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shiz

Learning Paths Houdini experience

23 posts in this topic

Hey guys,

I'm a digital product designer who've always loved creative coding and generative/procedural art. I've heard about Houdini some years ago listening to Ash Thorp's podcast with Albert Omoss and now I'm finally getting to learn this awesome tool.

I love to learning new things and everyday I'm amazed about how Houdini works.

I'm following the PQ Houdini path (currently studying the SideFX's user guide videos) and I'm really loving it. Sometimes it gets confuse because of some old Houdini version related content but I'm feeling that I'm learning with baby but solid steps.

So I want to ask what learning path you guys recommends to learn H, I know SideFX has one learning path too. And please feel free to share about your experience learning it if you like.

Cheers,
Shiz

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Hello, and welcome to the world of Houdini!

Full disclosure... I currently work for a training company called Pluralsight as the Houdini Curriculum Manager... so of course I am more than a little biased about this, but you should look at Pluralsight's newest Houdini Skills Path: https://www.pluralsight.com/paths/getting-started-in-houdini. There are many free resources out there to get you going, and I even recommend starting with them to get your feet wet and to see if Houdini is going to be something you are seriously interested in. But once you are ready to really get rolling the Pluralsight platform offers several advantages to learning that other sources may not. For example, you can take a test to see where your current Houdini skills are, then we can point you to the exact level of learning that is right for you. We now have over 150 hours of Houdini training in over 50 courses covering Houdini right up to the current version, and we're adding more everyday. In addition, there is are several courses in the works right now that will cover the new features of the next release too. Pluralsight is also the only online training platform that is recognized by SideFX as a, "Certified Training Partner". We also offer mentoring, course discussion and support forums, self testing, and noted course files to work from and follow along with the instructor.

Like I said, I am a little biased, but if you have any questions feel free to get a hold of me, I am happy to help if I can. I think you will find that to be the case throughout the entire odforce community, everyone is ready and willing to help, it's one thing that makes learning Houdini so great (the people)!

-john m

john-moncrief@pluralsight.com

PS

There is also a video on this page that explains a bit more about how the Skills Path technology works: https://learn.pluralsight.com/creative/sidefx

 

 

Edited by johnCrief
added a PS and another link
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I'm in a similar situation... learning my way into houdini. Pluralsight has some good material (Hi John) and there are some other really incredible resources out there.

Speaking from experience, it's easy to get lost among all the opportunities that houdini presents you with. I've dashed through the entire software now, failing miserably - celebrating minor successes and am now focusing in on procedural modeling. It sounds like you might be interested in that too, perhaps together with moGraph.

Definitely check out Kim Goossens (somewhat old but really well-explained)
https://www.youtube.com/user/3DisFuntastic/videos

And Matt's amazing repository:
http://www.tokeru.com/cgwiki/index.php?title=Houdini#Slide_points_along_edges

There are loads more... but... focus.

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The content below from Gianvito Serra is also ace. I'd recommend going through all 29 videos, beginning to end as they're really well structured and provide some great insights into the design strategy of the Houdini user experience and how it's built with proceduralism at it's heart. Even though some of the intro content in the first 4 videos is stuff you probably already know there's other nuggets of wisdom that will come in handy later down the line.

John Moncrief's content on Pluralsight is great as a broad overview of the 'hows' of proceduralism in Houdini but a little sketchy on the 'why's' (and it's the 'whys' that are covered so well by Gianvito Serra). At the other end of the learning path spectrum, there's some great FXPHD, CGSociety and CMIVFX content available, however most of this automatically assumes middleweight knowledge. The problem here is that even though you may be able to follow along with the course, the missing context can make retention and deeper learning problematic.

As David recommends (Hi David), the Tokeru content is ace (and free) and the quality remains consistently high across all content areas (I especially enjoyed the VEX section). The thing that's great about Matt's content is that it's kinda written as a diary of his own learning path having been a Maya practitioner for a good many years before. The content is very much written for artists and doesn't assume a computer programming/engineering background.

Most of all I'd recommend getting a good sound knowledge of SOP's before attempting to learn DOP's. The temptation is to spend your early months in Houdini blowing stuff up, cause' who doesn't enjoy some virtual destruction antics! But without a solid grounding in SOP's it's hard to get the best out of DOPs.

Once your down with SOP's there's some killer content at CGCircuit by Steven Knipping, (currently a Senior Rigid Body Destruction/FX Technical Director at Lucasfilm's Industrial Light & Magic). His courses aren't the cheapest out there but they're certainly some of the best. - https://www.cgcircuit.com/browsepage.php - He published the first part of his Rigid Bodies course for free on his Vimeo page and that's a good indecator to his approch to teaching (second embedded link below). The complete volumetrics bundle is reasonable value for the quality and breadth of the content.

 

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Agreed ref Rohan Dalvi's Vimeo content. I especially enjoyed his free series on recreating C4D Mograph functionality in Houdini.

http://www.rohandalvi.net/mograph/

The biggest resource, especially for SOP's is the huge collection of example scenes that ship with Houdini. With Houdini's procedural nature it's really easy to dive into the networks and get a good understanding of how the nodes build together towards the end goal. Everything is well annotated but I'd advise checking the help pages for at least the core nodes of each example. Apart from learning the specifics of the Houdini UI's interaction model, going through the bundled SOP examples is probably the most rewarding route to learning the core of Houdini when starting out on your learning path. Much as Houdini has a wonderful collection of simulation technologies, there's a huge amount that can be achieved via SOP's alone and most ofthe time it's the most CPU friendly way of achieving those goals.

 

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Shiz,

I am in the same boat as you. Allthough I have dabbled with Houdini off and on over the last few years since H13. Unfortunately I was constantly pulled away from learning the app on a regular basis with the day job. I learned some awesome stuff and then forgot that awesome stuff due to the LONG breaks between being able to come back to it. At the time I got hooked on Ben Watts of BW Design.

In the last two months I've had more time to focus on learning Houdini again, and thankfully many more tutorials have come out.

This is mostly all free stuff, with a few paid within the mix. I am still debating on getting John's pluralsight series, as I personally like his explanations of things, but there are tons of freely available tuts within vimeo and youtube for the vast majority of getting familiar with the app in general. Hope these help.

These are what I have been watching lately (many more out there though) ...

Entagma: https://vimeo.com/entagma

Rohan Dalvi: https://vimeo.com/rohandalvi

Go Procedural: https://vimeo.com/goprocedural

John Moncrief (thanks for the tuts @johnCrief): vimeo.com/179767841 | vimeo.com/179767919 | vimeo.com/179767981

 

 

Ben Watts: https://vimeo.com/bwdesign

Varomix (informative, but slow to get to the point sometimes): https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC65D7DvzyyGEqIJVxK-XhDg

Tokeru (Matt Estela): http://www.tokeru.com/cgwiki/?title=Houdini

Matt Estela (found some nice tidbits in this one): vimeo.com/188152206

 

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I am also new to Houdini. My approach is pretty much thinking of vfx problems and trying to find a good way to solve them. My university program does not support Houdini, so I have been doing it all on my own as independent study. Last semester I did four assets that represent Fire, Earth, Wind and Water. But pretty much the way I learn is to think "how would I achieve this?" if the answer is not immediately clear, I just set out to do it.

Right now I am looking at how to drive rigid simulations directly using pyro. From there I have a bunch of other questions that need to be answered: how do I apply the pyro velocity to to RBD or FEM? If RBD or FEM the better choice? How do I get better results out of VDB Fracture? What is the best approach to creating a crater from an explosion?

Answering these questions goes on to finding more interesting effects. For example, in trying to get the crater to work I discovered a way to simulate burning away/melting geometry that is extremely efficient and this weird effect where a fire burns downward, boring a tunnel as it goes - as well as the original problem of creating a crater left over by the explosion.

For me anyway, solving my own problems from the start using as few tutorials as possible is much more beneficial.

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Make time for first principles.  A diet of tutorials is a diet of dependencies.

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Just to clarify, I do not mean to imply there is anything wrong with tutorials. But I think it's better to watch a tutorial with a specific problem in mind than to replicate what the tutorial is doing verbatim.

At the Blender community we get a lot of people with zero experience at all with 3D and there is this sort of trap that we see happen a lot where people kind of get it in their heads that if they watch enough tutorials they'll be able to do anything. A much more valuable approach would be to watch tutorials that relate to something you're doing and apply what you've learned.

This is why I really like entagma because what they offer feels more applicable to a broad range of problems.

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16 minutes ago, shawn_kearney said:

For me anyway, solving my own problems from the start using as few tutorials as possible is much more beneficial.

This is a very good mindset. Teaching yourself to fish rather than getting a fish handed to you will benefit you in the long run. Tutorials have their place, but what will happen if you don't have a solid understanding when there is no tutorial for what you need to do, or no one to ask? Lots of people around don't even try to think for themselves, but that is most vital skill you can have. 

I'm not saying you shouldn't watch tutorials or ask for help, but it depends on how you do it and what you intend to take away from it. 

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Agreed Shawn. Watching tutorials for bits and pieces that you are trying to accomplish is more beneficial. The brain has a better chance of retaining the info. Also constant use and repetitive rebuilding of even simple things helps in retaining the info too.

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I think it's a little simplistic to say 'death to all video tutorials". But I agree that experimentation with your new knowledge is the best way to to ensure retention of those new tricks.

A good habit with Houdini tutorials is to create 2 or 3 of your own projects based on that freshly learnt knowledge. The thing that helps things stick is that you have to solve your own problems as you go along.

Another benefit of this approach is that you get to read up on current recommended techniques (here on OdForce, on the SideFX forums and in the official documentation amongst a wealth of other sources). Houdini has gone through some major changes since H12 and many of the tutorials you find scattered about the web are out of date. A classic case is the use of the Point SOP, this was a tried a tested node that crops up in a very high proportion of old tutorials. You should generally be using Point Wrangles in its place these days because the Point SOP is single threaded and it will slow your network down considerably.

There are some fantastic video tutorials out there. Just be careful not to consume them in the same manner as a frenzied Netflix binge session. ;)

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On 1/17/2017 at 10:20 PM, marty said:

Make time for first principles.  A diet of tutorials is a diet of dependencies.

Hey Marty, thanks for you answer. Would tell us more about what do you consider Houdini's principles and a way to understand them all?

I've finished SideFX's Fisrt Steps | Intro with Ari Danesh and it was really helpful. Although sometimes its get tricky to do some of these old videos and articles from older versions of Houdini.

_

Anyway thanks everyone for all the answers. I'll find time to answer all of you soon.

In the meantime, I found very useful to learn things with a project-based approach, like tutorials from Rohan Dalvi, and for learning sake normally I would do the tutorial and then try to do something for my own using what I did for the tutorial. What do you guys think about this method? It can be dangerous for learning?

Cheers,
Shiz

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Shiz, as I mentioned before, I think it's very valuable to apply your new knowledge learnt from video tutorials to projects of your own before moving on to your next tutorial. In doing this you'll probably learn new nodes too as seemingly simple things will take further exploration before you work out your approach (well approaches is more accurate as there's always a multitude of ways to skin the proverbial cat in Houdini!).

My own take on first principles is to be fully up to speed on all the subjects in the Basics section of the integrated help system. It wasn't always this way but the help system in Houdini is a shining example of how to do technical documentation the right way. It's very well written and the integrated search enables you to instantly see VEX, HScript and Python functions from the search field itself (no need to click through to the actual page in many cases). I personally run a two monitor system and have the documentation permanently open on my second monitor (great for on the fly checking a node's local variables or a VEX function). Don't worry about going through all the examples in the basics section, although as I previously mentioned it is valuable to go through all the SOP examples (even if you don't fully understand them).

What some may consider to be an advanced subject I consider a 'first principle', and thats the ability to write VEX expressions. At first this may seem a little scary (seeing as VEX is very C++ like) but you really don't need to be a programmer to get the most out of VEX expressions. However I've always believed that getting the best out of Houdini requires an ability to thing programmatically, and in my book that's not the same as being a programmer. The best places to start learning VEX expressions are the Wrangle Workshop (another Ari Danesh tutorial) and Matt Estella's VEX page on Tokeru. And whilst on Matt's site his VOP's page is ace too (and obviously related to VEX).

The reason I see VEX as a first principle is that you'll be limited when working in DOP's (especially with Particles) if you don't understand how to write some simple VEX Expressions.

Overall though, doing is always going to be a better long term learning methodology. Far better than passively watching or watching whilst simultaneously attempting to follow along in Houdini. With video tutorials, I think it's a three step process. 1.) Watch without following along so you don't miss any important details. 2.) Watch again whilst pausing where apt to follow along. If any of the process isn't fully explained look it up in the documentation before unpausing. 3.) Create a few new projects on your own using your new knowledge.

And just to show my age, I also think it's a good idea to keep a notebook. Something like OneNote is perfect, or something Markdown based if you're more of a plain text militant type! :)

Keeping a notebook when learning Houdini is especially useful as it can be confusing to know when to use HScript expressions, when to use VEX and when to use Python. Writing down the expressions you find useful as you go along is good start. In older tutorials Hscript is used in places where VEX/VOP's would be a better option (don't worry about this too much at first, you'll soon get a feel for it over time). If you don't come from a programming background it's especially useful to have a notebook full of useful expressions when first starting out.

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On 21/01/2017 at 4:55 PM, shiz said:

Hey Marty, thanks for you answer. Would tell us more about what do you consider Houdini's principles and a way to understand them all?

 

Broadly speaking Houdini benefits from a programmers training, syntax, a mathematicians mindset, abstraction, with experience of other 3d packages to fill in the gaps, becoming less relevant with recent releases.  The more skills you have in each of these areas the more Houdini makes sense, or, that's what I've seen over the years were people take to it almost instantly or throw it away disgust :)

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Something which will help join the dots between math theory (and a little physics too) and 3d in Houdini is this book:

Clear language, a steady pace and none of the denseness that usually afflicts textbooks.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1568817231/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_x_fXqHyb06VP256

9781568817231.jpg

And even though this 3rd edition dates back more then ten years, it's the daddy tome on proceduralism. :)

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1558608486/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_x_I7qHybFZEQAV7

51NS6GNRH3L.jpg

 

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Hey,

I am following the recommended sidefx learning path. From time to time I enjoy a quick video from sidefx. I am nearly finished with the beginner part of John's pluralsight path. Next stop Game Tutor. With the intention of creating something after every big chunk of the path. 

So far I enjoy Houdini in every step and I know there is a whole world waiting for me. So I will throw in Sabers course maybe or a fxphd course.

The path itself is a good learning experience for people who never used Houdini. Although the test on the Pluralsight page is not good. I am already a Houdini expert according to the test, but some questions were answerable with a general knowledge of 3D packages. So if you are not a complete 3D beginner, the test is kinda off.

Happy Houdini'ing

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badgerfx,

The test over at Pluralsight needs some work, I'll admit. We are working on it, trying to improve the accuracy of the testing algorithm and the overall quality of the questions. We will be working directly with SideFX in the future to ensure that the tests are greatly improved. 

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