How to make a Mandelbulb

A Mandelbulb is a three-dimensional fractal that is becoming increasingly popular in 3D art and VFX. In this article, I’ll walk through how to quickly make a Mandelbulb in Houdini, using an SDF (signed distance field volume).

In each voxel, an SDF stores the distance to the nearest point on the surface. Houdini can interpret these distances, and visualise the derived surface as 3D geometry. This is very convenient since most fractal formulas take the form of a ‘distance estimation function’ – given a point in space, the function returns the distance to the nearest point on the fractal implicit surface. This means that you can put the results of the fractal function directly in each voxel and it will just work!

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Matt is an FX lead at Animal Logic, with credits on films such as Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Avengers: Age of Ultron, The Lego Movie and Prometheus.