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SideFX’s New Houdini 16—What’s Hot In This 3D Software Package

SideFX’s Houdini 16 has massive new updates in features and capabilities. Architosh takes a look at some of the bigger ones in procedural oceans technology and its all new shader builder module.

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Side Effects Software released Houdini 16 back in February and the 3D software package, which runs on Mac as well as Windows and Linux, is a massive update worthy of serious attention by both existing and non-Houdini users.

Procedural 3D artists will appreciate the many new features across user experience (UX), modeling, terrain generation, character rigging, and hair and fluids tools.

What’s Really Big—In Houdini 16

Oceans

Houdini 16 features new terrain modeling capabilities letting users layer and edit with tools like procedural noise as well as use more direct effect tools like masking and painting. Specific and more realistic effects can be constructed while at the same time set against an infinite ocean context or background.

01 - Houdini 16's new Ocean features include the ability to layer a mask over a procedural shader-based object (ocean plane, grid) and blend them seamlessly while the masked area can receive unique qualities like a hero wave.

01 – Houdini 16’s new Ocean features include the ability to layer a mask over a procedural shader-based object (ocean plane, grid) and blend them seamlessly while the masked area can receive unique qualities like a hero wave.

The user can actually draw out a mask within a procedurally driven ocean surface and then set individually how much that masked area is contributing to the overall ocean procedural settings. It is now also possible to say you want this type of wave at a specific point—useful to creating hero waves at moments when an object may want to hit it, like a boat in a film scene. (see 01)

02 - Oceans are no longer bound to grids but can be applied to any surface.

02 – Oceans are no longer bound to grids but can be applied to any surface.

You can now put oceans on any surface, not just these infinite grids. This allows for the creation of stunning visual effects like the image above. (see 02)

New Shader Builder

The Mantra rendering engine in Houdini has been improved but the bigger level improvement is the work the company put into its shader workflow. The company has re-architected its shader module with layering in mind and all of this works through a nodes-based workflow. (see 03)  Texture baking is also vastly improved, important for the gaming community.

03 - The new shader layering works through a nodes editing system. Notice how the emission based layer reads like it is coming from within the object in the final shader composite.

03 – The new shader layering works through a nodes editing system. Notice how the emission based layer reads like it is coming from within the object in the final shader composite.

Mantra Surface has been named to Classic Shader, while the new principled ubershader capabilities take center stage. Real-time displacement is now possible. And there is easy OpenGL visualization for custom shaders. There is updated shader libraries with new entries for skin, wax, and mountain. The whole look development capabilities of Houdini 16 are significantly updated.

Other Features

There are so many other features to call out in this article but here are a few that stood out:

  • New node network and radial menus — there are new context-sensitive menus and fully customizable radial menus
  • New modeling tools include new Booleans, Smooth and Polyfill
  • There is also new shatter tools
  • New terrain tools feature volume sliders and height fields
  • Houdini 16 has a complete character rigging system thanks to new auto-rigging, muscle and flesh architecture and invisible rigs
  • New hair and grooming tools
  • And much more…

To learn more about Houdini 16 visit SideFX on the web here. The company is at GDC 2017 this week.