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Workflow In Houdini

Blog Entry #4. December 15th, 2019


How does one build a successful workflow in Houdini?


 I think this is one of the harder sides of practical application of visual effects. Simply because a good workflow takes a lot of time to develop, and there isn't a standard blue print that you should use. Here, I am going to talk about some steps you can use to develop one. As well as some tips on what not to do.  Let's get started.

Hot Keys

It's true that learning hotkeys in a software speeds up your creation time. Some useful hotkeys to keep in mind are:

  • Shift + Click : distributes connecting wires from different nodes together. Useful if you are operating with nodes that have multiple outputs.

  • Shift + Enter: Wires nodes with multiple outputs together.

  • L: Lays out and organizes nodes in the network view.

  • Space + G: Orients your viewing back to the center of the view-port.

  • Alt + S: Save.

  • Alt+ N: New File.

  • Alt + 6: Animation Editor.

  • Alt+9: Render View.

  • Alt+7: Material Palette.

  • Alt+1: Scene View.

  • Alt+2: Network Editor.

  • Alt + T: Show Range Slider.

  • F1: Help Menu.

  • Alt + A: Select All.

  • Ctrl + Space: Auto Complete a Word.

  • D: Duplicate.

  • Alt+S: Save Toolbar.

  • Y: Cuts a Wire.

Examples of Workflows in Different Houdini Systems

Before we break away into specific workflow habits for different Houdini system. Here are some general things that you can use in almost any workflow:

  • Houdini has two different cook modes for simulations. Manual and Automatic. Manual is great to switch to when you need to make a lot of changes fast, and you can't wait for Houdini to cook every single change. You can also set a hotkey for this mode in the hotkeys menu.

  • With CHOPS(Channel Operators), you can edit and adjust the timing of an animation without changing the scale and shape of your character.

Rendering, Lighting, and LookDev Workflow

Here are some general tricks and tips to improve your rendering,lookdev,and lighting workflow in Houdini:

  • Make sure all your models are converted into primitives or polysoups for rendering. Houdini understands these formats better, and renders them faster.

  • Always export any finished models as Alembics if you are exporting to another software to do lighting.

  • You can use the Object Appearance Editor to turn down the amount of detail on a model to make it easier to work with. You can also use this tool to hide any objects outside the camera's field of view. This tells Houdini to only calculate the objects in front of the camera for rendering, and not the entire scene.

  • Houdini by default works in a Linear Color-space, and automatically uses a gamma of 2.2.

  • Finalize the camera position before doing your rendering. Don't edit the camera while you are rendering.

  • Render transparent objects in separate render passes.

  • Always try to use PBR while rendering. Unless you are rendering particles or volumes.

  • Remember to match the motion blur and depth of field with your live action plate and camera in production. 

  • Use the render tab to do test renders of everything you make before you do your final render. Using snapshots helps you look at previous versions of your test renders.

  • Double check the file path for where you are rendering out your simulation. 

  • You can render only the points of the geometry of an object by turning on the Render as Points on the Object Node.

Modeling Workflow

Here are some basic approaches to improving a modeling workflow in Houdini.


 You'll want to first focus on the approach on first thinking about what you would like to build, and how you are going to start doing it. There are 10 steps of this process that you'll need to consider.

First, Define what you'd like to create.(a house, character, etc), Analyze how, and what it takes for the creation to be made. Generalize the easiest points and parts of your tasks, and combine them into a simpler way of making them. Filter out any unnecessary steps or routes you might take to build this project. (This part comes with experience) What are the dependencies? Basically, how would this creation and and appear in the real world? And how can I incorporate that into my model.

Next, consider Abstraction of the object. Is there any details that you can make the main focus of the object to be? Or any details you don't need or can over exaggerate? Then focus on Parameterization. Dial back your changes to a point where you creation can still look believable. Then after all this you can consider Randomization. If your model is procedural, is there any way you can randomize some pieces on the object to save you time from creating every individual piece?

After all this, you can then focus on any Technical aspects of your model. There may be easier ways of modeling something than sculpting it. Such as writing one line of VEX. Then work on the upkeep of the Maintenance of your model. You still need the freedom to undo any changes that might ruin your model in the long run. Finally, start to develop your own Style of how you would approach things by default in Houdini.

You could probably use the above formula in different Houdini workflows as well. Feel free to try. In the meantime, here are some other useful modeling tips:

  • The UV Texture Surface Operator in Houdini is incredibly useful for editing your UVs and edit any point curves of your UVs.

  • The Height Field Node is great for quickly generating volume primitives for your height and mask fields. This a great terrain tool to use.

Workflow Resources For Houdini

Houdini Tips and Tricks to Speed Up Your Workflow:

What is the workflow of Houdini artist?:

Rendering workflow tips:

Maya To Houdini Workflow:

Redshift Proxy Workflow in Houdini:


Houdini Terrian Workflows:

Sidefx Houdini 17 Modeling workflow:

Modeling primarily in Houdini:


Rendering as part of a Workflow:

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