Start Here

This page is a brief introduction for those of you who are completely new to Houdini, and are wondering where to start in learning the application.

Houdini is a very advanced 3d animation and rendering application that's used a lot in movies. It costs many thousands of dollars. But there is good news for hobbyists - you can download for free a full version (the apprentice version) for windows, mac and linux. This version has a watermark on all the images you render. Providing you don't want to use the application for commercial work you can upgrade this, for a small fee, to a version that produces images without a watermark. Houdini is developed by a company called Sidefx who are at

You will need a mouse with three buttons to use Houdini - if you have a mouse with a scroll wheel that is also a button, that will probably do.

Houdini is at least as sophisticated as some of the more well known applications (Maya, Softimage XSI, Cinema 4d, Modo and so on).  It can, broadly, do anything those applications can. People who love Houdini point to its infinite flexibility and power. Its critics say, with some justification, that it can be hard to learn.

On this page I make some suggestions on how to go about learning it, the way I did.

I'd suggest the following steps to learn Houdini:

1) Look at the videos in the start here part of the help (Help->Start Here on the Houdini menu). At least for the ones covering the user interface, make sure you can confidently repeat what is shown in the video;

2) Go to the documentation (Help->Houdini Help from the Houdini menu) and thoroughly read all the material in the section entitled basics, and the section entitled network and parameters. If you want to print off some pages of the documentation this is easier to do by accessing it using your normal browser here. Note you have to print off one section at a time.

3) Look at the user guide, and the webinars on the Sidefx website. The user guide is designed to teach Houdini from the ground up. Each part has a pdf file manual and an accompanying video. You can find them here, or under the Learning->Tutorials section of the main sidefx website. There is also a fairly comprehensive set of webinars, taking you through all the main features of Houdini - you can find them here.

4) Look at the videos in the Start Here Videos part of this site, Start Here Videos which contain the really basic stuff;

5) Look at  Videos on the Basics all of the start here videos are on this page too, but there are also some slightly more advanced but still basic videos;

6) You many like to look at the rendering videos Videos on Rendering next, as all of these apart from shader building can be understood without too much Houdini experience;

7) Explore some of the wider videos both here, and under the Learning->Tutorials part of the SideFX web site. The SideFX Masterclasses provide invaluable detail on using Houdini. Note that the videos, and scene files, referenced on this site are made with a range of versions of Houdini - from 9.5 onwards. Each project file is labelled with the version of Houdini it works with - it may work with later version of Houdini, but is not guaranteed to.

- Commercial Videos are available at Digital Tutors (there is a good all round introduction, designed for 9.5 but still relevant, and fairly basic videos on dynamics and more advanced videos on rigging.

- CmiVFX also have a large number of up to date Houdini videos, of varying length and price. I've not seen them but the videos on rendering are supposed to be at introductory level, some of the videos on fluid effects, city and road building are fairly advanced, and you will probably want to feel confident with Houdini before attempting them.

If you run into problems there are two excellent websites devoted to Houdini. The forum on the SideFX website and od[force] which also has an excellent and friendly forum. If you run into trouble with the tutorials it is always best to post your scene file here, rather than message me on vimeo, as it may take some time for me to reply. The forums also contain hundreds of example files showing how different effects are created.


Subpages (1): Start Here Videos