[Sidefx-houdini-list] houdini for sci-viz and other nefarious purposes ...

Darran Edmundson darran at edmstudio.com
Fri Jun 22 22:51:16 EDT 2007

Hi All,

Hopefully this doesn't come off sounding like a commercial ...

We just finished putting together a 4-minute promo reel for our nascent 
interactive design company, www.edmstudio.com.  The reel, viewable via a 
link on our home page, is a mixed bag of scientific visualization and 
interactive museum work.  After editing, it struck me that Houdini was 
leveraged on the bulk of these projects.  For sciviz work, Houdini's 
proceduralism is a natural fit.  But we have started to see real value 
in Houdini as part of our digital-to-physical pipeline.

For example, a museum approached us wanting to convert ten greyscale 
images of dinosaur skeletons into brass "touch-plates" with relief 
carvings and accompanying braille lettering.  We investigated sand 
casting and electric-discharge-machining before settling on computer 
numerically controlled (CNC) milling.  It turns out that the 
industry-standard software for converting from a bitmap image to a 
SolidWorks (CNC-compatible) relief mesh costs $6k!  (I know this because 
we went to the trouble of getting a demo from the company's New York 
rep.)  Given the high cost and the one-off nature of the job, I created 
a "good enough" version of this software as a Houdini digital asset in 
the course of an afternoon.  The machined plates look and feel wonderful 
to the touch.

For the quantum computing visualization, fully half of our time was 
spent on ensuring scientific accuracy.  When the quantum dots zip back 
and forth carrying out a quantum error-corrected controlled-not 
operation, the sequence of movements is correct.  When the electron 
cloud distorts, the underlying silicon lattice is visible.  The 
scientists really appreciate this attention to detail - and Houdini 
saved us repeatedly.  (Of course maybe its just as easy to accomplish 
via Maxscript or MEL; I'd like to think though that we have a secret 
weapon ;-)

In the augmented-reality game at the beginning and the 3D sliceable head 
demo later on, Houdini is used to author our real-time assets. With the 
forthcoming python integration and houdini-object-model in H9, we're 
hoping to push this a lot further.

And separate from all this, my business partner (and brother) Andrew is 
an architect who is really interested in applying Houdini/proceduralism 
to physical design.  When he talks about the drudgery of AutoCAD not 
"knowing" that "if I shift this wall, this window needs to relocate", I 
empathize completely.

In summary, there's no real point to this email.  It's just one of those 
touchy-feel situations, the man in love with his tools.  I'm so glad 
that when I turned up at the ANU Vizlab in 1998, they were using Houdini 
and not 3DS Max ...


Darran Edmundson [darran at edmstudio.com]

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