Monday, December 8th, 2014 Posted by Jim Thacker

Sneak peek: Houdini 14

Side Effects Software has posted a teaser video for Houdini 14, the upcoming release of its flagship 3D software, showing off its new position-based dynamics toolset, crowd tools, and workflow changes.

Position-based dynamics for wire, sand and squids
Position-based dynamics gets most of the air time in the video. The technique is used in games physics systems like PhysX and Havok Cloth, and some of the concepts are replicated in Maya’s Nucleus framework.

The Houdini 14 demo does indeed show cloth – not to mention wire, chains of beads and… er, bacon strips – but also organic soft bodies (anyone with a phobia of squids should look away), and even wet sand.

New crowd toolset with physics interactions
Other types of simulation also get a look in, which the addition of a new crowd toolset.

It’s described as having a finite state machine, and looks capable of much more complex behaviours than, say, 3ds Max’s Populate toolset. Crowd agents can even interact with fluids, sand or Bullet phyics objects.

OpenVDB-based grooming tools
There are also new hair grooming tools – intriguingly, based on OpenVDB. The file format is already supported in Houdini, but only for more traditional volumetric applications.

It isn’t mentioned in the video, but a post on the OpenVDB forum from DreamWorks R&D Manager Ken Museth also suggests that Houdini 14 will also support the upcoming OpenVDB 3.0.

Modelling, animation and UI changes
There are also a number of changes grouped under the heading of ‘UX changes’. Many of them are quite major, including a new group selection workflow, a revamped animation editor, and animation layers.

The interface also gets support for custom Python panels, via PySide/PyQt.

All in all, it looks a well-rounded update, and one that should cement Houdini’s reputation as one of the most forward-looking of the commercial 3D applications.

Users on Side Effects’ Annual Upgrade Plan already have early access to Houdini 14; everyone else will get a chance to try it when the release goes gold on 15 January.

Read more about Houdini 14 on Side Effects’ website