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Darimondé

What's the deal with keying in Houdini

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Howdy Folks,

Total newb here with my first question to the forum. I'm coming from a Shake background and was very excited to see a great node based compositor in Houdini but with all the incredible stuff in COPS I have been a bit dumbstruck to see that there are no proper tools for removing green or blue screens. Of course I gave the Chroma keyer a chance but it is no match for fine hair detail. I am truly amazed by this program and plan to get deep in it but, SideFx seems to have walked a thousand miles just to stop 6 feet before the door with its compositor. Am I missing something? I mean no Keylight, Primatte, Ultimatte, or their own home grown system. No tracker or stabilzers either (as near as I can tell), what gives? You see, my hope was to be able to learn Houdini and be able to put several other tools aside except for something specialized. But, if I've built a completely 3D environment and now want to place my actors in it, I have to go back to Shake. And if something is wrong, I have to keep going back and forth rather than just work it out in Houdini. I'm sure you all have dealt with this on some level already. Sorry about the rant, I'm just really jazzed about this program and want it to do everything. Thanks for any insight you can provide.

Sincerely,

Rick

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Hey Rick

Houdini's compositor is really good for what it is, however I don't think it's meant to replace true compositors like Nuke or Shake. Possibly the intention when it was designed was for it to become a standalone tool which could compete with the big boys, however I don't think the interest was ever there from the users.

If enough people use it and ask for rfe's then there's always the possibility that it would be enhanced and improved, but until then I think it would be best to stick with the proper comp tools.

Cheers

Marc

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Hi Marc,

Thanks for the reply. The sad thing is that it wouldn't take much for Houdini to be able to compete with Nuke, Shake or any other compositor. It's primary weakness is simply its inability to remove Blue/Green screens. That alone would make it able to handle 80% of what compositors need. Add in Stabilization and Tracking and it WOULD be able to replace dedicated compositors for all but the toughest tasks. So, if it isn't meant to handle basic keying operations, what are Houdini users doing with it? I had checked the website but, SideFx has not one tutorial covering compositing or what they had in mind when they created Halo. Peter Quint's compositing videos don't really deal with COPs until the very end and even then don't go very deep. All in all, it seems kind of tricky to really learn this part of Houdini. But, I shall soldier on.

Rick

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Hey Rick,

I'm not a compositor but I have used a bit of the compositor but basically for adjusting and checking my render passes, more in a proof of concept way to see if things are working fine.

I'd guess that most people who use these built in compositors like in Houdini, Softimage and others use it with this purpose. But I have also heard that some compositing in The Wild was done in H.

Actually the last time i used it was on H8 or 7, and at the time I had some memory issues with long sequences that were confirmed by other members here. I don't know how it is today.

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My 2 cents, for what it's worth: It would be great if COPs would receive some love and care. We have a good range of functionality and the power of Python and vex, all wrapped into Houdini UI goodness. It seems we are so heartbreakingly close to a great compositor that it would be nearly a sin to ignore it!

My main problem with it is stability. It just crashes too much, or breaks otherwise. If it was a little more stable and had some extra functionality like improved keying and tracking, it'b great indeed.

Edited by Macha

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The worst thing in houdini COP network - is speed! It's very slow in > 2k. I think developers should strengthen the ability of COPs to generate high res procedural textures. Maybe it should be TOP Network (Texture Operators) :rolleyes: . I think that will be cool.

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Good afternoon to you all,

Great to hear from you. Macha, "heartbreakingly close" is exactly how I feel about COPS. I mean, it's got all the standard layer and blend nodes, it has morphing and mosaic. It has nodes that I haven't even seen before like time filter and geokey. How can it have all that and not include something as basic as keying, tracking and, stabilizing? Stuff that compositors use everyday all day. So is that how it goes with Houdini? That it takes awhile for different parts to get updated or do certain networks get higher priority?

Andz, you haven't even used the compositor for several generations, is it because you can't do everything you need to or do you just prefer something else.

Stalkerx777, I haven't even gotten to check out working in 2K yet. I haven't figured out how to import video. I was told Houdini doesn't see quicktime files only image sequences. I tried to import a tif image sequence but so far I keep getting errors on my file in node. It seems that Houdini is changing the file name and adding characters. I know that $F is refering to frames I just haven't figured out the rest. Maybe I'll post an image soon and you all can tell what I'm doing wrong.

Part of the reason I've been making such a big deal about this is partly what I said before about jumping back and forth between programs but also because, the more about Houdini I learn the more overwhelming it becomes. It is a monster. So I thought, how do you build a composite? One node at a time (that's my adaptation of "How do you eat an elephant, one bite at a time"). I looked at COPS, arranged it to look like Shake and voilå, I felt at home. Now I could work my way backwards into 3D starting with what I knew. And then came the walls, which was surprising because the impression I was getting up until this point was that there were no walls. It was all about the power. So, I'm going to write this next bit in the hopes that the developers read these forums on occasion just to see what's going on.

Dear Developers,

Thank you for creating one of the most amazing programs on the planet. Although I have only been involved with your software for a little over a month, I find that it is now one that I can't live without. An addiction to pure creative power has set in and I can't walk away. I have programs that wonder where I've gone. Strata Design3D hasn't seen me since I first laid eyes upon Houdini. Shake is wondering who is this other compositor that I keep calling. Even photoshop is starting to get suspicious that something is going on. Motion, well. We don't even talk anymore. So you see, this is serious! That is why I have to bring something to your attention. It's about COPS.

In your marketing and advertisements, you sell Houdini as a product of pure power able to do things that would either difficult or time consuming in other 3D applications and it has all been true from what I have seen thus far, until one comes to COPS. COPS seems to stand alone, unfinished and, under utilized. Houdini stands as one of the few software packages that can do nearly all that could be asked of a graphics program. 3D Animation, Motion Graphics, Compositing. Well, no. Not compositing, because although Houdini has all of the tools frequently seen in compositing it can't work with real footage. It can't properly remove a blue/green screen. It can't track objects or camera motion. It can't steady the shot. Because of this, I have to leave Houdini and go back to my other programs with my tail between my legs begging them to forgive me. Can you do this key for me, steady this shot, and maybe you can track this for me? Please?

So, I come to you in desperation to save me from further embarrassment. Give and me and my fellow Houdini compositors the tools that we need. Give use keying. Give us tracking and stabilization. Make Houdini the only place that any creative needs to be to accomplish our vision. Please, make COPS all that it can be.

Sincerely,

A new Houdini User.

What do you think folks, too much? :D

Edited by Darimondé

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I like it :).

I wonder what it would take for a 3rd party developer to implement a primatte/ultimatte plugin. Or what the interest would be...

M

...P.S.... look sharp I see one of the developers reading this thread... uh.... hi Mark ;).

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COPs have been sidelined for the past several versions because of priorities elsewhere in the package. We do look at what users are asking for though, so posts like this do help to direct attention to areas of Houdini that could use it. As such, they're always welcome :)

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Soooo, are you saying that a daily rant about what Houdini can't do will eventually get me what I want? Hmm. I didn't think that worked anymore. Not since my 10th birthday anyway. Well, if that's all it takes... ;)

Really, let me give you some additional reasons why COPS should be upgraded with new tools and maybe improve on some of what it can already do.

One. Houdini Master costs $7000. It is the highest of the high-end 3D packages. In fact I don't even call it a 3D animation program when I tell others about it, I call it a Visual Effects Operating System. Can I build analog style synthesizers without scripting in Maya? I don't think so.

Two. Houdini Master costs $7000. If given the choice between Houdini Master (with a complete compositor) or Houdini Escape ($1500) along with Nuke( the new high-end compositing standard), I'd rather save $500 and get dynamics and particles.

Three. Houdini Master costs $7000. If I were opening a new VFX boutique shop, I could build an entire pipeline off of Houdini and do nearly anything. Animation, texturing, image editing, model building, wind, water, fire, destruction, sound effects, music. motion graphics, compositing, colour correction ... What else do we do with the dozen or so programs that we need to get things done when we don't use Houdini? I could be a one man band looking like an orchestra.

Four. Houdini Escape is $1500. At the moment I am still using Shake for all of my compositing work but, the world is moving on. Multicore, 64bit, 4K, Stereo. Where will I and others turn when it is no longer a viable choice. Will it be the $1500 Houdini Escape or, the $6000 Nuke. Well, if the tools are there...

Lastly,

Five. Houdini is all about creative power. Nothing I have seen, nothing, gives power to an individual artist like Houdini and anything that would interrupt an artists creative flow should be dealt with and solved. I am a complete newb having worked with this program for only a month. I feel that I should not have been able to come across such a serious lack this soon. So, let us shore up the gates and make Houdini's COPS network something to be remembered. Something to be admired. Something to be loved.

Always remember, the Force is with you.

Sincerely,

Rick

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Andz, you haven't even used the compositor for several generations, is it because you can't do everything you need to or do you just prefer something else.

Hey Rick,

I just haven't used it for so long because I've been involved in game content like low rez meshes and background and texture painting for the last 4 years, so I'm not even using Houdini at the moment.

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What do you think folks, too much? :D

Actually, yes.

COPs will never be able to compete with a dedicated compositing package, and I'm not expecting them to. I don't think Side Effects has (or could have) the available resources to compete with the development team of Nuke or Fusion, and again, I don't expect them to.

I love that Houdini has a compositing module, and for a small studio or a one-man-show type of guy it would be nice to be able to do all the compositing inside the package used for VFX and animation, but for most pipelines it doesn't make sense. The compositing department expects to have a well established compositing package (in most of the cases today, probably Nuke) and to do its job with that.

I really hope SESI doesn't waste resources in developing a keyer or even a tracker (but still, I'd rather have a tracker than a keyer :) ). Better make an importer for Flame trackers, which are exported by most of the tracking / matchmoving packages.

The greatest and unique thing about COPs is VEX/VOPS and, through that, an ability to communicate with the renderer and develop new operators. No other compositor has that (maybe After Effects through PixelBender comes close).

For me the most interesting thing they can do to COPs is to concentrate more towards the post-render lighting and look development, and develop COPS into an advanced post-processing module for IPR. That would be truly useful for something integrated in a 3D package.

COPs have been sidelined for the past several versions because of priorities elsewhere in the package.

That's too bad, I'm just expecting some basic stability, nothing more? :)

Dragos

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For me the most interesting thing they can do to COPs is to concentrate more towards the post-render lighting and look development, and develop COPS into an advanced post-processing module for IPR. That would be truly useful for something integrated in a 3D package.

i´ll second that!

petz

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Guest xionmark

Five. Houdini is all about creative power. Nothing I have seen, nothing, gives power to an individual artist like Houdini ...

That is, until the next procedural package comes out ... and it will, oh yes, it will happen.

Mark

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That is, until the next procedural package comes out ... and it will, oh yes, it will happen.

Interesting that you should bring that up in this thread, as I believe the original ICE was the first procedural compositor, and that's pretty much how things unfolded when Shake, Digital Fusion and Nuke came along :unsure:

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Dragos said, "Actually, yes.

COPs will never be able to compete with a dedicated compositing package, and I'm not expecting them to. I don't think Side Effects has (or could have) the available resources to compete with the development team of Nuke or Fusion, and again, I don't expect them to.

I really hope SESI doesn't waste resources in developing a keyer or even a tracker (but still, I'd rather have a tracker than a keyer )"

Wow, I thought this thread was dead but, I'm not completely sure that I was clear in what I was saying. I'm not pushing for Houdini to compete with the dedicated compositing crowd. What I am saying is that it wouldn't take much to make COPS a COMPLETE compositing package. I agree that SideFX shouldn't waste time or resources competing DIRECTLY, I just don't want to be hamstrung either. I mean, just look at the list of the available nodes in COPS, Houdini already has 95 percent of what's needed to be a competent compositor, it just needs a keyer, tracker and a stabilizer and it's there. I don't think that's asking for a lot. Now, I did at one point say that if SideFX looked at the now defunct Shake and replicated what nodes that Houdini didn't have it COULD compete with the best and I don't see how that's a bad thing. Compositors will continue to use Nuke, Fusion or whatever but, those of us who do most everything ourselves would use whatever fits best into our cost vs. function equation. Why pay $7000 for Houdini and then $6000 for Nuke if I can do most of it in Houdini? I still use and love Shake but, when I'm in Houdini I'd like to not have to run back to Shake for something as basic as keying or tracking. Three nodes is all it would take.

Rick

Edited by Darimondé

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I don't think that's asking for a lot.

Well, again, it is.

That's a huge amount of work. It's easy to say in a forum post that just adding this or that is no big deal, but it actually is when a development team has to do it. If you think it is that easy, you can hire a programmer, put him to do a tracker for you using the HDK and then sell it on your site. And from the number of sales it will be reasonably clear if a tracker is badly needed by Houdini users or not.

SESI was not able in *years* to bring COPs to an usable level from a stability / memory management point of view, they would have to put a lot of work just to fix what is already there, and then put the work to add new stuff. There are also issues with some design / architectural decisions (for example the type of splines chosen for the color correctors is hardly usable in the real world).

What is the use of a tracker if the package can't reliably manage to manipulate the 200 frames 2K sequence you want to track?

And let's imagine they add a tracker. Then you and me and anyone on this forum will try to use it and SESI'll get a lot of flak because "I checked and Houdini's tracker is not as accurate as the one in After Effects. Hey, I expect this to be fixed, AFX costs 1K and Houdini 7K so Houdini's tracker should be better" :)

But again, in my opinion, this is simply not the direction I would like to see COPs going. There's so much interesting stuff going on right now with post-render stuff and that's a place to actually innovate instead of implementing low quality versions of stuff that's already there.

Why pay $7000 for Houdini and then $6000 for Nuke if I can do most of it in Houdini?

Because that's how pipelines seem to be working at this moment in time. Instead of $6000, you can get Maya for $3500 (I think?) and it'll have a tracking / match-moving and a compositing package included. Still, lots of Maya users / pipelines choose to sped money on Nuke even if they have a reasonable compositor included. And After Effects is $1000 I think.

Dragos

Edited by digitallysane
  • Like 2

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Well, again, it is.

That's a huge amount of work. It's easy to say in a forum post that just adding this or that is no big deal, but it actually is when a development team has to do it. If you think it is that easy, you can hire a programmer, put him to do a tracker for you using the HDK and then sell it on your site. And from the number of sales it will be reasonably clear if a tracker is badly needed by Houdini users or not.

SESI was not able in *years* to bring COPs to an usable level from a stability / memory management point of view, they would have to put a lot of work just to fix what is already there, and then put the work to add new stuff. There are also issues with some design / architectural decisions (for example the type of splines chosen for the color correctors is hardly usable in the real world).

What is the use of a tracker if the package can't reliably manage to manipulate the 200 frames 2K sequence you want to track?

And let's imagine they add a tracker. Then you and me and anyone on this forum will try to use it and SESI'll get a lot of flak because "I checked and Houdini's tracker is not as accurate as the one in After Effects. Hey, I expect this to be fixed, AFX costs 1K and Houdini 7K so Houdini's tracker should be better" :)

But again, in my opinion, this is simply not the direction I would like to see COPs going. There's so much interesting stuff going on right now with post-render stuff and that's a place to actually innovate instead of implementing low quality versions of stuff that's already there.

Because that's how pipelines seem to be working at this moment in time. Instead of $6000, you can get Maya for $3500 (I think?) and it'll have a tracking / match-moving and a compositing package included. Still, lots of Maya users / pipelines choose to sped money on Nuke even if they have a reasonable compositor included. And After Effects is $1000 I think.

Dragos

Dragos my friend, most anything done to upgrade such a monster of a program is a lot of hard work, I agree, but, I don't think improving COPS is a waste of time and energy. A lot of what you are pointing to as problems in COPS come precisely because no one has put in the time to make things better, but leaving it to rot hasn't been the answer either. And, people can complain about any feature in Houdini that doesn't work like some other program they know, that's part of the reason it's not as popular as some others, it's different. The fact is that each of us using this program could probably list a dozen different features we would like to see or a dozen features that we think should work differently. You've expressed your own list to some degree of what you think is important. These are the things that I have asked for- a competent compositor that has keying, tracking and, stabilization. Now, do you really mean to say that no one other than me has a use for these features? Add in the speed and stability and "managing 200 frame 2K sequences" that you and others have mentioned, you don't think that you might find more use for COPS beyond what you have used it for thus far? Houdini is an amazing program and my 3D package of choice and to my mind improving COPS will just make it even more amazing. Maybe the difference is that compositing is more my thing but, I think with a little bit of help it could be "a thing" for a lot more people.

Cheers,

Rick

Edited by Darimondé

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I don't think improving COPS is a waste of time and energy.
(...)but leaving it to rot(...)

I can't see where I said something suggesting that. Quite the opposite, I was asking them to at least fix the current architecture so we can use the current feature set in production situations.

Now, do you really mean to say that no one other than me has a use for these features?

Of course that if such features get implemented, people would use them. My point was that there are (in my opinion) other features which would make a lot *more* people happy (pretty much everyone doing shading and rendering and lookdev in Houdini) and would also make much more sense for something which is not a compositing package in itself but the compositing module of a 3D app.

Since resources are always limited (see post #9 on this thread), I'd rather see them directed towards something that has more benefit for Houdini as a 3D package than for Houdini as a compositing package.

Or to put it differently, I'd rather see Houdini even more powerful as a 3D software than just see that it allows me to get rid of Nuke (which is impossible anyway).

There are various keying papers online or in books, which can be implemented in VOPs/VEX.

And one can use a tracking package like SynthEyes ($400), which has a great tracking engine, export the trackers in whatever format (SynthEyes has a scripting language just for writing exporters) and then import them either directly or by some Python parsing. Not the perfect situation, but doable.

Dragos

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Well my friend, I would have to say that if I had my druthers, we would see every suggestion made in this thread incorporated into Houdini 12. Could you imagine how fantastic COPS would be then? While I get what you are saying about using other programs or hiring programmers, that could be said of either of our wish lists. And, I've got enough programs to learn now, including Houdini. In the long run I'm just saying that I think these features would be useful just as yours would. If it would make you any happier, I'd be willing to concede that they might include your suggestions before mine, then we can both be happy. I think Houdini is cool enough for both of us to get what we want. Deal? :D

Rick

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