Houdini 14 review
Other Additions and Improvements
Beyond these, there are numerous other minor improvements and changes made to the software. Below is a video review that goes over these enhancements and the features they bring.
Video review of various other additions and improvements
At the modeling level, a new uniform scale parameter has been added to the basic primitives that makes scaling them a lot simpler.
The Scatter SOP has been totally rebuilt from the ground up. There are now ways to scatter points based on density, primitive area and even in texture space. A new relax option has been added to the Scatter SOP to prevent the points from overlapping. This distance can now be exported as a PSCALE attribute which can then be used to scale objects via the Copy Node.
There is a new Attribute Randomise SOP which allows you to randomise any attribute value. This can be extremely useful when used along with the Copy SOP as it can reduce the use of expressions.
The Mantra Surface model, the main Houdini material, has received an interface update. There is also the addition of the GGX Specular model and the specular angle parameter has been changed to Roughness. This is a good change as the naming is consistent with other popular renderers like V-Ray.
In Mantra there are now separate sampling controls for direct and indirect lighting. This allows for better control over how many rays will be used for indirect lighting. So if you have an exterior scene where mostly everything is illuminated via direct lighting then you can set less samples for indirect light and reduce render time.
Hair rendering has improved a lot. The hair shader has also been updated and there is now a new Transmission tab which allows for transparency.
A new option to render Points as Spheres has also been added. This is quite fast and also much more memory efficient than copying spheres onto points. This method is now the default method to render unconnected points instead of the previous method of using discs.
Overall, Houdini 14 is an excellent release. Not only does it add some exciting new features for VFX, namely Crowds and PBD solver, but it also greatly improves the user experience.
Houdini has always been slightly awkward for poly modeling, but with the improvements to the selection system, the viewport handles and HUD it feels a lot better. A Bridge tool like the one in 3DS Max would be a most welcome addition to the Houdini poly modeling toolset. It’s one of the few poly modeling tools I miss from my days using 3DS Max. But overall I am quite happy with this release.
For those who are planning on learning Houdini, the thing to understand is that due to the procedural node-based approach of the software there will always be a higher learning curve. However, Side Effects has recently launched a new set of Quick Start videos on their site and along with these there are also a whole bunch of 3rd party free and paid tutorials available that have made getting into the software much easier than before.
If you don’t mind things getting technical and nodal then Houdini is a software that I would highly recommend.
- Side Effects Software - developers of Houdini
- What's new in release 14 - video and features list
- Houdini quickstart tutorials
- Rohan Dalvi's Houdini tutorials