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Introduction to Particle FX in Houdini: Vol. 1

Get Started in Particle Simulation With Alessandro Cangelosi


Houdini is an industry leader in visual effects, putting power into the hands of FX artists working in production for films, TV, and games. As one of the most-used effects tools in the industry, artists can often find Houdini a daunting tool to get to grips with. Here, Alessandro Cangelosi unravels the learning curve to introduce a simple way to approach particle FX using Houdini.

There are many approaches to creating impressive particle FX simulations in Houdini. Alessandro gets started with an overview of the basics that you need to know, and explains why Houdini is used as well as the fundamentals for how to use SideFX’s powerful software. This 7-hour workshop takes you step by step through how to manage different types of operators, including DOP, SOP, VOP, and focuses primarily on POP (Particle Operators) Networks. You’ll discover how to create a particle setup from scratch as well as how to take advantage of Houdini Shelf presets. The workshop aims to teach a sound understanding of how a particle system works in 3D.

Particle emission rules and techniques are also covered, including how to manage different setups, and you’ll learn various ways to create particles using meshes, scatters, and volumes. In addition, some of the useful nodes that can be used to control colors, emissions, particle-caching, collisions with 3D objects, and basic bounce and drag forces are discussed in detail.

The Mantra rendering engine is a great way to render millions of particles; Alessandro shares how to shade your projects, and explains how instancing works. You’ll also see how rendering points can be used in production to simulate effects such as dust, sand, and many other natural substances. How to control shading and motion blur with collision detection is also a highlight, where Alessandro discusses sub-groups, particle replication, sampling techniques, and optimization.

The final part of this workshop tackles a final project: How to generate a CG nebula using volume velocity advection with a simple VOP. Helpful tips about how to create pyro FX advection are provided, as well as a deep look at particle rendering for gaseous FX.

The Houdini files for each chapter are included with this workshop.

Duration: 7h 05m

Format: HD 1920x1080

Alessandro Cangelosi

Lighting TD & FX TD

Alessandro Cangelosi's passion for technology, science, and art has led him from software development to VFX. Beginning with generalist positions in small productions, he progressed to a Lighting/FX TD working on commercials, video game cinematics, and films. His credits include 2012, Independence Day 2, Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, Dead Rising 3, and Wolfstein: The New Order, and upcoming projects like the Foundation TV series. He has worked on national and international documentaries alike, and has developed plug-ins and custom tools for 3ds Max. Alessandro is also currently Head of Learning at Proteus VFX School in Italy, where he teaches Houdini and Lighting TD at ScanlineVFX.

  • Alessandro has a proven track record and deep understanding of creating shaders that reproduce natural phenomena - like sand, ice, water surfaces, and lava. These are technical achievments, but Alessandro has a passion for cinematography, composition, lighting, and color. Having a solid foundation in these areas will always create better work - when artistic prowess meets technological understanding and not the other way around. Alessandro has helped us immensely on difficult effects shots, and we were able to trust his judgement on how a shot should be lit and composed. He always concentrates on the importance of a shot, its form and subject, before dealing with all the technology that goes into producing the end result. Alessandro's careful observations and strong technical skills have made it a pleasure working with him.

    - Matt Moses
    Lighting Director Renkewitz Studios