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Omar Wanis

Procedural Modeling Advice

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Hey guys, after exploring most sides of Houdini, I'm surprisingly trying to settle on Procedural Modeling as my main focus :D I know it's a bit weird since it's not Houdini's strongest tool, but before Houdini, I have tried Modeling in Maya and Cinema 4D and failed, but with Houdini, it seems so logical and straight forward to my mind.

I'm trying to get a job as a 3D Modeller using Houdini here in my country (Egypt), and i need some professional expert advice from you guys on some points regarding the market and Modeling in general (worldwide not just a specific country):

1- Is Houdini used widely in Modeling in the market or not yet? and why? and how much is Procedural Modeling popular nowadays in Games and Film as well?

2- I dunno much about texturing and I'm planning to learn a texturing software besides Houdini, so far I'm choosing Substance Painter, do you guys have any advice regarding this part?

3- Is Mantra good enough for me? Or do i have to dive into other renderers later?

4- How to constantly learn and upgrade myself in the right path? What else to learn? If you can give me advice from your professional experience, that would be great.

5- Any other advice you could give me is welcome, even abstract ideas, anything really.

6- One last thing There are different ways to approach Modeling in Houdini, i know that all methods are correct, but as a professional, do each one have like a standard method to approaching weird curves and irregular shapes efficiently? or you mix and match different approaches? Do you usually do low polygons baring in mind to subdivide the whole thing in the end or you can just model it all high quality from the beginning? I mean, how do you think and set your mindset before starting your work? :D

Sorry for the long long post, appreciate your help guys.

EDIT: I'm not a newbie who wants to explore Houdini, I'm already familiar with it and with all the resources available and I spent some time learning it. I'm seeking professional advice from experts because I'm applying for Modeling Jobs these days and i have 0 working experience in 3D.

Edited by Omar Wanis

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Modeling is unfortunately most over-saturated market. You would be much easier hired as FX TD / Environment Artist / Rigging Artist than modeler/texture artist (and same goes with $$$$).

I can't speak for Game industry as I do not have much experience in that field but I can say few things reg VFX.

1. No. Modeling is 99% maya + sometimes zbrush/mudbox etc. Modeling is dealing with assets like vehicles/buildings/characters. There is only 1% need of "procedural modeling"

2. As far as I've heard, yeah substance painter is used around

3. Each studio could use something different. If you want just to model, then it does no matter - you will use whatever studio supports - vray/arnold/maya/clarisse/renderman/mantra/3dlight


It would be also good if you would specify what do you mean by "procedural modeling". In DNEG studios for eg they do use Houdini for Environments where procedural approach is need to scatter/create assets like trees or generate terrains etc.

You should do whatever makes you happy ofc. but be aware that you might find it hard to find job as a modeler in general - it's just too many of them (like musicians).

As need in VFX for "procedural models" is almost never existing, whenever such situation happens - usually it goes to FX TD to generate some procedural shape and then it goes back to modelling department to work on top of it.


Hope it helps, Cheers!


Edited by tmdag

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Oh, i see. So that means unless i'm willing to work as a freelancer, practicing Modeling in Houdini is just a waste of time right?

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By Procedural Modeling i mean like making props for games, most houdini procedural modeling tuts i have are for game props, as it gives u the flexibility to edit in your model quickly and efficiently as your please.

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Like I've said - I cannot speak for game industry but in vfx, for eg. modeling a chair is just modeling a chair.The fact that you can model it in 20x different ways within 5min might not matter if studio does not have Houdini licenses for modeling department. Also in many cases, companies after years of work have big, vast libraries of assets. If something needs to be custom done, it's usually because it needs to be unique and special and in such cases procedural modeling is not always an answer - if it is, it is going to FX/Env dept.

Also, modeling is being pushed to India in some big VFX studios to cut the costs.

I'm not trying to discourage you from anything, but i think it's important for you to understand the reality of today industry (vfx).

Edited by tmdag
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from my experience - it largely depends whether the studio you work for can (and want to) support procedural modelling workflows or not. in last 5 years or so i've done a fair amount of procedural modelling work on films and commercials, despite i'm mainly focused at lookdev/lighting. the reason for this is that if executed properly, it can be extremely efficient and a huge time saver. a couple recent projects i was working on, required square kilometers of CG city (for feature film). everything was decided to be modelled a textured procedurally, basically with only one person needed to do all the heavy lifting in Houdini, and maintaining alone the whole library of 100+ assets and it's lookdev/texturing. Any changes needed in modelling or shading were typically a matter of minutes, or hours if it was a substantial update. Another examples would be complicated industrial structures, or any big natural or manmade structures really, landscapes of any kind... you get the idea.

For that kind of things, procedural approach is just awesome and there is potentially a big demand. Obviously, if you aim to fall into a general "modelling artist" box, you probably will do much better with Maya (even thou it's totally possible with Houdini too - it's just studios typically don't support it as a modelling platform). As others said, this area is already quite oversaturated and there are many excellent modellers out there. With procedural modelling on the other hand, there is too few people that have mastered it on good enough level, so it's not as wide-spread between big studios who still rather model stuff by hand as there is guaranteed constant stream of skillful people.

Having said that, for me personally, procedural modelling and texturing was my most used skill over the last few years. I'm not sure how much of it is just a coincidence and how much it actually reflects a raising demand for this kind of skills. Right now I feel like I could solely focus on that and there would be plenty of work. if you wanna go that way thou, I'd recommend you to start actively seeking opportunities in this area (and build a solid showreel), and companies that are keen using Houdini, rather than hoping for being able to utilize your procedural modelling skills as a "modelling artist" in a random VFX studio.

as for other of your questions:

- Substance apps - definitely yes, it's very much in demand now

- Mantra is great for procedural shading and rendering super heavy weird stuff. Also the best integration with all the Houdini features (obviously). If you like it, then it's good for you (I like it).

- How often and what other skills to learn? All the time and whatever interests you. There is no limit to what your skill set and you will never know everything so don't worry and just keep going as far as it satisfies you :)

- as for workflows, i don't have any fixed paths i always go. i tend to asses each project individually, thinking about what it needs, where i will likely need to do changes later, and what is safe to have more hard-coded. that's always different. then i maybe steal bits and pieces from another projects and put it together in a way that makes the most sense in that particual case. not mentioning that every project teaches me something new so i always try to improve and iterate my techniques, rather that using the same approach over and over again.


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