, fewer sub-steps like that in order to have quick feedback and test which values work best. And then, when you are happy with the behavior of your pieces, you crank everything up.
Advice for a beginner: I would say that no shot will ever be perfect so the most important thing is to try and get better every time. Obviously, if you are a beginner it will not be impressive at first but try, fail, repeat… until your result gets really good.
For me, the most challenging part of Manuel’s course was to combine my daily freelance work with weekly assignments that you have to do. That’s really a lot of work which is not always easy to manage with high demanding projects.
As for the shot itself, I would say that it was the clustered fire sim that I did for torches inside the tower. I had to do multiple clusters for every torch so it was challenging to understand how things work and make the solver understand how to resize dynamically the simulated area for each torch. I ended up with a real mess in my network and some torches actually aren’t very well simulated but, overall, you don’t really notice that.
Recommendations for Learners
When it comes to giving advice to the beginners, it’s really personal but I would recommend not to start 3D with Houdini. Perhaps, it’d be better to start first with something easier to have a solid foundation of the principles in 3D and then move on to Houdini.
I started with Cinema 4D and if I had to understand both how 3D works (textures, UV, normals…) and how Houdini itself works I don’t know if I could have made it.
If you already know 3D, then start with a general introduction which explains what every button does and how Houdini works. That’s not as exciting as a fancy tutorial on building destruction, but you if you have a more solid understanding of Houdini you will be able to use it in every situation. That is not always the case for a tutorial on a specific effect. Once you get a good grasp on Houdini, I would then recommend Applied Houdini from Steven Knipping. For me, this is the where you can get the most valuable information out of your money and believe me, I have bought A LOT of Houdini courses!
CGMA courses were both (Manuel’s and Keith’s) really helpful and full of great production-proven techniques. This was gold! Especially for me because I don’t work in a studio environment full of Houdini killer artists ready to share tips and tricks with you.
I have learned so much within those two courses that it is hard to point out a particular thing I have learned. But I would definitely recommend both courses at CGMA!