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Data Viz meets Houdini

As always, it’s been while since my last article.
In the meantime I’ve:

  • Attended a course about Data Science (Python and R)
  • Attended a course about Houdini and VFX

Now you may say.. what the heck have in common the two topics?
And what does the top image of this page have to do with anything?
One thing at a time, sir.
At first sight, VFX and Data Science are the most unrelated things in the universe.
But, if you scratch the surface, you’ll find that Houdini is a powerful suite for rendering 3d visualizations.

With its procedural node-based workflow, Houdini lets you create more content faster to reduce timelines and enjoy enhanced flexibility in all your creative tasks.

So Houdini is fully procedural, from the core.
This means that if you change the input, the rest of the process you designed will be rebuilt consequently (anybody said Generative Art?).
Now, let’s say the input is data.. can you see where I’m going?
Using Houdini for Dataviz means you’ve got all the trick and the trades of the 3d world (lights, shaders, etc…) at your disposal.
And that’s really huge, because it means a whole lotta of control for the design and final look!
Plus, there are some nice extras: Python and VEX scripting to do all the rough stuff.
Obviously, Houdini cannot be used for creating website visualizations like you could do with D3js, for example, but still.. if your struggles are more focused towards Data Art, Houdini can be really powerful!

The idea of using Houdini outside of its primary field (creating VFX for movies) it’s not mine.
I just happened to wonder one day about the meeting of these two worlds, and, as every man of the 21th century would have done, I asked Google.

Houdini data visualization

And I found them: 422South Studio.

And their incredibly awesome reel of works.

I was set.

Data Viz meets Houdini

Somebody was actually using Houdini for producing data visualization, and top-notch content, I must say!

So I left the long shadow of Maya behind my shoulders, and I began to venture through the procedural realms.
But before running, if you must know how to walk.
I did an awesome course at ViFX, Vicenza (Italy), with Jean Claude Nouchy as tutor.
That man together with that software really blew my mind!

In the short turnaround below you can find the first results of my efforts in learning the “Houdini way”: a procedural marble shader.
You can find more details about the process, features and the inner workings here on Behance.

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