Uncover the important thing options of Houdini 20

SideFX’s teaser video for Houdini 20. The discharge, described as “by far the most important ever” for Houdini, is now delivery, bringing main updates to the CFX, animation and rendering toolsets.

SideFX has launched Houdini 20, the subsequent main model of its procedural 3D software for VFX, sport growth and movement graphics.

The replace brings main adjustments to Houdini’s character FX and animation toolsets, introducing APEX, an artist-friendly new character animation context, and an entire new feather workflow.

Karma XPU, the CPU/GPU model of Houdini’s render engine, is now formally production-ready, whereas below the hood, an experimental Vulkan viewport lays the foundations for its successor.

The discharge additionally introduces new retopology and meshing instruments, a brand new sculptable cloud system, and updates Houdini’s simulation toolsets, together with liquid, Pyro and inflexible physique simulations.

The Houdini 20 keynote. This two-hour video reveals off the brand new options intimately.

The ‘largest launch ever’ for Houdini
SideFX describes Houdini 20 as “by far the most important launch ever”, not merely for the brand new options it introduces, however for the “growth arcs” it establishes for future instruments.

Though it options updates all through Houdini’s core toolsets, the largest adjustments are to character FX, to rigging and animation, and to rendering.

Of the three, the brand new character FX instruments are essentially the most feature-complete, with a whole new feather look dev and grooming system, and the muscle system turning into production-ready.

The animation instruments are earlier in growth, with APEX, Houdini’s new artist-friendly character rigging and animation context, being launched in beta in Houdini 20.

Rendering is a mixture of the 2, with CPU/GPU render engine Karma XPU turning into formally production-ready, however an experimental new Vulkan viewport marking the primary look of what is going to ultimately change into a brand new real-time cinematic renderer to “go face to face” with it.

And though it hasn’t but resulted in lots of new instruments, Houdini 20 additionally marks the beginning of a brand new growth arc: to introduce help for machine studying in a manner that can “contact each fiber” of the software program.

Character FX: new feather grooming and look dev workflow
For character artists, Houdini 20 introduces an entire new set of GPU-accelerated instruments for generating and grooming feathers.

The brand new instruments make it attainable to work immediately within the viewport, with the choice to show a groom as a 2D array of feathers that may be chosen individually, and edited with normal instruments.

The general type of every feather is managed with information curves – there are separate curves for the shaft, define and particular person barbules – and may be modified by adjusting attributes, or portray texture masks to regulate these attributes.

It’s additionally attainable to color masks immediately on the floor of the 3D character being groomed immediately within the viewport, and to scale and orient feathers utilizing an ordinary brush-based workflow.

A GPU-accelerated deintersection algorithm handles collisions between feathers, and SideFX says that all the toolset is quick sufficient to make it attainable to work interactively.

Character FX: muscle and tissue simulation is now production-ready
As well as, Houdini’s muscle and gentle tissue simulation system is now formally production-ready.

We wrote concerning the ‘Frankenmuscle’ system, which makes it attainable to mix a number of smaller muscular tissues right into a single geometry, in our protection of Houdini 19.5, however you could find a listing of adjustments particular to Houdini 20 within the online release notes.

Character rigging and animation: new artist-friendly animation workflow
One of many main themes in Houdini’s latest growth has been to make core toolsets accessible to much less technically minded artists who discover its node-based workflow offputting.

In Houdini 20, this has resulted in a brand new “viewport-centric” animation workflow, supposed to make it attainable to create character animation in a way more artist-friendly manner.

Key options embrace the choice to import reference video footage and show it within the viewport behind a personality, then to dam out key poses by manipulating the character rig, utilizing a brand new Selection sets HUD to regulate which rig controls are selectable.

A brand new animation toolbar shortly creates breakdown poses, utilizing easy slider controls.

In addition to keyframe animation – streamlined by a brand new system of animation bookmarks within the playbar, and workflow improvements to the graph editor – it is usually attainable to make use of Houdini’s Dynamic Movement system to robotically generate bodily believable movement between poses.

The movement can then be edited interatively by manipulating trajectory curves within the viewport, in a manner just like specialist physics-based animation instruments like Cascadeur.

It’s value watching the recording of the Houdini 20 keynote (the related part begins at 00:18:25) to get a really feel for the brand new workflow, and simply how shortly it makes it attainable to animate.

Character rigging and animation: new APEX framework quickens work with complicated rigs
The animation workflow is made attainable by APEX, Houdini’s new graph analysis framework.

It builds on KineFX, the framework for character rigging, retargeting and movement enhancing that SideFX launched in Houdini 18.5.

KineFX’s key innovation was to deal with a personality rig as editable geometry, nevertheless it used Houdini’s VEX expression language so as to add kinematics, which “proved inefficient for complicated rigs”.

APEX (All-Goal EXecution graph) goes additional, making it attainable to transform “all the things [needed] for an animation” – together with locators, constraints and curves – into geometry.

SideFX describes it as “particularly tailor-made” for real-time workflows, bettering interactivity by deferring analysis of the graph till really obligatory, then compiling the graph on the fly.

APEX rigs play properly with current KineFX workflows like animation retargeting: in keeping with the Houdini 20 keynote, “APEX and KineFX work as a crew: you don’t have to think about it as both/or”.

Rendering: Karma XPU is now production-ready
One other key change in Houdini 20 is that the Karma XPU renderer is now production-ready.

The replace brings the CPU/GPU model of the renderer nearer to feature parity with Karma CPU, the CPU-only model that turned Houdini’s default render engine in Houdini 19.5.

Key adjustments embrace help for deep images, ID matte-generation system Cryptomatte, and a wider vary of sunshine sorts, together with the Bodily Sky Gentle, geometry lights and IES lights.

There are additionally numerous new features in Karma on the whole, together with help for colour administration normal OCIO 2.0 and prolonged help for MaterialX.

Rendering: experimental new Vulkan viewport
Houdini 20 additionally lays the foundations for Karma’s successor, by introducing help for Vulkan.

As in Blender, the brand new graphics API is initially getting used for viewport rendering, as a substitute for the ageing OpenGL.

The Vulkan viewport continues to be an experimental characteristic, and is disabled by default, however you may see a video displaying it in use with Houdini 20’s feather system on this page of SideFX’s web site.

Nonetheless, SideFX has a lot greater plans for Vulkan, describing it as the idea for a brand new real-time cinematic renderer that can go “face to face” with Karma, providing each higher visible constancy and an “order of magnitude” enhance in efficiency for final-quality rendering.

Atmosphere artwork: new art-directable cloud system
Atmosphere artists get an entire new art-directable volumetric cloud system.

Customers can create hero clouds primarily based on teams of sphere primitives, with the choice to regulate their kind by producing the person primitives alongside splines, or to fill a polygonal mesh.

The look of the cloud may be adjusted by making use of wispy or billowy noise to the bottom kind.

For background work, it is usually attainable to have Houdini generate clouds filling a 2D subject or 3D quantity, once more with the choice to make use of a variety of noise sorts to regulate the outcomes.

Simulation: updates to FLIP fluids and ocean simulation
Unusually for a Houdini launch, the opposite simulation instruments aren’t the primary focus of Houdini 20, however there are nonetheless updates all through the important thing toolsets.

For liquid simulation, the SOP-based FLIP fluids system launched in Houdini 19.5 has been supplemented by a brand new SOP-based whitewater system for producing foam and spray.

For smaller-scale simulations, a brand new bubble solver generates seamless rafts of bubbles that press up in opposition to each other realistically, however don’t interpenetrate.

As well as, a brand new ocean procedural makes it attainable to generate a sensible ocean floor from low-resolution geometry at render time, with out the necessity to bake textures.

It helps a variety of wave spectrum sorts, and works with Karma and all the third-party Hydra render delegates that Houdini helps, together with Arnold, Redshift and RenderMan.

There may be additionally a brand new Ripple Solver for producing smaller floor ripples.

It does an analogous job to Houdini 19.5’s Shallow Water solver, however by way of a spring-based simulation appearing on floor geometry, fairly than a fluid simulation appearing on top fields, making it usable in a wider vary of contexts: one demo confirmed it getting used to stress ripples in flesh.

Simulation: updates to Pyro, inflexible our bodies, Vellum and crowds
For gaseous fluids, the Pyro toolset will get new parameters for making use of gravity, with the depth of the impact scaling with fluid density. When simulating mud and particles, the brand new controls make it attainable to have denser elements of a mud cloud fall sooner, as proven within the video above.

As well as, the rigid body dynamics toolset will get help for sticky collisions and a brand new possibility for fracturing curved glass, whereas Vellum fabric simulations get help for wind shadows.

The crowd simulation toolset will get a new motion path system, making it attainable to regulate the behaviour of small numbers of crowd brokers with out the necessity to re-run a simulation.

Different new options: new floor instruments, parallax mapping and updates to Solaris
Different highlights embrace an experimental Quad Remesh system for changing fashions to low-poly all-quad meshes, whereas the Topo Switch system will get a brand new Topo Flow node.

There are additionally additional updates to Solaris, Houdini’s structure and look dev setting, plus a variety of smaller new options, together with help for parallax mapping to pretend 3D interiors for rooms when rendering buildings.

Exterior the core utility, Houdini Engine for Unreal will get a brand new software shelf.

Nonetheless to return: a brand new technology of machine learning-based instruments
As well as, SideFX has begun growing a brand new technology of AI-trained instruments for Houdini.

Within the keynote, VP of Product Improvement Cristin Barghiel stated that the work will finally “contact each fiber” of the appliance, however that the agency believed that machine studying would complement Houdini’s conventional procedural workflows, not change them.

As of Houdini 20, there are few machine studying options within the core software program, however there are two new ML set-ups within the Content Library, SideFX’s free on-line library of Houdini add-ons.

Each use the ONNX Inference node, used to use a pre-trained ML mannequin to supply information.

The ML Deformer mimics the output of a Vellum tissue simulation, however computes sooner, whereas ML Terrain is a demo of how machine studying may be utilized to terrain technology.

Value and system necessities
Houdini 20 is obtainable for Home windows 8+, macOS 11.0+, and Linux distros.

The software program is available in several editions. The complete version, Houdini FX, prices $4,495 for a node-locked licence; $6,995 for a floating licence. Houdini Core, which lacks superior simulation instruments, prices $1,995 for a node-locked licence; $2,995 for a floating licence.

There may be additionally a free Houdini Apprentice instructional version and a lower-cost, rental-only Houdini Indie version, each of which save in separate file codecs. See a product comparison table here.

Value adjustments to Karma community licences due subsequent yr
For community rendering, SideFX is altering the licensing mannequin for Karma, with customers of Houdini FX and Houdini Core getting 10 community licences without spending a dime, however further licence tokens – beforehand free on request – now being priced on a rental foundation, beginning at $195/yr.

The change comes into impact on 1 January 2024.

Read an overview of the new features in Houdini 20 on SideFX’s website

Read a full list of new features in Houdini 20 in the online documentation

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