Thursday, October 15th, 2015 Posted by Jim Thacker

Side Effects ships Houdini 15 and Houdini Engine 2.0

Houdini 15 improves the software’s ability to distribute very large simulations across a network for calculation. See more videos of the new features in the latest update on developer Side Effects Software’s Vimeo channel.

Side Effects Software has released Houdini 15, the latest update to its 3D modelling, animation, effects and rendering software, adding a range of new tools and improved support for distributed simulation.

Houdini Engine, which enables artists working in a range of other DCC applications to open and edit digital assets created in Houdini, has also been updated to version 2.0.

Some features for generalists, some for FX TDs
We covered a number of the features in Houdini 15 when Side Effects released a sneak peek video of the update earlier this year, so we won’t cover them in detail again here.

They include new modelling, materials and animation features that should be familiar to users of other DCC applications, and therefore make Houdini friendlier to artists who have come to it through Houdini Engine.

But there are also features tailored to the software’s traditional audience of FX professionals, including new viscous fluid simulation tools, and improved support for distributing simulations on render farms.

The crowd system added in Houdini 14 has also been extended, with support for ragdoll dynamics and limb detachment; support for fuzzy logic in AI behaviour; and a new Agent Cam tool for point-of-view crowd shots.

Improved support for RenderMan’s RIS shaders
On top of that, there are a number of features we didn’t cover at the time, notably improved support for RenderMan, and the new RIS raytracing architecture introduced in version 19 of the renderer.

Houdini 15 ships with a “complete set” of RenderMan BxDF, Pattern, and Integrator RIS shaders, RIS light shaders, and Camera, Light Probe, and Rolling Shutter RIS projection shaders.

The RIS shaders are now available in Houdini’s RIS Shader Network shader operator, while Houdini’s VOP visual programming system “provides a native environment for building RIS shaders with OSL support”.

There is also a new RIS render node.

New viewport display and map export options for game artists
Games artists also get a range of new features, including viewport support for UDIM textures, world-space normal maps, UV mesh boundaries and overlapping UV regions.

Houdini 15 can also now import and export tangent-space normal maps and convert bump and displacement maps to normal maps.

Houdini Engine also updated to version 2.0
Finally, Houdini Engine has been updated to version 2.0, although it sounds like you’ll mainly notice the differences if you’re trying to integrate it into your own software.

According to Side Effects, the update further separates the API frontend from the compute backend, reducing library conflicts during integration and allowing for multiple sessions and multiple threads per host.

You can read a longer list of the features in both applications in the news release below.

Pricing and availability
Houdini 15 is available for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X. A node-locked licence of the standard edition, aimed at modellers and animators, costs $1,995; Houdini FX, which includes the simulation toolsets, costs $4,495.

The Indie version of the software, intended for anyone making under $100K/year, costs $199/year. Houdini Engine 2.0 is also available on a rental-only basis, and costs $499/year. Its own Indie edition costs $99/year.

Read a full list of new features in Houdini 15 on Side Effects Software’s website

Just nine months after artists first got their hands on Houdini 14, Side Effects Software has announced the release of Houdini 15 with onion skinning, new shader building tools, crowd ragdolls and Houdini Engine 2.0. This new version enhances modeling, rendering and animation tools to meet the needs of generalists, animators, lighters, and game makers while the VFX tools become faster, more scalable and more efficient at handling big data.

“With this release, Side Effects is working hard to bring Houdini’s modeling, rendering and animation tools up to the level of its VFX tools,” says Kim Davidson, President and CEO, Side Effects Software. “With more game studios creating content using procedural techniques and commercial studios looking for artist-friendly tools, Houdini 15 offers a well-rounded solution.”

Houdini has traditionally offered strong procedural modeling sometimes at the expense of its interactive workflow. With improvements made in Houdini 14 and now 15, modellers are now able to work intuitively in the viewport with the new tweak edit workflow, edge sliding, soft selection highlighting and new tools such as PolyBridge and PolyExpand 2D. For working with hi-res models, new retopology tools make it easy to build low-res geometry by drawing right on top of high-res geometry.

Rendering in Houdini 15 is faster and richer with improvements to the Mantra renderer such as checkpointing and render view feedback. Shader building has been enhanced with a new shader library, a rebuilt Shader FX 2.0 menu, layered materials and a cartoon shader.

Houdini 15 also includes an implementation of Disney’s physically-based Principled Shader which is designed to provide artistic flexibility with a minimal set of controls. In addition, a library of royalty-free PBR ready textures will be available on for use with Houdini 15’s shader building tools.

Material stylesheets create a production-level workflow for creating and managing material overrides that work well with Alembic files and packed geometry. Easily set up random textures and variances in material settings to give a unique look to a collection of similar items such as crowd agents.

RenderMan 20
RenderMan 20 and RIS shading support is fully integrated into Houdini 15. RIS shaders are available in the RIS Shader Network SHOP and Houdini’s VOP context provides a native environment for building RIS shaders with OSL support.

Houdini 15 comes with a complete set of RenderMan BxDF, Pattern, and Integrator RIS shaders as well RIS light shaders and Camera, Light Probe, and Rolling Shutter RIS projection shaders. There is also a new RIS render node which allows the RIB and RIS render nodes to have cleaner interfaces specific to each mode.

The animation workflow in Houdini 15 is better than ever with onion skinning, a pose library panel, an improved character picker panel and enhancements to the dope sheet. This makes it easier to pose and keyframe characters in Houdini.

New lightweight female and male rigs provide sample characters that artists can use to explore the animation tools in Houdini. Houdini 15 also includes dual quaternion support for deforming twisting geometry and preventing volume loss.

Houdini for Games
The modeling improvements in Houdini 15 will be particularly useful for game artists who use Houdini to build procedural assets for use in game editors such as Unity and Unreal. The PolyExpand2D tool makes it easy to compute straight-skeleton and is ideal for road generation.

Houdini 15 also includes texture baking and viewport support for UDIM textures, world-space normal maps, UV mesh boundaries and overlapping UV regions. Game makers can now import and export tangent-space normal maps and convert bump and displacement maps to normal maps.

Crowd Ragdolls
Ragdoll dynamics have been added to the Houdini 15 crowd tools along with limb detachment, fuzzy logic and better crowd behaviour. It is now easier to set up material and geometry variations and tools have been added to set up explicit target locations. There is also an Agent Cam tool which creates a camera and attaches it to the head of an agent for point of view shots.

Distributed VFX
Houdini 15 will make VFX artists more productive and capable of bigger, more dynamic FX. The new adaptive PBD lets artists focus grain simulations on particles that are involved in collisions. New viscous fluids tools such as Lava, Melt Object and Emit Steam give artists quick access production-ready effects.

Fluid and PBD simulations can now be distributed to multiple nodes on your farm to create and manage bigger sims. Distribution allows artists to work beyond the capability of any one computer and the results fit together seamlessly when rendering. A FLIP fluid simulation with a billion particles or more is now easily achievable.

Houdini Engine 2.0
For artists working in other applications such as Maya, Cinema 4D, Unreal Engine 4 and Unity, the Houdini Engine makes it possible to open up Houdini Digital Assets in these apps. Houdini works in the background to cook the node networks inside the asset and the results are delivered to the viewport of the host application.

Houdini Engine 2.0 has been designed to separate the API front-end from the compute back-end. This allows for multiple sessions per host, multiple threads per host, greater stability and can be integrated without library conflicts. This thin client has made it possible for developer Hideki Suzuki to complete his 3ds Max plugin. The initial release of the 3ds Max plug-in code is now on GitHub with a compiled plug-in to follow in a few days.

Houdini 15 includes improvements to the Maya plug-in such as support for ramp parameters while the Unity plug-in now has support for paint input. The UE4 plug-in continues to be in beta but its planned release date is mid-November 2015.