Monday, September 28th, 2015 Posted by Jim Thacker

Sneak peek: Houdini 15

Originally posted on 7 August 2015. Scroll down for updates.

Following an enigmatic three-second teaser earlier this week – it makes more sense if you pause it and look at the writing on the bottle caps – Side Effects Software has released a sneak peek of Houdini 15.

Whereas recent releases have been tailored largely to its traditional core audience of FX TDs, Houdini 15 looks to make it more accessible to generalists and game artists attracted to the software through Houdini Engine.

Side Effects describes it as being for “generalists, animators, lighters, game makers and VFX artists” and being intended to make “Houdini to a bigger part of the pipeline”.

New modelling and retopology tools
Accordingly, the new features are to some extent Houdini playing catch-up with other 3D applications, particularly in the modelling and animation toolsets.

Modelling features on display include edge sliding and a new tweak edit mode for pushing vertices around. The latter comes with falloff and what Side Effects terms ‘sloppy selection’.

There are also new PolyBridge and PolyExtrude tools that should be familiar to users of other software, and a new retopology system that looks to work in a similar way to Maya’s Quad Draw tool.

Updates to materials and animation workflow improvements
Over in materials, the Shader FX system introduced in Houdini 11 has been updated, and there is a new toon shader, support for layered BSDFs, and an interesting-looking ‘material stylesheet’ system.

The update also adds support for the recently released RenderMan 20, including shader-building and IPR.

The animation system also gets an update, introducing support for onion skinning, a ripple tool and multi-selection in the Dope Sheet, and a new pose and clip library.

But still some new FX tools, too
TDs needn’t feel entirely left out, however, since the crowd system added in Houdini 14 has also been extended.

The video shows crowd ragdolls interacting with Houdini’s other simulation systems, including position based dynamics, FLIP fluids, Pyro FX and particles; plus some rather gruesome limb detachment.

The options for distributed simulation have been extended, and there is a neat-looking new Melt Object option.

Updated 8 August: Side Effects tells us that distributed sims now use “adapative compression and loading solutions to improve post-simulation workflow on large FLIP and white water data sets”.

“Tha means each slice of a sim runs more efficiently on the farm. We have also improved how the slices connect to create a virtually seamless surface.” Side Effects says that it has tested sims as large as 4 billion particles.

Other new tools
In addition, if you pause the video at 03:00, you get to see a brief list of other new features, which include a PSD exporter and support for the UDIM UV format used in tools like Mari.

Pricing and availability
Houdini 15 is due to ship in October 2015. The software is available for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X.

Houdini 14 costs $1,995 for the standard edition or $4,995 for Houdini FX. The Indie version, intended for anyone making under $100K/year, costs $199/year.

Updated 28 September: FX artist Oliver Weingarten has posted a video of Side Effects Software product specialist Scott Keating previewing the new features in Houdini 15, recorded at ÜberTage 2015.

In contrast to the more generalist tools discussed above, the demo features heavily on simulation work, including some interesting footage of the new simulation slicing options, which starts around 04:00.

Keating also explores a lava simulation (16:00 in the video), crowd simulation (23:00), and the new Principled shader: an implementation of Disney’s physically based shader (38:00), designed to speed up look dev.

Read more about Houdini on Side Effects Software’s website
(Note: no extra information about Houdini 15 at time of posting)