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art3mis

Tips, suggestions and strategies for learning Houdini

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After watching hundreds of hours of tutorials the past couple years its a bit disconcerting to realize how little I've retained. There has to be a better way!

So I'm asking the Houdini community, what are your tips, strategies etc for REALLY learning new techniques in Houdini?

Try to avoid shelf tools? Master SOPs before DOPs? Give yourself personal projects? Read the official SESI documentation?   Any specific podcasts, blogs, courses or instructors?

 

Edited by art3mis

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You're not meant to retain knowledge, that's why things are written down. You're just meant to learn the framework of things.

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Do you use any other SW for 3D? I was using c4d. To learn Houdini I had to migrate fully. I am still learning H, but I had to forgot those "blackbox" c4d principles. And repeat and repeat and repeat the new Houdini principles. Btw for me, it is very important to be fast in the GUI, not to be slowed down by thinking about the GUI.

my customized keyboard: http://bit.ly/2rSZhTU
i have printed the wacom hotkeys to learn them: http://bit.ly/2sd3OQv

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Until you get your node acumen up, generally if you can trace how the data flows and how it's manipulated that's really the only thing that matters. Each node has an affect on your your original source, it doesn't fully matter how that node works, but just how the data is affected. Does it add UV's or Normal's, is it on the Vertex, Point, Primitive, Detail, or Object level. Make sure you trace what each node is doing by MMB on the node and having the detail sheet open, or any other relevant viewer of the data for the context. Then take one step at a time. Break a job down into each element. Take each frame and simply state what each element is doing, the more extensive your break it down and the more nodes you learn, you'll see the connections. Houdini is a really, really big package, this should not be under estimated. Even if you have been using the software for decades, you will not know all the 1500+ nodes and all the facets of it's code. So no worries, Stay Calm and Carry On. ;)

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Btw I would also go step by step what Matt Estela has written here, he explains magnificently, everything from the dropdown menu  http://www.tokeru.com/cgwiki/index.php?title=Houdini

 

As regards the tutorials ... after some time, month, half a year, I have watched them second time, and then again, four times or maybe more :) When watching away from PC, I have been pausing and forcing myself to "predict" what is he going to do. When watching with PC, I was like ... few minutes of watching ... then trying to reconstruct from memory (which is harder then follow 1:1)

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Put the tutorials down and think for yourself..

Give yourself a challenge and think objectively to output a portfolio piece.  Designing your own workflows and tools is where it gets fun and where you will retain your practice..

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If you watch a tutorial, apply it to a personal project of your own don't just recreate it and be done. You've watched a destruction tutorial on a building, now apply that to your own project with something different like a bridge etc. and use what you've learnt previously to push it further.

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All great suggestions, thanks. I think it was Matt who also suggests NOT to use the shelf tools when you are starting out, to get a better understanding of what goes on 'under the hood'.

Curious if really advanced Vex and Houdini veterans still use shelf tools in their work..

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I'll remove the term veteran, lol, but I only use the shelf to see how they work in a clean scene file. Then I'll copy and paste the tools back into my production scene.

*The camera tool is the lone exception, and you can drop that in perspective mode in a quick instance to get some quick renders. The same with lights for R&D. However in production you normally are not creating camera's like that, so it is only so helpful.

If I ever see an Autodop that is at object level, I can already tell your experience level. As only a shelf will ever create that, and I can begin to debug the issues from there, as odds are you don't know what was changed in your scene. 

A common experience level issue is pressing shelf buttons and not knowing what they are doing or how they are connecting. The shelf tools can auto connect correctly, but they do so in the case of dops in the last active context. So if you have multiple dop context, and you are working in one and expecting the shelf to drop tools in the other, you can quickly screw up your scene. 

100% IMO, I only work on one render-able FX per an object.  An FX/Element should not exist in multiple objects, the same way as you would render it. One of the good reason we have the managers to put context where they make sense.

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I use shelf tools because I'm lazy. And then I proceed to hack the living daylights out of them.

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Thanks Ben. On the subject of mentorship, are there any online courses you'd especially recommend for someone at the intermediate level? I'll try to bring this up if I make it to the next THUG.

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