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Uncover the important thing options of Houdini 20

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SideFX’s teaser video for Houdini 20. The discharge, described as “by far the biggest 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, recreation improvement and movement graphics.

The replace brings main modifications 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 underneath 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 biggest launch ever”, not merely for the brand new options it introduces, however for the “improvement arcs” it establishes for future instruments.

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

Of the three, the brand new character FX instruments are probably 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 improvement, 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’s 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 improvement arc: to introduce help for machine studying in a manner that may “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 potential 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 might be modified by adjusting attributes, or portray texture masks to regulate these attributes.

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

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

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

We wrote concerning the ‘Frankenmuscle’ system, which makes it potential to mix a number of smaller muscle mass right into a single geometry, in our protection of Houdini 19.5, however yow will discover a listing of modifications 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 improvement 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 potential 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 rapidly 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 – additionally it is potential to make use of Houdini’s Dynamic Movement system to mechanically 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 rapidly it makes it potential to animate.

Character rigging and animation: new APEX framework quickens work with complicated rigs
The animation workflow is made potential 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-Objective EXecution graph) goes additional, making it potential to transform “the whole lot [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 needed, then compiling the graph on the fly.

APEX rigs play properly with present KineFX workflows like animation retargeting: in response to the Houdini 20 keynote, “APEX and KineFX work as a staff: 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 modifications embrace help for deep images, ID matte-generation system Cryptomatte, and a wider vary of sunshine varieties, together with the Bodily Sky Mild, geometry lights and IES lights.

There are additionally a number of new features in Karma normally, together with help for shade 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’ll be able to 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 premise for a brand new real-time cinematic renderer that may go “face to face” with Karma, providing each higher visible constancy and an “order of magnitude” improve in efficiency for final-quality rendering.

Setting artwork: new art-directable cloud system
Setting 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 type by producing the person primitives alongside splines, or to fill a polygonal mesh.

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

For background work, additionally it is potential to have Houdini generate clouds filling a 2D subject or 3D quantity, once more with the choice to make use of a spread of noise varieties to regulate the outcomes.

Simulation: updates to FLIP fluids and ocean simulation
Unusually for a Houdini launch, the opposite simulation instruments aren’t the principle 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 towards each other realistically, however don’t interpenetrate.

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

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

There’s additionally a brand new Ripple Solver for producing smaller floor ripples.

It does an identical job to Houdini 19.5’s Shallow Water solver, however by way of a spring-based simulation appearing on floor geometry, somewhat than a fluid simulation appearing on peak fields, making it usable in a wider vary of contexts: one demo confirmed it getting used to strain 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 potential 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 potential 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 surroundings, plus a spread 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 instrument shelf.

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

Within the keynote, VP of Product Growth Cristin Barghiel mentioned 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 substitute 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 might be utilized to terrain era.

Worth 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’s additionally a free Houdini Apprentice academic version and a lower-cost, rental-only Houdini Indie version, each of which save in separate file codecs. See a product comparison table here.

Worth modifications 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 totally free, however extra 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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