10 top Houdini tutorials

Houdini is a powerful beast, with tools for building VFX used in many Hollywood movies. But the initial learning curve is steep, so we've compiled this list of tutorials to get you started with some of the most fun and useful tools and workflows on offer, from liquid effects to destruction. 

01. Procedural oceans 

Creating an ocean surface is a task often left to specialist tools, but incredibly believable results can be achieved with Houdini’s built in tools. FX Hive have this great video, showing you how to get setup and rendered, where they cover all the details and pitfalls. 

02. Realistic fire simulations 

Although the Houdini defaults for fire and smoke are pretty good, it’s possible to make them look a lot more realistic and, in this video, Henry Medhurst shows you how. With a light-hearted and easy-to-follow style, Medhurst runs through the entire process, showing exactly how to get the best out of your simulations. 

03. Volume Booleans 

Striking results and with uses from abstract to footprints in the snow

Striking results and with uses from abstract to footprints in the snow

There are some tasks or effects that are really quite tricky to do in many applications that Houdini handles with ease. Working with volumes is one of these, and in this tutorial, Moritz of Entagma shows you how to create a look of one object displacing another via voxels. 

04. Point and polygon bevelling 

Although Houdini is great for handling assets created externally, it's also a competent modeller. In this video you will learn how to introduce the bevelling tool into your modelling workflow. Find out how to use it’s various options, like bevel shape for vertices and how to access the subdivision options.

05. Curvy extrudes

Houdini’s modelling toolset has some fun little tricks up its sleeve, including this technique for creating extrudes that follow a curved path, rather than the usual linear path that we commonly see.

06. Crowd simulations

A recent addition to Houdini is the Crowd Simulation tool set, which, unsurprisingly, lets you build background crowds for your visual effects shots, complete with dynamics interactions. This intro tutorial from Guillaum Fradin, gets you up and running with the tools, followed by detailed videos that all combine for a full rundown.

07. Waterfall simulations

Go Procedural created this tutorial some time ago now but it is still one of the best tutorials out there dealing with the workflow for creating a waterfall. The video covers everything from the interactions of the main body to the generation of splashes, using Houdini’s Flip Fluids solver, which is most suited to this mid-level kind of work.

08. Procedural spider’s web

In this tutorial, Tolya Shuverov demonstrates how you can create a totally procedural spider’s web inside Houdini. The video isn’t narrated, but it’s clear and easy to follow and, if a web is something you need to make, will save you an awful lot of time, should you be thinking about making one manually.

09. Lava like a boss

Lava this realistic is easy with Houdini. If you know how

Lava this realistic is easy with Houdini. If you know how

VFX artist Ben Watts' site not only houses his excellent portfolio but also a selection of really useful tutorials. Well presented and thought throughout, they are all worth a watch but this one (actually half of a pair) is particularly good. The results speak for themselves but if you need thick, hot, spurting fluids Ben is your man.

10. Madelbrot and Mandelbulb

For the last tutorial in this list we return to Entagma and its fantastic video on Mandelbrot sets. If you’ve ever been interested in either chaos theory, mathematics, or abstract but formula driven art then this is the training for you. Renders of Mandelbulbs, the 3D counterpart to the fractals we are all familiar with, are beautiful and mesmorizing. Certainly worth investigating.

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Rob Redman

Rob Redman is the editor of 3D World and ImagineFX magazines and has a background in animation, visual effects, and photography. As a 3D artist he created the mothership in the Webby winning Plot Device and was animator on the follow-up; Order up. He has created training for Cinema 4D and Blackmagic Design Fusion artists. He's been a published product and food photographer since the age of 15. As well as being a multi-instrumentalist, Rob is also an avid beard grower.