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Rig and Animation in Houdini

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Hi guys !

I'm not (yet) a Houdini user but I'm being curious at it as it's an application that a lot of people is talking about but not that many actually used it.

I have no doubt how great it is for creating effects, more and more companies are using it and the result are so impressive that there is not much to argue in that domain.

What I'm concerned with right now is the Rigging and Animation part of the software.

I was wondering if we could really consider Houdini as an alternative solution to do rigging and animation. (Alternative to Maya or Softimage)

I had a quick look at it (not that much I admit). The rigging part, if it seems a little bit confusing at the beginning, I'm pretty sure I can do whatever I want. (it might take time though)

The nodal system looks fine and even if some concepts are different, I have no doubt we can achieve a good result.

But I'm one technical guy and you know that on a production not everyone is really technical and especially animators.

What if I have a team of 20 animators coming from another software (Maya, Softimage) and I ask them to now animate on Houdini ?

How long do you think it will take them to get efficient in production ? Do you even think they can make it ? Did you try yourself ?

How does animator deal with constraint ? Animation layers ? is there such things in Houdini ?

Those guys are not technical and I don't want to spend all my time training them so they can do things that should be simple.

I would be really interested in talking with anyone, who actually did a project using Houdini for rigging and animation. I'm not talking about test but a short, a pilot... or whatever !

What was you're experience when you had to release production quality rigs and how did animators cope with that ?

That's a lot of question, I know, sorry to come up here and not being really of any help to the community.

Hope you can help me



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'The Wild' was rigged and animated in Houdini, and about 95% of the animators had never used Houdini before...they needed a bit of time to adjust but afterward they all said they liked Houdini's graph editor more than Maya's...

as for constraints - since we used OTLs they were in some ways locked out of creating some things, this was a production choice and nothing to do with the software, so things like parenting contraints were created for them (characters holding props etc), on the last project I worked on I made the prop OTL's and the character OTLs have parenting parameters built in - so you just have to fill in the thing(s) you want to connect and blend the effect from 0 to 1 or whatever...

the best thing to do if you're just getting into it is to build one of the included autoRigs and then just start playing, and come back when you have more questions...

but don't let anyone tell you that Houdini can't be used for rigging and character animation - I've been a character rigger using Houdini exclusively for 7 years on animated features, TV shows (super why and others) and on VFX projects...

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Thanks for the feedback Michael.

I'm glad to finally hear about production made on Houdini for Rigging and Animation.

I read this article about the making of 'The Wild'


I can see that you had a lot of support from SideFx on the movie. I guess it was needed, after all that was the first big production with Houdini.

What is your opinion on the SDK ?

Our RnD team had a quick look at it, and find it a bit confusing to start with... but again that was just a quick overview. We have absolutely no doubt that we can achieve some great things. We just try to compare how much time we would need compare to another more 'standard' software. I'm saying 'standard' because Maya or Softimage have in a way the same philosophy, but Houdini is looking at things with a different angle which is for some things really good, but for some others a little bit confusing.

I can see that you work at Dr.D, I got a bunch of friends there. I hope the production is going fine. As far as I know you are not using Houdini for Animation yet, are you?



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I think you mean the HDK ;)

no idea personally - as I've never written much beyond some hscript - never had the need...

as for SESI help during The Wild - we had daily builds just for us :) but there was very little custom code, beyond I/O stuff that I can remember - oh and the fur tools which were written by C.O.R.E., and just about everything written by C.O.R.E. and SESI during that time has found it's way into the public version (way back in the 6,6.5,7 days)....

I think you will find that you'll need to write about 10% of the code you'd have to write in Maya, because Houdini gives you the tiny building blocks you can build what you need just in nodes...

ha, I'm not at Dr. D yet (I leave Toronto next week) just editing my sig before I forget :)

and no I don't think they're using Houdini for animation - this is, I think in most cases, because there are so few riggers that can build anything in Houdini, not any lack in the software....

good luck with your investigations...you may find Houdini isn't suited for your needs in animation but I'm sure you'll find lots of areas where it would be very useful.

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yeah actually I heard the Python implementation is just fantastic, way better than in any other software.

Have a good time down under !

thanks again for your comments.

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Hi! I just saw this post and I am glad there are people who work on character animation stuff in houdini on a production pipeline.

I am especially curious on how the workflow is in a production pipeline, especially things like how a rigger can work concurrently with the animation team.

How does a rigger update the rig and then it updates on the animation side?

I tried file reference in the geometry but it only takes in .geo file.

And I tried Digital Assets but the animation key frames gets taken out upon refreshing of the digital assets which it seems like its call "Match Current Definition".

I am a complete newbie in Houdini but trying to make things work in a flow like how I setup things in Maya. Like there will be a rig in a reference folder where the character rig and and environment is, and animators will reference these into their animation file and work on it and if they discover bugs in the rig, they can feedback to the rigging team and get that fix and then update on the animation side.

So how does one do it in Houdini?

I am pretty stuck right now because of this... so hopefully I can get some help on it!

Thanks in advance!


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I've been a character rigger using Houdini exclusively for 7 years...

michael, when you send a character to an animator, does the animator have to import 2 nodes (animation_rig and deform_rig)? Or do we export these 2 into a single node? I'm a student and I need to give the character to another student who will animate and render it.

I'm trying to learn rigging in houdini and the tutorial about auto-rig houdini's site ends up on a confusing note for me.

(apologies if i'm interjecting this question on this thread... I've been having a difficult time getting responses because there's not a lot of houdini riggers in the interwebz.)

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the auto rig is just an example implementation of character work in Houdini

I've never separated the anim rig from the deform rig - I've always just made one node...

I don't much like the SESI auto rig, don't get me wrong, there are some good points to it, but using it often prevents anyone from actually learning how to rig, and any time there are problems with it no one can ever figure out how to fix them - because the rig is like a black box...

it's much better, IMO, to use it as a guide to build your own rigs...

I know that doesn't help right now but... :\

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