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CGWorkshops: VEX in Houdini - ask me anything!

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Link: CGWorkshop-- VEX in Houdini

 

The course starts August 4th and runs for 8 weeks. I'm going to start out covering the basics of VEX, then we'll move on to some really fun projects. It's going be a good mix of visual effects related coding and really fun generative art. Check out the outline on the course website and if you have questions, ask away. I love teaching with Houdini as my blackboard, so I hope that comes across in the lessons. I want this course to kick ass; the world is full of boring programming classes and we don't need another!

 

Happy Houdini'n

-Shawn

 

 

PS:  XSI gals and guys, wanna learn VEX? I think I know a way...

 

PS:PS:  "Houdini'n" - is that a word yet. Can I say that?   :)

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Nice subject matter!

Please teach some vector and matrix math too. This will save me from explaining it to new artists. (Like in your flocking, you could use a pointcloud and subfilter it based on the 'vision' of the boid - that would be a nice way to explain dot product).

Apart from that, mix in cross product, orient quaternions and building orientation matrices. Potentially mixing in different coordinate systems (spherical, cylindrical) might be nice too.

If you want to go there, explain some of the differences of using vex in sops and vex in shops.

 

Half my networks are full of vops doing custom things, so it is so crucial for new artists to have a solid understanding of vops/vex. I think what you are doing is great.

 

The CVEX stuff should be fun. Enjoy teaching it! I'm sure this will be help a lot of people that are unfamiliar with the power of vops and vex.

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Please teach some vector and matrix math too. This will save me from explaining it to new artists.

 

I feel your pain! As I'm just starting to record lectures I have the freedom to cover as much additional math content as I want, but at the same time I don't want to overwhelm any students. Most of the papers we're implementing are not too math heavy- minimal linear algebra/trig/calc (basic integration- several students will be doing it without realizing it's from calculus). I hope I get a lot of feedback after the class is over as to what I need to cover more in-depth or, conversely, back off on. I've already spoke with a delightful artist in the class who has a physics background so some will clearly be more than qualified. If I had TA's, he would be nominated to answer all math questions in the class forums.

 

 

Apart from that, mix in cross product, orient quaternions and building orientation matrices.

 

Check, check, check. We'll definitely be instancing and orienting tons of boids. For quats, we can at least build them and slerp between them, talk about their advantages over Euler angles.

 

Potentially mixing in different coordinate systems (spherical, cylindrical) might be nice too.

 

For sure we'll talk about other coordinate systems. For polar coordinates I've got a great one-wrangle node example of a tron disk (something I would have done in a completely different way pre-13), was thinking about doing something cool with phyllotaxis (sunflower spiral). And for spherical coordinates, scattering points uniformly in a sphere comes up at least once.

 

Half my networks are full of vops doing custom things, so it is so crucial for new artists to have a solid understanding of vops/vex. I think what you are doing is great.

 

Mine too these days. Thanks!

 

The CVEX stuff should be fun.

 

I'm hoping they extend it to allow us to create more types of geometry- for example, after connecting points as polylines you have to drop down a convert node to go to nurbs. Wouldn't it be great to loose that step? And I'd love to have the ability to create geo at rendertime, connect polylines and polygons, as you do in SOPs CVEX. I love the point replicate procedural, but it just hands you the points to place.

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I'm hoping they extend it to allow us to create more types of geometry- for example, after connecting points as polylines you have to drop down a convert node to go to nurbs. Wouldn't it be great to loose that step? And I'd love to have the ability to create geo at rendertime, connect polylines and polygons, as you do in SOPs CVEX. I love the point replicate procedural, but it just hands you the points to place.

 

You can always teach your next class on rendertime procedurals in the HDK :) - That would do it!

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This looks like a dream course for me, but unfortunately I can't join this year. Do you know if it will be rerun next year? It would be a real shame to miss it. :/ 

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Johnathan, I definitely want to teach it again and improve it with post-course feedback. Two things determine if we'll offer it again:

 

1) Does the course sell? If it's subscribed to well enough then it'll probably run again. I realize that VEX in Houdini is definitely niche and the demand for dynamics courses like Spencer's will always be higher.

 

2) How much time do I have to commit? Assuming 1) goes well, I need to not be too busy with the day job and life. I'm going freelance soon so I'll have some measure of control over this.

 

That said, I hope I get another shot because it's gonna be fun!

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May I use this Thread to ask a question:

 

I come from a Editing/Design background and never really needed any programming up until now. 

Now I realise, especially due to the new Wrangle Nodes how helpful it can be.

 

 

I see that you need people to have a background in Programming in any C like language. I dont have any background in programming at all.

 

Where should I start?

C? C++? Python? Vex? RSL?

 

Thanks to anyone who can give me any input on that!

 

Greetings!

Henrik

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@henrik

 

I get this question a lot and I might be biased but I think Processing is by far the easiest way to start. It's a very visual, friendly environment and the community rocks (just like Houdini!). It was built at the nexus of art and programming with teaching specifically in mind.

http://processing.org/

 

And as far as books go, Nature of Code is great and it's pay-what-you-want:

http://natureofcode.com/

 

What you learn there can easily be translated into VEX when you're ready. The difficulty in Houdini is actually understanding the contexts and how everything fits together. You have vops, wrangles, inline vex in vops, vex otls, external vex... All that is on top of SOPs/SHOPs/DOPs/*OPs and at some point the artist's head explodes sending chunks of brain and nodes against the wall :P

 

So try Processing as a dedicated environment to learn and play. If it ever becomes too slow, transition to libcinder which is the sports car edition:

http://libcinder.org/

 

 

Learn this once and you can apply it everywhere. The core programming concepts and the core math behind CG doesn't change. Good luck!

Edited by yourdaftpunk

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Hey Shawn,

 

thanks so much for your detailed reply! I will definitly check out Processing over the summer!

 

Thanks!

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Hi Shawn

Im the guy that connected to you in linkedin to ask you a few questions about the cgworkshop you re about to give.

i'm thinking these days what to do next year and i have the possibility to do this summer a course on Houdini.

Your workshop on VEX programming would be a perfect complement i think so my questions are:

 

- is it necessary to have some knowledge on houdini interface etc prior in order to follow correctly your workshop?

- if you decide to repeat the course next year do you know when would it be most probably? summer as well? (that would be great for me!)

- how much workload would this workshop take? because i might combine it with the houdini course i told you and this spans all over august, ( also this would be the first cgsociety workshop i d take so kind of lost here regarding this subject)

 

- to finish: I come from a programming background although in recent years i did a stop on working and decided to go back to school and take exclusively art classes, from anatomy, to drawing, modeling in 3d etc. I discovered that what i really wanted is to be a 3d artist mainly but that can occasionally code to write tools or simplify tasks but i dont know if out there in the world there are jobs that allow you to do this mixture of tasks: art related & code. Are there any? 

As far as i know there are the jobs known as "technical artists" that do both in their day to day work in videogames but there are few and it's a relatively new job that has appeared in recent years. Im referring mostly to videogames/films & VFX/advertisement industries. But then i have a look at some of the people that work in those industries that give these courses and they seem to be a mixture of artist and programmer.

Edited by Juan Cristóbal Quesada

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That mix of art and code is pretty much the bread and butter of the fx team. Some lean more one way or the other, but our day to day work involves a significant amount of both.

 

M

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ditto. Any half decent FX TD has to clobber with "both worlds" quite frequently. In fact in my experience, people with a programming background fit very well into an FX department if they do their "3D homework" strong enough.

I´ve taught several of them with quite a lot of success. Last year I had one "hybrid" individual like you in class and with the school demo reel he entered MPC right away where he´s still working quite succesfully.

Edited by Netvudu

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Looks like a great course.  I've got a Computer Science background, so this would be perfect to help me get more into VEX & using those wrangle nodes correctly!

Just one question, how many places have you got left at the moment?

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- is it necessary to have some knowledge on houdini interface etc prior in order to follow correctly your workshop?

 

I'd say so as this is not a beginners course. If you really want to take it, you have 5 weeks left to get comfortable with the program, but it's challenging because Houdini is deeper than any other 3D package so you need to commit several hours to watching the sidefx videos (which are great btw!) and going through example scenes that come with Houdini as well as tearing apart the networks which the shelf tools build. You have the programming background which is great and that will get you far in Houdini's procedural world.

 

 

- if you decide to repeat the course next year do you know when would it be most probably? summer as well? (that would be great for me!)

 

No firm plans, but I'd like to repeat and summers are preferred for me too. This depends on my day job :)

 

 

- how much workload would this workshop take?

 

I may have an update on this later as I'm currently just starting to record and design assignments. I'm trying to cover my material with a similar commitment to video length/assignments as the courses by Spencer Lueders (Fluids) and Robby Thomas (Python in Houdini) which I've been auditing as good examples. So if you've taken similar courses that's the reference point. More specifically though, if you have little Houdini experience or little programming experience I expect it to be far more challenging and time consuming- you might be up all night reading docs and hammering away at code.

 

 

- i dont know if out there in the world there are jobs that allow you to do this mixture of tasks: art related & code. Are there any?

 

Sounds like you've got the bit nailed that most artists stumble with- programming. Marc and Netvudu's answers are right on point. You'll be desirable to VFX studios if you're straddling both worlds confidently. As for games, I imagine it's the same, but you'd have more mentors as far as coding goes. Hell, you're on your way to being a one man indie game studio if you can program and handle the art assets yourself.

 

 

Good luck if you decide to join us and do study that Houdini interface hard! Find an excuse to do something in each context and work on moving data from one network to another.

Edited by yourdaftpunk

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Just one question, how many places have you got left at the moment?

 

I believe we are already over half full so I expect it to sell out. If you register in the next week I think you'll get in no problemo.

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Hi Shawn,

 

I'm signed up for the course and I'm really stoked for it! So much so that I'd love to start prepping for the course.

 

I sent you a private message on CGWorkshop's site with a couple questions, but the message system over there isn't very user friendly. So I'm posting here in hopes that you or someone who's familiar with the course content can help me out.

 

I am a self-taught programmer currently working as a so-called "Creative Technologist". I rarely use Houdini in my day job (though I'm hoping to change this!), therefore I am not as deeply familiar with Houdini as I'd like to be. I have been playing around with Houdini for a couple of years now, watching tutorials and quietly reading through the wealth of knowledge on the forums here, but I definitely still feel like a novice.

 

All that said, can you clarify what is important to know Houdini-wise before starting the course? The "Student requirements" section of the course description states "you must be comfortable working in Houdini in a TD capacity". Could you explain what that entails exactly? I'd like to get as up to speed as possible before the course so I can get the most out of it.

 

Thanks much!

 

PS - I love that you mentioned Cinder earlier in this thread. Cinder is great! It is my tool of choice for most of my "creative coding" needs. I actually sit next to one of the core team members at work. If anyone is interested in C++ "creative coding" with modern opengl, the Cinder team has recently made the shiny, new, modern opengl based render engine branch public on github.

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Thanks for posting here, the message system is a bit... rough. I've heard word they are updating the entire platform though so look forward to improvements.

 

Second, you sound like exactly like the audience I had in mind for this course! Sorry about using the visual effects lingo, I'm going to update the landing page at some point. In the broadest sense, TD, or technical director, is someone who doesn't mind programming or tool building to solve a problem. That could be a specialized lighting rig of some sort, a procedural building generator in Houdini or just someone with the scripting know-how to troubleshoot a pipeline. Lots of TDs are self-taught programmers- artists that are highly motivated to learn on their own and love to take a crack at a hard problem. 

 

Basically, if you've done any sort of programming and you're comfortable with houdini you'll probably do fine. It also helps to have a bit of linear algebra knowledge- understand what a vector is, what it means to normalize a vector, how to add vectors, dot-product and cross product, etc. I'm not currently providing a math cheat sheet but I may in the future if there is a demand. There are already lots of great free videos and resources on the subject. Additionally, if you're up to date on the free sidefx videos, peter quints videos, you're in a really good place! And you'll be able to ask me specific questions when the class starts which is a huge help if you avail yourself of the forums.

 

And yup, Cinder is the bomb.com and my good friend Justin is over at the Barbarian Group working with Andrew, Robert and all the crazy brilliant Cinder devs. Went to a cinderdome once, they are a fun crew!

 

-shawn

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