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Houdini workshop @ VIEW 2017

For many and many years I had the desire to visit the VIEW Conference held in Turin (Italy).
The VIEW is the italian (smaller) version of the Siggraph: there are booths, talks and masterclasses taught by some big names of the CG industry, plus plenty of cool art books that help you in emptying your wallet.

This year – as always – I had no time to pay a full visit to it, but I decided to get a little crazy and I engaged in a 8 hour long trip (4+4) just to follow a 2h masterclass.
Yep, you read it right, a 8 hours trip for a 2 hours class.

turin-morning
Morning light in Turin

What masterclass, are you asking?

The super inspiring “Procedural and Production Techniques using Houdini”  kept by Deborah R. Fowler.
Ms. Fowler is a teacher at SCAD really involved into procedural techniques for assets generation, and she’s also REALLY enthusiastic about what she does, which is a feature I personally love.
Bonus points: she worked on the creation of procedural assets inside Toy Story (1 and 2) and A Bug’s Life, and that brings her on another planet.
As if that wasn’t enough, she made a huge part in the writing of The Algorithmic Beauty of The Plants, a 1990 book describing the mathemagic of how some plants grow.

procedural-slide-1

Since listening to two or more Houdini artists talking can be a daunting experience, we briefly covered some of its lingo, and why it’s required:

houdini-op

The masterclass started with an explanation of the tricks required for the creation of Photon Jump: the short movie the SCAD students realized in order to better communicate to the public the goals of NASA ICESat-2 mission.
Then it shifted more on the creation of a Phyllotaxis Pattern, a simple example of an algorithm that can be user to recreate a sunflower (which is also a very nice and organic way of packing circles inside a circle. Shiffman has made a cool tutorial on this, too.. and I highly recommend you to watch it if you’ve never heard of it).

In this pic you can (hopefully) see how you can build a simple Phyllotaxis inside Houdini using just a copy node, two expressions and a sphere:

houdini-phyllotaxis

Finally, we got into the core of the masterclass: the creation of a Sunflower Field in a procedural fashion, starting from the creation of the single flower (leaves + petals + main body) , then the ground plane (grid + mountain node) and finally scattering the flowers on the grid. All without moving one single vertex by hand!
What else to say?

It’s been a nice day to wander around a beautiful city listening to an inspiring talk.
Using a procedural approach it’s cool and very useful, too. You are modelling processes, not vertices, and that’s way better in terms of flexibility!
As Jeff from SideFX says..

“Change anything, anytime, anywhere!”

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