Make your CGI look like it’s doing impossible things, with Houdini

We’ve all wanted to have magical powers at some point in our lives. And now, with Houdini, you can make your CGI come to life with magical powers!

When 3D shows itself with all its potential, to the eyes of a child, the main effect it has on them is to appear like modern digital magic.The sensation is even more pronounced when it comes to particle effects, simulation of fire and flames, right up to spells, magic and superpowers: the real VFX.

This ‘magic’ is now possible for any modern artist with patience and willpower, but not without a digital ‘magic wand’ that can follow and guide him!

In 3D, this magic wand is represented by Houdini, which, as its name suggests, allows you to create 3D effects proper to a sorcerer!

SIDEFX Houdini interface
From particles to explosions, from cloth wrinkles to buildings or even beards! The procedurally nature of Houdini can do all sorts of things!

Houdini is produced by SideFX (sometimes you will also find it written as Side Effects Software, a production company based in Toronto, Canada). The history of the software and its production company began back in 1987, with the intention of making 3D more accessible to the general public.

The first software they created was called PRISMS. It was a 3D graphics software that let users create ‘procedural’ content. ‘Procedural’ means that the 3D geometries, textures, and effects are created based on algorithms and mathematical schemes. Sometimes, these are even based on physical calculations. All of this is pre-built and then inserted into the software. PRISMS actually laid the foundations for the first release of Houdini in 1996 and it is still receiving regular updates today.

Houdini’s creation approach is unique and unlike any other software, Houdini ‘simply’ allows you to create 3D elements. With procedural creation, you can create a model, but also have a system to control the appearance of that model and all its similar copies.

As an example, let’s take the creation of a waterfall of feathers or rocks. It would be unthinkable for an animator or modeller to recreate each feather and/or rock one by one, with individual variations in size, colour, and movement.

Houdini solves this problem by creating a simulation ‘system’. This ‘system’ is what makes Houdini stand out from the competition.

It’s now possible to create a single animation node that manage all the feathers or rocks with this software, in a procedural manner. This means that you can use schemes and systems to create the variations for each element, instead of having to do it all manually. This greatly simplifies the work and it’s much faster. In this reel, you can view some of the projects that have used Houdini’s potential in 2022 productions. These results are pretty amazing!

Houdini has been used in a lot of high-budget films because its procedural node system is really good for simulating the creation of effects, like explosions, destruction, atmospheric agents, or any kind of magical entity.

We’re talking about awesome films like Encanto, Dr. Strange, Uncharted, Matrix: Resurrections, Jumanji, and Halo. Some of the biggest videogame studios have used Houdini to make jaw-dropping cinematics for their games. For example, the massively popular game League of Legends used Houdini for their in-game movies. And Call of Duty and World of Tanks are just a couple of the other huge games that have used Houdini’s effects.Houdini is so powerful that it can even export its settings to other software packages like Maya, Cinema 4D, Unity, and Unreal Engine. That’s thanks to the Houdini Engine, an awesome plugin that makes Houdini integratable with all sorts of other software.

The best part is that Houdini is available as a free software version with some limitations. Or, for only $269 per year, you can get the ‘Indie’ version that’s perfect for small studios with less than $100,000 in turnover.

I’ll leave here the link to a wonderful tutorial made by Adrien Lambert in which you will see the power of procedural modeling in Houdini:

For more information, please visit their website at: If you need help with your magical powers, they’re the people to see!


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