HOUDINI & Cinema 4D

A perfect match

In pipelines that use Houdini in combination with other 3D packages, a few technical artists are typically responsible for creating Houdini Digital Assets (HDAs), which may be used by all artists during production. Houdini makes it possible for technical artists or asset creators to make only the parameters available that are relevant for other, less technical artists, making complex assets intuitive to use. The new Houdini Engine integration in Cinema 4D allows artists to use HDAs directly inside Cinema 4D using a plug-in that is seamlessly integrated into the Cinema 4D user interface.

What does the plug-in do?

Cinema 4D’s Houdini Engine integration leverages the capabilities of HDAs using the standard user interface and workflow that makes Cinema 4D so intuitive and powerful to use. It allows users to load HDAs as .hda or .otl files inside Cinema 4D and manipulate them like standard Cinema 4D generators.

Please keep in mind that the Houdini Engine is a product from Side Effects Software. It is not part of the Cinema 4D Installation and needs to be purchased separately. For further information, please visit the Side Effects website.

The Houdini Engine processes the asset, translates the node-based Houdini setup that was used to create the HDA, “cooks” the result and returns it to Cinema 4D. This whole process takes place in the background with extremely low overheads, is non-intrusive and the user sees the result, just as with any standard Generator in Cinema 4D. When an HDA is loaded, all parameters that have been exposed by the creator of the HDA are available as attributes in Cinema 4D’s Attribute Manager.

The power of the Houdini integration is enhanced by the fact that an HDA can have inputs as parameters, allowing the user to push (marshal) standard Cinema 4D polygon objects, MoGraph setups, generators and Thinking Particle groups to the Houdini Engine for processing. This powerful feature lets HDAs be created that take advantage of a wide range of Houdini’s procedural modeling tools, particle generators, fracturing setups, fluid dynamics, grains and crowd simulations, just to name a few.

As an output result an HDA can generate polygon meshes, Thinking Particles, textures, UV maps, vertex maps and more, that can be used in Cinema 4D. Users can deform, clone and texture meshes, manipulate particles using standard Thinking Particle setups, render them using instanced geometry and the Hair renderer. It is even possible to use the output of an HDA as an input to another HDA. The possibilities are endless!

It is important to understand that the Houdini Engine integration (the Houdini plug-in) only establishes a direct and seamless connection to the Houdini Engine. The Houdini plug-in automatically detects if the required Houdini Engine libraries are installed on the computer and populates the Houdini features in the sub-menu. If no installation is found, the “Get Houdini Installer” command can be used to open an external browser that will start downloading the required installer from the Side Effects website.


What can artists expect from the integration?

Even artists who are not yet familiar with Houdini but want to utilize HDAs in Cinema 4D, can start by downloading pre-built assets from the Orbolt store, Side Effects’ digital marketplace for Houdini assets. This allows for immediate access to the extended possibilities this integration offers – without the artist having to learn or even have Houdini installed.

How to get pre-built Houdini Digital Assets

Users can get HDAs from the Orbolt store, which lets assets be filtered by category, supported 3D applications and many other criteria. Assets flagged as Cinema 4D-compatible are approved by Maxon. The Orbolt store is easily accessible from the new “Pipeline” menu, which becomes available with the installation of the Houdini plug-in. Users can access the store directly from inside Cinema 4D and start downloading HDAs.

Technical Requirements

  • Cinema 4D R17 or higher, Service Pack 1 for Mac OS and Windows
  • A Houdini or Houdini Engine version that corresponds with the installed plug-in build

Cinema 4D’s Houdini Engine Integration supports assets from any Side Effects product that is compatible with the Houdini Engine (Houdini, Houdini FX, Houdini Indie and Indie Engine). Houdini educational licenses are also fully supported. The Apprentice version is not compatible with the Houdini Engine in accordance with Side Effects’ licensing terms and therefore doesn’t work with the plug-in.