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Houdini FX: Where does it beat C4D?


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Hey all, 

 

Been watching some youtube videos on Houdini lately and besides it being hella complicated (well from what I could tell) in terms of UI and all the node-based modelling, I struggle to understand if it has anything superior to offer, something we don't have in C4d. Can anyone shed a light on its pros and cons?

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There are key differences. Houdini is almost entirely parametric, so most modelling and anything else can be done via nodes, which is as advantageous to some situations as it is disadvantageous in others. But it has ultra-powerful particle, simulation, smoke, fire , water  and ocean sims - and huge complex mograph-like systems, and all eminently user-codable - you name it - all can be done there, and it is ludicrously cheap for the power it offers.

 

So while, yes, there is some crossover in functionality, and they are both DCCs, they are not really in direct competition with each other - Cinema is not trying to be fully parametric, and shouldn't do, because some tasks, for example modelling, are 100 times faster with traditional pipelines. Imagine having to add and setup a (sometimes quite complex) node for every single stage of modelling a form ! There is room in a workflow for both apps. To use a blunt little tool of analogy; If Cinema is like hand-painting a beautiful picture in a nicely lit studio, Houdini is like trying to paint a hallway through a letterbox - ie a LOT harder initially, but capable of great great things once mastery is achieved and you get used to its way of working... if you have both, a TPR and some decent post, you are pretty much ready for film VFX.

 

Personally I tend to fall asleep while I am learning Houdini, so I remain largely Cinema-centric where I already know most of the things, and modelling is all nice and familiar and no more parametric than I want it to be...

 

CBR  

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53 minutes ago, Cerbera said:

There are key differences. Houdini is entirely parametric, so all modelling and anything else is done via nodes, which is as advantageous to some situations as it is disadvantageous in others. But it has powerful particle, simulation, smoke, fire water - huge complex mograph-like systems - you name it - all can be done there, and it is ludicrously cheap for the power it offers.

 

So while, yes, there is some cross over in functionality, and they are both DCCs, they are not really in direct competition with each other - Cinema is not trying to be fully parametric, and shouldn't do, because some tasks, for example modelling, are 100 times faster in Cinema. Imagine having to add and setup a (sometimes quite complex) node for every single stage of modelling a form ! There is room in a workflow for both. To use a blunt little tool of anagaly; If Cinema is like hand-painting a beautiful picture in a nicely lit studio, Houdini is like trying to paint a hallway through a letterbox - ie a LOT harder initially, but capable of greater things once mastery is achieved...

 

CBR  

So from what I gather Houdini is more like Cinema in conjunction with X Particles. I obviously don't think about switching, I'm super happy with Cinema overall, was just wondering if there is something I'm missing haha. Thank you for the explanation, it clears up a lot. Maybe it's because you often hear "Oh, Houdini is for professionals in film industry"... as if Cinema is for toymakers 

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Just now, Jennifer said:

"Oh, Houdini is for professionals in film industry"... as if Cinema is for toymakers 

 

It's true a lot of film / VFX guys want Houdini as their main tool. But that doesn't mean Cinema is a toy anything...

 

CBR

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Houdini is much more capable in many circumstances but that comes up with a cost of complexity.  Modeling is not always parametric btw.

You can do all simulation you want in Houdini - that is one of the reasons people can say "Houdini is for professionals in film industry" - certainly not in Cinema that does not even have a fluid simulation. Neither Cinema can handle big amounts of data or is as well pipeline integrated like Houdini.  I am only aware of Cinema in film industry for HUD type stuff. 

But if you don't have Houdini type of work you should not complicate.

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I switched entirely to Houdini from C4D a year or so ago. The advantages of Houdini (apart from the cost) are that everything (points, polygons, etc.) can get assigned as many attributes as you wish, and these attributes can be controlled by fairly simple formulas or relationships. There is no separation between things like Xpresso and the rest of the program the way there is in C4D. These attributes can be used to control position, color, speed, etc - and that is part of why Houdini is so good for FX.

 

There is no doubt that learning Houdini is harder than in C4D. You have to build a lot of things that get done automatically in C4D (especially regarding base shapes, UVs, and materials), but you can use what you have developed on one scene to copy into another or to create a digital asset for use in other scenes.

 

There is a myth that Houdini is entirely procedural, but it is true that one can develop a complex simulation and then feed a different node in at some place earlier in the tree to get a completely different result. There are often several ways to model in Houdini, and if you use a lot of "edit" nodes, it will end up no more procedural than any other program. But when you want the procedural features and build the models using procedural nodes (like scattering buildings over a scene that all are shaped somewhat differently), it excels.

 

I tend to make small editing mistakes, and it used to drive me crazy that I couldn't slightly change what I did three steps ago or decide to put a 12 sided cylinder rather than a 16 sided one for a part of the model. I often gave up and started my models from scratch before Houdini. Now, often I can fix the model with a few changes in nodes rather than recreate them from the beginning - so it works for me.

 

Houdini is more like an object programming environment than strictly a 3d content creation application. If C4D was visual basic, Houdini would be C++. You have more power but have to deal with the innards a lot more.

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With that much flexibility, do you ever find yourself in "analysis paralysis"?  I mean, once you are deep into a project, the non-destructive nature is wonderful, but how do you get started?  With standard modeling, you start with a spline or a primitive and then cut, push, pull and/or sculpt to get where you want to be (or what is in your minds eye).  It is almost tactile.  How do you get there with procedural nodes?  You blew my mind when you said "anything" can have as many attributes as you want.  Yes...I would be paralyzed.

 

I would imagine that is the bulk of the learning curve....developing the methodology and approach to standard modeling tasks.

 

What I love about C4D + XP is that they are both powerful and intuitive.  Together (especially with fields) they are like "Houdini for Dummies"...which is not meant to insult C4D or XP but rather compliment the fact that both programs walk the line between ease-of-use and power so effortlessly.

 

I don't know....I guess this says it all

 

image.thumb.png.f67c92714d7d6a33ceb9e793a8805791.png

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I actually downloaded and installed Houdini a decade or two ago and tried the tutorials available at the time. I found it confusing and did not understand why anyone would prefer it to XSI, C4D, or Maya. I had two misconceptions. One was that it was much too difficult to create simple things. The second was that you didn't have to write a single line of code if you just used the nodes. To be fair, most of the lines of code required to do procedural modeling are the equivalent of "transform the second object in the y axis the equivalent of the first object's height." I tried again a few years later and gave up on it again.

 

I am not expert in Houdini, but it meets my needs better than any other 3D program I've used. Modeling in Houdini, as with any other 3D program generally starts with primitives, and there are not as many as in C4D. There is no cone or disk or helix for example. So yes, learning Houdini requires a slightly different way of thinking apart from just learning the software. For general 3D asset creation, it will not really be better than other software (like C4D, Blender, Modo, Maya, etc.) and will generally be slower but not really that different conceptually.

 

But pretend, for example, that C4D did not have a grid or a cone or a cube. If it had a line, you could extrude that to create a grid. In Houdini, there is a plane, but if there weren't, you could start with a line and add an extrude node. A cube is just an extruded grid, so a second extrude node would convert a grid to a cube (although there is a cube in Houdini that you could start with). If you took a line and rotated it with a revolve node, you could create a cone without a base, but you can add a polyfill node with the right settings and get exactly the same as a C4D cone. If you rotated the line around an axis 90 degrees, you have a disk. One could then do typical box modeling with extrudes, bevels, knife cuts, etc. as you might in any other program; but you would have the ability to go back and change the node used to create the cone or cube or whatever and change the angle, height, etc and those changes would propagate forward.

 

The limitations of the above example can be seen in the cone. When a line is rotated and then revolved, the height of the cone will not be the length of the line. So then you will have to add a transform and have some knowledge of trigonometry to get an exact height to match the original line. To avoid this, you would add a "wrangle" node with code:

@P.x += @ptnum/@numpt; //to rotate the points on the line. 

 

That is not a lot of code, but it shows that just using nodes can be a limitation.

 

Fortunately, once one starts thinking like this, it is pretty easy to recreate C4D's mograph features, add particles and emitters, add the equivalent of gravity and wind nodes, and so on. One can get lost in the various nodes, but there are ways of simplifying this with groups, layers, etc. At worst, you can freeze all the steps or just export to an obj or fbx file and then bring that back into Houdini to do some FX.

 

 

 

 

 

ConeSimple.hiplc

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Houdini evolved a lot from 10 years ago. The improvements of modeling for  example started when many XSI users went there. You can model a car in Houdini like in any other subdivision application like C4D.

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I switched from C4D to Houdini about 3 years ago and I have to say that the "steep learning curve" and "very difficult to learn" fame that precedes it has been greatly exaggerated (I am finding learning Blender or Unreal Engine at least as equally challenging if not more). All in all it took me about 1 week to wrap my head around the basics of how to do things with nodes, and most importantly which nodes one tends to use 99% of the time. 3 years later I'm definitely much more knowledgeable with more advanced features, and even started a YouTube Channel with some tips and tricks that I enjoy sharing as I learn them:

 

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqQzy1kAB5HXRLeZ5h_BKRA

 

Going back to the OP's question, I thought I would touch on something that I rarely see mentioned, but which IMHO is one of the biggest plusses of Houdini -- the ability to not only easily repurpose very complex set ups, but also to very easily re-purpose someone else's set up, as well as easily diagnose issues throughout the community.

 

Let me elaborate a bit, particularly on the very last part of my previous sentence. C4D has a thriving community of users who help each other out as needed, typically with posts such as "how to I do this?" and "I followed the tutorial but it's not working for me."   

 

The Houdini community however is unique in the way it can easily share Houdini (.hip) files freely and without necessarily having to part with non-shareable geometry, in order to get very specific answers. Let's say I'm working on a spaceship breaking up, and for some reason I can't get the effect that I want, or it's not working as I thought it would. I want someone else to take a look at my file, but I can't share my spaceship model which I bought on TurboSquid. No problem, simply change the spaceship to any primitive, hook it up in the node tree, save as... and send the .hip file to see where I might be going wrong in one or more of my nodes. 

 

Even better, because of the nodal nature of Houdini, I can examine someone else's .hip file, and understand exactly how to achieve a desired effect because I can see step-by-step exactly what they did. Think of nodes as a "work history" embedded in the actual Houdini file, a very detailed peek into what's behind the curtain! This is simply not possible with any other DCC as far as I can tell.

 

 

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Pipelines..use whatever tool you need for each task. Photoshop/Realflow/Zbrush/Cinema 4D..The end viewer cares not a jot how you got the images on screen. Use Gimp/Blender HOUDINI/MAYA..whatever suits the task at hand.

It is not a marriage to one program or another..it is an orgy

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