Side Effects Software has released Houdini 12.5 with new features such as Cloud FX, Ocean FX, OpenVDB volume sculpting tools and an optimized lighting and rendering pipeline. The release also includes built-in support for delayed-load Alembic primitives. So strong is this release Side Effects could have perhaps called it Houdini 13 - or perhaps the Side Effects crew are superstitious - either way it is a great expansion of the Houdini tool set.
Cloud FX lets artists build, sculpt and render cloud formations using sparse volume sculpting tools created as part of the OpenVDB [Openvdb.org] open source initiative. DreamWorks Animation and Side Effects worked together on this implementation.
Houdini 12.5 also includes an Ocean FX Wave tool which deforms geometry into animated oceanscapes using volumes. Artists can visualize the results in the viewport and either render the geometry as is or export an animated texture to use as a displacement map. FLIP fluid sims can also be generated with the Ocean FX Wave Tank tool and a unified Whitewater solver allows users to create spray, foam and churn based on the underlying FLIP fluid sim. There's also a Mist tool for further whitewater effects.
New relighting options and optimizations in IPR [Interactive Photorealistic Rendering] have been added in Houdini 12.5. Primitive support for file types such as Alembic resulting in much lighter data passing to either the viewport or the Mantra renderer. Additional features include volume lights, new Bullet RBD constraints, a new PolySoup primitive type for optimizing large models, point primitives and a powerful Surface remesher.
See the full features list here.
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