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VEX in Houdini

An 8-week course on mastering the power of VEX in Houdini; learn to create sophisticated tools that leverage the latest features of VEX like geometry creation

Course overview Course overview

Course Overview

Become a master of VEX in Houdini

The first week is an intro to VEX, followed by two weeks of broad strokes coverage, then we will launch into actual projects, one per week. Some of what you’ll learn: Querying data via point clouds & volume functions | Inline VOPs, wrangles, VEX otls, and external code | Volume advection in SOPs and Mantra | Hydraulic terrain erosion | Reaction diffusion | Delayed load magic | Rapid geometry creation in CVEX | Space colonization algorithms for organic effects | Flocking and fuzzy boid brains | Troubleshooting: “Y u no compile?”


Course Format:   Standard
Lecture Type:   Pre-recorded
Feedback:   Individual recordings
Duration:   8 weeks
Assignment:   Deadlines each week
Q&A:   Once a week
Materials:   Houdini
Skills level:   Advanced
Prerequisites:   Comfortable working in Houdini. Must have one C-like language under you belt already (C, C++, MEL, RSL, Java)


What you'll learn

The more you know, the better.

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We’ll kick off by talking about how VEX is different than your mom/dad’s C-based language.We’ll look at how VOPs compile into VEX code, examine VEX’s strengths and weaknesses, and we’ll untangle the mess that is inline vops, wrangles, otls, and external vex. There will be a quick overview of useful VEX functions, types, casting, macros, and pragmas (again, if you’re comfortable with c-like syntax, this will be a breeze). If your head isn’t spinning too much, we’ll finish with a some simple examples. Bonus video: VEX coding with SublimeText, vcc compilation checking and vexexec for simple testing. It’s not required that you use SublimeText, but if you already do use ST or would like to try it out, I’ll walk you through the very painless setup I use.
This week we’re pushing points in parallel, querying point clouds for all our spatial needs, and creating geometry in the CVEX context. Noise functions are covered in detail, including how VOPs like Anti-Aliased Noise generate their code. We’ll start to get heavy into iteration and branching: tasks that could be done visually in VOPS, but which will be expressed more succinctly in code. We’ll take this knowledge and craft some impressive generative art and yes, we’ll explore the visual style of interfaces in movies like Tron.
Shaders, volumes, and procedurals, oh my! We leverage mantra and CVEX to generate rendertime detail. We’ll use these techniques again, especially in week seven. This is the last week we do broad coverage and in week four we’ll move to a project-per-week model.
Reaction-diffusion is a stunningly simple two-step chemical reaction model where one substance affects another, the result of which is diffused (blurred). With a few modifications we can have our own laboratory in VEX using the work of Jonathan McCabe: “Cyclic Symmetric Multi-Scale Turing Patterns.”
Boids, the most common flocking system model, have been around since the 80’s and are now a built in feature of many 3d packages. Houdini even comes with built in particle forces which emulate the most important behaviors between flocking particles: alignment and attraction. The way most packages implement this is, however, very precise, mathematical, and in no way like what a bird or other flocking animal thinks when it’s part of a swarm. We’ll explore another way of doing this quickly in VEX based on the paper “Boids with a Fuzzy Way of Thinking.”
A unique approach to growing geometry which leverages what VEX is best at: fast point cloud queries. We’ll generate our points and branches with the new attribute wrangle sop. We’ll explore this technique as it relates to natural phenomena like plants, coral, lightning and other fractal structures. We’ll compare this with a traditional procedural model. Examples based on the work “Modeling Trees with a Space Colonization Algorithm.”
Upres-ed volume sims are now an indispensable part of visual effects. We’ll take a look at how this is done in SOPs and at render time for both static (clouds) and dynamic volumes (smoke sims). Based on the work by Rythm & Hues Studio “I Love It When A Cloud Comes Together.”
We’ll use VEX to turn those uncanny-valleys into natural looking valleys. Eroding almost any terrain gives an immediate improvement in realism- even geometric height maps become interesting after a small custom VEX sim. Adopted from “Fast Hydraulic and Thermal Erosion on the GPU.”

Taking your skills to the next level.

Lectures by Timothy Stam

Timothy is currently an FX TD at Unit VFX, having worked as such before at Framestore, MPC, Electric Theatre Collective, and as ATD at Double Negative. Before transferring to VFX he worked as an environment artist. Timothy has worked on the cities for the Yorktown sequence for Star Trek: Beyond, did a variety of FX on Pirates of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, and has worked on a number of commercial projects, both doing FX and building procedural modelling tools. He studied digital effects at Bournemouth University and game art at the Utrecht School of Art and Technology. Timothy has also taught in different capacities, such as a Pluralsight course author (City Generation with Python in Houdini), as (substitute) Houdini tutor for MOPA (Supinfocom Arles, France) and thas also done a number of Master Classes, for Bournemouth University and Staffordshire University.


July 21st!

winter TERM Registration

May 14, 2019 - Jul 23, 2019




July 21st!

Pricing & Schedule

Even though our courses are the most affordable for the quality of education.

These Finance Options allow you to focus on your goals instead of the barriers that keep you from reaching them.

Employer Reimbursement

Animation Guild CSATTF

Payment Plan

Companies that hire our students

  • Naughty Dog
  • Luma Pictures
  • Google
  • EA Games
  • DreamWorks Animation
  • Blizzard Entertainment

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