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SideFX launches PilotPDG

Friday, March 15th, 2019 | Posted by Jim Thacker

SideFX’s introduction to PDG from last week’s Houdini 17.5 launch event. Houdini’s task- and dependency-management technology is also now available in new standalone pipeline tool PilotPDG.

SideFX has launched PilotPDG, a standalone pipeline tool based on the new Procedural Dependency Graph (PDG) technology introduced in Houdini 17.5.

The software enables studios that do not use Houdini to make use of PDG, with suggested use cases including pipeline automation, machine learning and building new procedural game development workflows.

A granular system for managing task dependencies
PDG enables users to explicitly specify dependencies between different tasks in a production pipeline, using a node-based visual workflow.

Within Houdini, it provides artists with more granular control over their work: for example, kicking off renders of a simulation while parts of it are still being calculated, or launching a second sim dependent on the first.

You can read a more detailed discussion in our original story on Houdini 17.5.

However, SideFX also describes PDG as an attempt to extend Houdini’s procedural paradigm to the “big picture”, enabling studios to make use of procedural workflows for broader pipeline tasks.

Potential use cases: a central framework for pipeline management
PilotPDG processes dependency graphs created in Houdini, enabling them to run them on other machines.

One potential use is in what SideFX describes as ‘assetizing’ production pipelines: parcelling them up into modular components that can be recombined or reused between projects.

The firm describes PDG as a central framework that can replace the manual work or custom scripts required to connect applications “that can bog down a complex studio pipeline”.

The system comes with readymade nodes for performing generic tasks like moving, copying or zipping files, processing data in CSV, JSON or XML format, or querying a SQL database.

It also integrates with other standard pipeline tools: there are integration nodes for render-scheduling apps like Deadline and Tractor, source-control systems like Shotgun and Perforce, and even – in future updates – for Photoshop and Allegorithmic’s Substance software.

Studios can also integrate other applications via Python scripting.


Potential use cases: building new procedural game development workflows
Other potential uses for PDG itself include machine learning – again, discussed in more detail in our story on Houdini 17.5 – and building new procedural game development workflows.

In the video above, PDG project lead Ken Xu explores how the technology could be used in conjunction with Houdini Engine to build detailed procedural environments within a game engine.

Rather than having to process the terrain, roads, trees and buildings as independent procedural assets, PDG enables Houdini Engine to process them “holistically”.

In the demo, Xu moves a section of road upwards, with the procedural dependency graph automatically generating a bridge over a valley and rescattering surrounding trees in near-real-time.

Pricing and availability
PilotPDG is available now, priced on enquiry. SideFX’s online FAQs include more details about where PilotPDG licences and Houdini Engine licences are used when running jobs across a server farm.

Read more about PilotPDG on SideFX’s website

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