Issue: Animation - May 30, 2003


TORONTO - Side Effects Software ( has released Houdini V.6., which offers significant productivity and efficiency gains via digital assets, a feature enabling technical directors to create and manage libraries of re-usable characters, effects and other elements that can be set up with artist-friendly controls. Additional enhancements in Houdini V.6 include global illumination, embedded online help and enhanced animation, interface, lighting, compositing and particle tools.

The new digital asset feature makes it easy to bring together geometry, bones, shaders and motion into a unified custom asset. This asset can be created with high-level controls for artists and animators who don't need to know about the underlying procedural networks. These assets can then be managed through special libraries that make it easy to insert updates into the pipeline or re-use assets across a production. Digital assets can also be used as custom tools for streamlining the manipulation of geometry, motion, shaders, effects and composites.

"Studios are looking to handle more shots with greater efficiency while maintaining the highest level of quality," explains Dr. Paul Salvini, CTO at Side Effects. "Houdini V.6 fulfills this need by providing tools to create fully-encapsulated digital assets that can be managed in one place and referenced across multiple scenes and projects. For example, a TD could set up a CG fish with built-in effects such as fins that react to the fish's motion along a path curve or bubbles that are emitted depending on the fish's speed. The animator could use a simple version of the fish for keyframing, then switch to a full-resolution version when it's time for rendering. The nondestructive nature of the technology enables the TD to make further changes to the fish without affecting the work of the animator."

In addition to digital assets, Houdini V.6 includes a range of powerful new tools and enhancements. The new embedded help browser uses html and Houdini's script language to create interactive learning materials while providing a framework for technical directors to produce in-house documentation and browser-driven scripts related to specific production pipelines. Global illumination is now supported in Houdini's built-in Mantra renderer, allowing realistic renderings that simulate the way light inter-reflects within a scene.

V.6 has a hotkey driven keyframing system, and new character tools include forward and inverse kinematic blending and dynamic parenting. It has also been enhanced with a variety of new compositing operators, and particles can now be set up to slide across a surface then drop off at an appropriate point.

Houdini V.6 is available now to all Houdini customers. Houdini Apprentice users can also download a free non-commercial version of Houdini V.6 including all-new training materials at