Mastering Lighting and Rendering with Houdini's Mantra

Taught by Andrew Lowell

Course Number:
Software Version:
Original Run Date:
July 2013 
6 hours 37 minutes 
One of the best ways to step your FX abilities up to the next level is to master Mantra, Houdini’s rendering engine and one of the best rendering solutions in the industry. Familiarity with Mantra will allow you to render the toughest effects a film can throw at the Houdini artist, as well as speak the language of lighting, and seamlessly integrate your effects and shots with final compositing.

This course will guide the student through the very basics of rendering in an exploration of Houdini cameras and lighting. Next, Three FX centric look-development tasks will be explored to build solid foundations with rendering. The examples will mimic on-the-job FX lookdev, which will impart experience dissecting a look and give a few studio ready FX solutions as well. They will increase in complexity and range a full gamut of lighting, rendering, and compositing scenarios.

Andrew Lowell is a Houdini FX artist on numerous films, spanning several years, countries, and studios. He’s a perpetual generalist and his background includes music and mixing, compositing and video editing, and every generalist skill set in the vfx business; always taking on the hardest and weirdest FX tasks in production. He’s also an experienced Houdini educator and author, and has developed many different methodologies for effectively teaching Houdini to both students and professionals.
Mastering Lighting and Rendering with Houdini's Mantra
Watch our overview of the course

Class Listing

Class 1

Mantra basics. This class will go through some of the basics. Software basics, such as how to set up cameras, lights, and renders within Houdini will be covered, as well as workflow and aesthetic basics such as the needs for various shots and working methods, and when to make the call as a Houdini FX artist to render your own elements.

Class 2

All about motion blur and cameras. Here motion blur will be covered in depth. Motion blur is one of the most sensitive issues of a rendering workflow. It has to be both correct, and unnoticeable; sometimes even tricked. Here we go through various motion blur practices gathered from different production and technical scenarios.

Class 3

Lighting in FX. Lighting is the key to any good looking element and render. This class explores lighting types, shadow types, and the various applications and techniques to use them.

Class 4

Project 1, Sparks. Having great looking sparks can complement any destruction task. Here we construct a spark system similar to the one made in Transformers 3. This will address issues such as how to render in-scene motion blur, and particle rendering.

Class 5

Project 1, Sparks Continued. This class produces the rendered results of our spark system from the previous class, as well as dives into final compositing and rendering FX interaction lighting passes.

Class 6

Project 2, Dust and Smoke rendering. Rendering dust is one of the most common tasks a Houdini FX artist will undertake. Here we work on constructing a simple dust shader, and rgb lighting as well as passing aov (arbitrary output variables) layers to compositing.

Class 7

Project 2, Dust and Smoke Rendering continued. This class produces the final dust renders, and explore Mantra's delayed load and point instancing functionality which can drastically improve any rendering task's efficiency.

Class 8

Project 3, Magical Effects and Compositing Integration part 1. This three part project involves ground-up look development of a tesla coil. Often Houdini artists are tasked with creating effects such as lighting, magical beams, or various other kinds of abstract look development which blur the lines between the various elements of geometry, animation, lighting, rendering, and compositing. We explore how to approach and set up these tasks in an organized way, and start on the geometry and animation components.

Class 9

Project 3, Magical Effects and Compositing Integration part 2. Here the class explores rendering techniques and passing various geometry attributes to final renders and compositing.

Class 10

Project 3, Magical Effects and Compositing Integration part 3. We go through final deep compositing integration, as well as various specialty lighting techniques such as geometry lighting to match our look both in 3D and in Compositing.