This is the tenth entry of what will be a year-long journal on learning the 3D application Houdini, created by Side Effects Software. Houdini is a sophisticated application that is widely used in the production of visual effects for Hollywood films such as Big Hero 6, Mad Max: Fury Road and many others.
In my previous Learning Houdini Journal 09, I went over the two basic ways I'm learning to animated in Houdini 15: straight keyframe and dynamic animation. This journal entry goes into a bit more detail and relates how the "idea" of a computer process is important to understand
The Idea of Using Simulated Natural Forces to Animate
Sometimes just understanding the idea behind an operation in an application can be as important as understand the steps in the process of the operation itself. The idea of Dynamic Animation simply never occurred to me when I started out on the "Intro to Houdini 15" course at pluralsight.com. I just assumed the animation of the race car crashing out of a window to the ground below would be done with keyframes. But the very canny John Moncrief (instructor of the course), preps you for using the Dynamics system in Houdini by showing you how unrealistic and time-consuming keyframe animation would be first, then he helps you set up a dynamic animation and gives you the tools to tweak/modify the animation parameters to get just the right look.
I'm not sure why I didn't make the jump to using Dynamics for animation. Houdini is widely known as having one of the best Dynamic systems in the industry. It makes so much sense to use real-time simulation of gravity, friction and velocity to create a crash scene and shattering glass.
from the Houdini 15 manual
Starting Over and Re-learning
I became so engrossed in learning more about Dynamics in Houdini, that I dropped the tutorial and spent time reading the Houdini 15 manual and running through mini-videos at the Sidefx.com website and on Vimeo.com. Once I had a reasonably good understanding of the kinds of things I could do using Dynamics, I went back to the beginning of the Animation section in the Intro to Houdini 15 tutorial and started over.
This actually was very helpful and is an advantage I think to self-directed learning as opposed to class-room or guided learning online: you can stop and go on a tangent any time you want. For me, this process helped to cement some of the procedures and concepts in using Dynamics inside of Houdini.
One tutorial that was particularly helpful was at Houdini's Go Procedural site at Vimeo.com. The M03 | Next Steps | Procedural Animation | Intro to Dynamics. This hour-long tutorial really helped supplement my learning.