It’s time to become a visual escape artist. Houdini, the 3D procedural tool from SideFX, is vital secret sauce in visuals, including live and immersive AV. But what’s it about – either technically how to use this thing or why and how to get inspired? There are some great recent videos from the Houdini folks with just that in mind. Don’t forget, too – it’s free for Unreal and Unity use.

Oh yeah, and it’s great to see OFFF, the creative festival, back in the mix – whatever the tool. So here’s what’s up. (Pictured at top / XK Studio for London Symphony Orchestra)

First, let’s catch you up on Houdini – and yes, it is one of the Great CDM Create Digital Motion Wormholes.

A great place to start is the MOPs, which let you immediately treat Houdini like a kind of visual instrument:

Remember, it’s free for Unity and Unreal users, too:

And indeed, combining Houdini with other tools is a big part of how to make it work:

But what about non-technical artists? From OFFF HIVE 2022, two educators talk about exactly that problem, and a topic I always love – pain. “Why do I even want to learn Houdini?” And how do you approach it without a technical background?

For all the sameness of a lot of motion graphics, then you see extraordinary work like Alexa Sirbu and Lukas Vojir. I find this really inspiring – and a cue for where live and performance visuals might go, as well. “Hyperrealism, tactility, emotion” – check, check, and check.


XK seek to combine the technical prowess that Houdini offers with narrative abstractions and hyper-real art direction in creating seductive, even hallucinatory movement and materiality.

Alexa Sirbu and Lukas Vojir are the founding artists of XK studio. A design and motion practice, with experimentation at its core, they specialize in the creation of high-end 3D visuals and films. The studio has evolved into a team of creative minds who adopt a blend of artistic and technical approaches to craft striking visuals for brands worldwide. Drawing inspiration from the worlds of nature, fashion and art, they focus on reimagining these concepts and exploring the boundaries of beauty through a digital, futuristic lens. They closely collaborate with their clients to produce mesmerizing motion, meaningful narratives and daring aesthetics.

More of their work:

LSO pic also at top. See their studio:

And more motion designers – but wow, would love to see live folks more represented, too:


Okay, so ready to give this a try? They’ve been busy uploading tutorials on the Houdini account, too.

The Destruction FX gives you a primer on a number of related physics topics and as they put it: “One of the things that makes visual effects fun is that you get to blow things up without causing any real damage.”

There’s a ton of stuff to dig through there, but I found this lightning strike FX tutorial to be grounding. Sorry, unintentional pun, really.

Start from the beginning – you get a great look at Niagra and a ton of different tools come into play over the full series:

Their series on nodes has been great, and very much up to the alley of CDM visuals, complete with lesson/project files — mm Pyro Solver, Volume Deform:

And they’ve been doing little “snacks” on topics like, uh, swirly things:

So yeah, can you just, like, dump this stuff into Unreal or Unity? Indeed you can.

What about M1?

Well yes, I am very excited for M1 native support. It’s already in a tech preview if you’re brave:

But Rosetta 2 can already do a lot.

Get it

Check SideFX Houdini:

Oh, and still more wild Houdini-for-music ideas: