Advice for a Houdini Procedural Technical Artist?

Hey all, I currently work at an animation studio as a junior houdini/pipeline TD.

I love the job itself but as for the projects they don’t interest me much and I’ve always wanted to work in games, I’m particularly interested in the creation of procedural environments and assets. I’m curious as to how involved TAs are in actually creating these tools (like a castle generator or cable generator etc.) or is that something that environment artists are now doing these days? Additionally, I’m wondering how different a Procedural TA’s daily life looks compared to mine, and the skills I might be lacking.

As for what I do now:

  • Debugging problematic Houdini scenes
  • Creating Python scripts to be used on the pipeline.
  • Testing procedural asset HDAs and tooling
  • Creating new HDA (nothing crazy, just little utility HDAs)
  • Working with USD authoring

From the research I’ve done on existing procedural technical artist job ads and a brief conversation I had with an animation TA the biggest things I seem to need to focus on are

  1. Solidifying my Houdini knowledge
  2. Python (I’m still a beginner, I know enough to scrape by)
  3. Unreal Engine
  4. 3D math (We were not friends in high school and I feel as though I’m severely lacking on that front)
  5. Substance Designer (seems like a bonus on most job ads?)

Would love to hear your feedback, I know there’s no one path but I’m trying to get a better sense of what the role looks like and what I may be overlooking.

Thanks everyone!


That seems about right!

I’m a Unreal+Houdini TA working in the UK Game Industry with about 3 years of experience and my early junior TA days at AAA Studios were really similar to what you’re doing now :slight_smile:

But since i’ve moved on to a smaller AA studio as one of the first TAs, I’m a bit more involved in:

  • Building up pipelines from scratch (for anim, character art and environment art ) with P4Python, UnrealPython and HoudiniPython
  • Creating whole procedural toolsets ( like cable generators, house generators and stuff like that )
  • Defining fundamental technical art standards that were missing in the studio ( naming convention, budget and folder structure )
  • Educating Artists on Procedural mindset

Therefore your skills focus seems about right!

But i’d add that substance designer is more important for texture artists, but of course as a procedural TA it is a useful tool in your arsenal but not super important.

I’d recommend:
Become familiar with how to author the HDAs to work with Houdini Engine ( be it Maya, Max, Unreal or Unity )
and as a bonus, have Unreal PCG in your skillset! ( newest, cost-saving kid-on-the-block )

This is because while we need procedural toolsets, most artists using those tool would not be familiar with Houdini enough to work within it and studios may not have enough Houdini Core or FX licenses for all of the artists!

This allows the artists to use your tools in an environment they are familiar with ( in unreal, maya or max) and the Houdini Engine License is practically free as well! :slight_smile:

For Unreal PCG, it’s an alternative for smaller studios that cannot afford Houdini and/or just need simple generators.

Hope this helps! :slight_smile:

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Awesome! Thanks for the reply @tov95 glad to hear my skills are going to be more transferable than I thought.

If you have any recommendations for courses or resources please let me know!

That extends to anyone else who reads this thread :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

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You’re welcome! :slight_smile:

For the game engine:
What would be helpful would also be to consider if you’re aiming to move towards mobile/XR/VR or PC/Console games!

For Mobile/XR/VR, I find that it tends towards Unity while for PC/Console, it tends towards Unreal ( or in-house engines ) it doesn’t really matter if you’re a pipeline guy because you’re gonna make it work anyhow but having some knowledge helps!

I’d also recommend trying out more VEX for Houdini because it forces you to think on a lower level (Down to the points, verts, and prims), and combined with Python, it can be a convenient way to output data into JSONs and up your pipeline game! Decoupling you from the limits of conventional data formats! :slight_smile:

That’s what honestly did it for me and opened my brain up!

I used to work on a pipeline in Houdini to author art assets but because the engine is proprietary, we didn’t really have Houdini Engine support, so we had to write instancing attributes for props into the points (position, rotation and scale, along with some metadata) and then using python, we’ll process and output the data into JSON, and from there we wrote an interfacing script into the engine to take that data and generate entity groups! :slight_smile:

This is an amazing resource for that!

VEX is also a great visual way to practice your 3d Math which can be a little abstract and hard to understand for a visual learner like myself!

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