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Houdini Pipeline for 3D Animation

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I realize how vast this topic is but never the less, I wish to understand how all stages of full SG project creation should be organized in Houdini at a very high level first.
Also, we may skip compositing setup and color management and focus on 3D production only. We assume that we do everything in Houdini, no other software required.

I have a more or less clear understanding of how a project could be done in Maya:
- Each asset (character or environment) has a separate modeling scene.
- Each animated asset has a separate rigging scene.
- Each shot has a separate animation scene with referenced: 1) rigs of animated assets, 2) geometry of non-animated assets.
- Each shot has a separate rendering scene with a referenced geometry of all assets.
- You create an animation in animation scene and export assets animation as caches.
- You render shots from rendering scenes, where you import and apply pre-built materials, import animation, create lights.

It is extremely simplified workflow, but it works nicely on a real animation film project, especially within very limited resources.

For Houdini, I aim to build the same system. I know it might be a wrong way trying to replicate Maya workflow in Houdini, but I am not trying to do so,
I just wish to replicate the logic of data storage and exchange withing common VFX workflow (Modelling > Rigging > Lighting, Shading and Rendering > Compositing) and data structure I use to (assets, shots etc).

My assumption about Houdini workflow:
1) Project setup: define Houdini environment with variables (and/or 123.py etc) individually for each project with a wrapper. There are some good tutorials and topics around this stage, so currently I am fine with this part.
2) Asset creation (modeling): let's skip for now.
3) Rigging and Animation.
4) Shading, Lighting and Rendering.

3) Rigging and Animation.
Since Houdini does not have referencing mechanism I suppose the Digital Assets and versioning of them (along with geometry and volume cashes) is a way to exchange data between stages (departments).
How should I create (and modify) rigged character asset and use it in animation (and rendering) scene? Say I have a model of my character in Alembic format (exported/cashed after modeling stage). I assume:  
- Create a scene for rigging process, bring alembic inside, rig, export OTL from this scene.
- Create a scene for the shot animation, create character asset from OTL there, animate, export geometry (or animation data?)
- When changes to rig have been made, export OTL with next version, update character asset in animation scene with a new version, re-export data if necessary.

4) Shading, Lighting and Rendering.
In Maya, while dealing with rendering scene, my goal was to avoid any unnecessary data (like characters with rigs and animation curves etc) so I assemble scenes from pure clean geometry and apply animation by importing alembic caches. 
How should I assemble rendering scenes in Houdini? How should I bring assets, animation and materials there?  How to update data when changes to models, rigs or animation have been made?

With Maya, I develop a common material library (metal, wood, glass etc) and import this library in rendering scene so plenty of miscellaneous assets could share the same shader. It dramatically reduces the number of materials in rendering scene and makes material tweaking more simple. Let's skip dealing with lookdev and materials in depth for now, but I wonder if its a common way to encapsulate materials with assets before rendering stage so each asset has its own shader or there are some other techniques to deal with materials on numerous assets. 

Any suggestions and links are welcome.

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