Learn How to Craft Game Effects using Houdini & UE4
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Learn How to Craft Game Effects using Houdini & UE4

A guide for experienced film vfx artists to start their journey into real time graphics.
4.5 (297 ratings)
Instead of using a simple lifetime average, Udemy calculates a course's star rating by considering a number of different factors such as the number of ratings, the age of ratings, and the likelihood of fraudulent ratings.
7,604 students enrolled
Created by Stephen Tucker
Last updated 12/2016
English [Auto-generated]
Price: Free
  • 1 hour on-demand video
  • 1 Article
  • 2 Supplemental Resources
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
What Will I Learn?
  • take visual effects knowledge you've gained through working with Houdini in the motion picture industry, and understand the basics of how to apply it to the video game industry.
  • understand the importance of optimization in real time visual effects.
View Curriculum
  • The audience should be familiar with 3D Visual Effects workflows. This means understanding basic math, and concepts such as UVs, Normals, and node based workflows.
  • Basic familiarity with Houdini is required to get the most out of the presentation.

This 45 Minute Lecture was originally given to the Vancouver Houdini User Group in August 2016. It is a talk that was designed for an audience familiar with feature film visual effects workflows, specifically those which use Houdini. The goal is to increase awareness of limitations in real-time game environments, and to help film makers take steps towards transitioning into interactive media.

Feature film effects artists are typically used to working with millions or particles, polygons, and voxels. While it's acceptable for a render farm to chew through heavy data over the course of several hours for film; current game platforms are not designed with this kind of geometry in mind. It's up to the effects artist to understand this and produce visuals that are as light-weight as they are beautiful so that game engines can spend their efforts on more than just the visuals.

This is not designed to be a step-by-step tutorial for making a "pretty" effect, but rather a general purpose guide geared at introducing a broad topic. If you are interested in transitioning from film to games, this talk may be useful as a primer as we'll introduce concepts such as: sprite sheets, power of two dimensions, texture packing, particle trimming, letting the GPU handle transformations, and vertex animation. Topics are introduced in a way that should build upon concepts that are already familiar to those with training in the motion picture discipline. All examples in this lecture are given using Houdini 15.5.523 and Unreal Engine 4.12.5.

The example files may be downloaded and examined at the student's own leisure.

Who is the target audience?
  • Experienced visual effects artists who have worked in a professional film environment.
  • Those who are looking for a transition from film to video game visual effects.
  • Those who are looking for a broad introduction without the slow step-by-step procedures typically offered in tutorials.
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Curriculum For This Course
Start Here
2 Lectures 03:09

Welcome to the course! This started off as a lecture that was given to the Vancouver Houdini User Group meeting. It was targeted toward an audience primarily made up of professionals in the film industry who use Houdini for a living. This is not a step-by-step tutorial on how to generate beautiful effects but rather a broad transition guide aiming to give insight into what kind of optimizations are necessary when working in a real-time environment.


Example Files
Real Time Visual Effects using Houdini and UE4
7 Lectures 40:50

Sprites are a particularly common way to render particles. It's a display method that allows the user to play back a movie or image sequence in-game. To conserve memory it makes sense to place images onto a single texture called a "sprite sheet". We typically will try to "pack" as much information into a given texture as possible to avoid have to load multiple images into memory.

How do sprite sheets work in Unreal Engine?

Sprite sheets are easy to create in Houdini using the mosaic node. It's worth keeping in mind things like: what information will be in a given channel, what is the gamma output of your image, and are your images a power of 2 dimension (8,16,32,64,128,256,512,1024,2048,4096). Try to ensure that your individual frames take up as much space as possible to avoid wasting the available space in your texture map.

Creating a sprite sheet in Houdini

Trimming is a common feature used with particles which helps to reduce overdraw (when transparent images render atop other transparent images). It's a great way to reduce the complexity of your particles when rendering transparent images such as smoke. When possible, it's also a good idea to let the GPU handle things such as transformations.

A basic "power-up" particle in Unreal Engine

Here we investigate a little bit of the workflow in Houdini for turning 2D Images into 3D geometry. COPs is a powerful part of Houdini that is useful when working on game vfx and motion graphics. Remember to "texture pack" whenever it makes sense. Images are great ways to pass information to UE4.

Creating Geometry and Animating in Houdini

This is a basic look at what a transform vector is for people who are not as accustomed to passing data around through a network. It's a primer for the next video where we will be taking transforms to the next level.

Vector Math Basics

Using the GPU to handle Vertex Animation in our shaders, it's rather simple to get deforming 3D geometry. The trick is to figure out how we can export the necessary instructions from Houdini. By creating a second UV layer, we can create textures that will store each point's animation over time.

Exporting Vertex Animation From Houdini

With our new textures generated in Houdini, we can now go about setting up Unreal Engine so that a mesh will deform over time. This is done by panning our UV coordinates over time to read animation that has been stored in a texture map.

Using Vertex Animation in Unreal Engine
Thank You For Watching
1 Lecture 02:30

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About the Instructor
Stephen Tucker
4.5 Average rating
297 Reviews
7,604 Students
1 Course
Visual Effects Artist for Film and Games

After attaining a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Animation from Sheridan College, Stephen went on to work as a Product Specialist at Side Effects Software Inc, before beginning his career in film and games. He has worked as a visual effects artist and technical director in both fully animated and live action films at Starz Animation, Dr. D, and Digital Domain. Recently, he completed work on Microsoft’s Gears of War 4 and now works as a Senior VFX Artist at Electronic Arts Montréal.