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Ramazan Romanov
Ramazan Romanov

What's New in HtoA v4.2.0 for Houdini 17.x? A Review of the Features and Improvements


SolidAngle Houdini To Arnold v4.2.0 for Houdini 17.x Win Mac Lnx




If you are a Houdini user who wants to create stunning photorealistic renders with Arnold, you might be interested in SolidAngle Houdini To Arnold (HtoA), a plugin that provides a tight bridge between the two software applications. In this article, we will introduce you to HtoA, its benefits and features, and how to install and use it on Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms. We will also show you some examples of rendering with HtoA v4.2.0, which is the latest version as of June 2023.




SolidAngle Houdini To Arnold v4.2.0 for Houdini 17.x Win Mac Lnx



What is SolidAngle Houdini To Arnold (HtoA)?




SolidAngle Houdini To Arnold (HtoA) is a plugin that allows you to render your Houdini scenes with Arnold, an advanced Monte Carlo ray tracing renderer that is widely used in the film, TV, and game industries. Arnold is known for its high-quality output, speed, scalability, and ease of use. With HtoA, you can access all the features and functionality of Arnold from within the standard Houdini interface, in a way that is familiar to both Houdini users and Arnold users in Maya or Softimage. You can also export your Houdini scenes as .ass files that can be rendered with any Arnold application or integrated into other pipelines.


What are the benefits of using HtoA?




Using HtoA has many benefits for both artists and studios who want to create realistic and complex visual effects with Houdini and Arnold. Some of these benefits are:


  • You can leverage the power and flexibility of Houdini's procedural workflow with Arnold's high-performance rendering engine.



  • You can create consistent lighting and shading across different applications and platforms using Arnold's unified framework.



  • You can save time and resources by rendering directly from Houdini without intermediate file conversions or data loss.



  • You can take advantage of Arnold's advanced features, such as adaptive sampling, physically-based ray tracing, motion blur, depth of field, subsurface scattering, hair and fur rendering, volumetrics, instancing, alembic support, cryptomatte, light path expressions, and more.



  • You can benefit from Arnold's ongoing development and support by Solid Angle (a subsidiary of Autodesk), as well as its large and active user community.



What are the main features of HtoA v4.2.0?




HtoA v4.2.0 is the latest version of the plugin as of June 2023. It supports Houdini 17 .0, 17.5, and 18.0 on Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems. It is compatible with Arnold 5.4.0 and above. Some of the main features of HtoA v4.2.0 are:


  • Adaptive sampling: a new sampling algorithm that automatically adjusts the number of samples per pixel based on the noise level, resulting in faster and cleaner renders.



  • Cryptomatte: a new AOV that generates ID mattes for objects, materials, and attributes, allowing for easy compositing and masking in post-production.



  • Light path expressions: a new way to create custom AOVs based on the path of light rays in the scene, enabling complex effects such as reflection, refraction, caustics, and more.



  • Arnold operators: a new node-based system that allows you to manipulate Arnold scene sources, such as .ass files, procedurals, and alembics, using a variety of operations, such as selection, transformation, material assignment, visibility, and more.



  • Arnold procedurals: a new way to load and render Arnold scene sources without importing them into Houdini, saving memory and time.



  • Arnold viewport: a new option to display Arnold shaders and lights in the Houdini viewport, providing a more accurate preview of the final render.



  • Improved support for Houdini features, such as packed primitives, volumes, curves, crowds, LOPs, and Solaris.



  • Bug fixes and performance improvements.



How to download and install HtoA v4.2.0 for Houdini 17.x on Windows, Mac, and Linux?




To download and install HtoA v4.2.0 for Houdini 17.x on Windows, Mac, and Linux, you need to follow these steps:


  • Go to the Solid Angle website and log in with your account or create one if you don't have one.



  • Go to the downloads page and select the HtoA version that matches your Houdini version and operating system.



  • Download the installer file and run it as administrator (Windows) or follow the instructions (Mac and Linux).



  • Follow the steps of the installer wizard and accept the license agreement.



  • Select the installation directory and the components you want to install (HtoA plugin, Arnold SDK, Arnold license server).



  • Finish the installation and restart Houdini if it was running.



How to set up the license server and the environment variables?




To set up the license server and the environment variables for HtoA v4.2.0, you need to follow these steps:


  • Go to the licensing page on the Solid Angle website and log in with your account.



  • Request a trial license or purchase a commercial license for HtoA.



  • Download the license file (.lic) and save it in a secure location on your computer or network.



  • Launch the Arnold license server from the Start menu (Windows) or the Applications folder (Mac) or run it from the terminal (Linux).



  • Make sure that the license server is running and that it can find your license file. You can check this by opening a web browser and typing http://localhost:5054 in the address bar. You should see a page with information about your license server and your license status.



  • Set up the environment variables for HtoA by editing the houdini.env file in your user preferences directory. You can find this file by going to Edit > Preferences > General > User Preferences Directory in Houdini.



  • Add these lines to the houdini.env file:



# For Windows HOUDINI_PATH = "C:/solidangle/houdini/17.x;&" PATH = "C:/solidangle/houdini/17.x/bin;$PATH" solidangle_LICENSE=5053@localhost # For Mac HOUDINI_PATH = "/Applications/solidangle/houdini/17.x:&" PATH = "/Applications/solidangle/houdini/17.x/bin:$PATH" solidangle_LICENSE=5053@localhost # For Linux HOUDINI_PATH = "/opt/solidangle/houdini/17.x:&" PATH = "/opt/solid angle/houdini/17.x/bin:$PATH" solidangle_LICENSE=5053@localhost


  • Save the houdini.env file and restart Houdini if it was running.



How to access the Arnold menu and render settings in Houdini?




To access the Arnold menu and render settings in Houdini, you need to follow these steps:


  • Launch Houdini and create a new scene or open an existing one.



  • Go to the top menu bar and click on Render > Current Renderer > Arnold.



  • You should see a new menu called Arnold next to the Render menu. This menu contains various options and tools for working with Arnold in Houdini, such as creating Arnold nodes, opening the Arnold render view, exporting .ass files, and more.



  • To access the Arnold render settings, go to the Render menu and click on Edit Render Node > Arnold. This will open a new window with tabs for different categories of settings, such as Sampling, Ray Depth, Lights, AOVs, and more. You can adjust these settings to control the quality and performance of your renders.



How to create and assign Arnold shaders and lights in Houdini?




To create and assign Arnold shaders and lights in Houdini, you need to follow these steps:


  • Select the object or geometry that you want to apply a shader or a light to.



  • Go to the Arnold menu and click on Shaders > Create Shader Network or Lights > Create Light. This will create a new network of nodes for your shader or light in the material context (mat) or the lighting context (light) respectively.



  • In the network editor, you can see the nodes that make up your shader or light. You can edit their parameters, connect them, or add more nodes from the tab menu. You can also use the preset browser to load predefined shaders or lights from the Arnold library or your custom library.



  • To assign your shader or light to your object or geometry, you can either drag and drop the output node onto it in the viewport or use the Material SOP or the Light Linker SOP in the object context (obj).



How to use Arnold operators, procedurals, and AOVs in Houdini?




To use Arnold operators, procedurals, and AOVs in Houdini, you need to follow these steps:


  • To use Arnold operators, go to the Arnold menu and click on Operators > Create Operator Network. This will create a new network of nodes for your operator in the operator context (op). In the network editor, you can add different types of operator nodes from the tab menu, such as Select, Set Parameter, Set Material, Set Visibility, and more. You can use these nodes to manipulate Arnold scene sources that are loaded as procedurals or .ass files.



  • To use Arnold procedurals, go to the object context (obj) and create a new Geometry node. Inside this node, create a new Arnold Procedural node from the tab menu. In the parameter editor, you can specify the path to your procedural file (.ass, .abc, .usd, etc.) and adjust its settings. You can also use an Arnold Operator node to apply operators to your procedural.



  • To use Arnold AOVs, go to the render settings window and click on the AOVs tab. Here you can add, remove, or edit AOVs that will be rendered along with your beauty pass. You can choose from different types of AOVs, such as built-in AOVs (N, Z, diffuse_direct, specular_direct, etc.), custom AOVs (created with light path expressions or shader nodes), and cryptomatte AOVs (created with the cryptomatte node).



How to render a simple scene with HtoA v4.2.0?




To render a simple scene with HtoA v4.2.0, you need to follow these steps:


  • Create a new scene in Houdini or open an existing one.



  • Add some objects and geometry to your scene, such as a sphere, a grid, and a torus.



  • Create and assign some Arnold shaders and lights to your objects and geometry, such as a standard surface shader, a skydome light, and a point light.



  • Adjust the Arnold render settings to your liking, such as the sampling quality, the ray depth, the AOVs, and more.



  • Open the Arnold render view from the Arnold menu or the render toolbar.



  • Click on the render button or press F12 to start rendering your scene.



  • You should see your scene rendered in the Arnold render view, with the beauty pass and any AOVs that you enabled. You can also use the render region tool, the snapshot tool, the isolate tool, and the debug tool to inspect your render.



How to use some of the new features of HtoA v4.2.0, such as adaptive sampling, cryptomatte, and light path expressions?




To use some of the new features of HtoA v4.2.0, such as adaptive sampling, cryptomatte, and light path expressions, you need to follow these steps:


  • To use adaptive sampling, go to the render settings window and click on the Sampling tab. Here you can enable or disable adaptive sampling by checking or unchecking the Adaptive Sampling box. You can also adjust the adaptive sampling parameters, such as the noise threshold, the min and max samples per pixel, and the adaptive step size. Adaptive sampling will automatically reduce or increase the number of samples per pixel based on the noise level in your scene, resulting in faster and cleaner renders.



  • To use cryptomatte, go to the render settings window and click on the AOVs tab. Here you can add a new AOV by clicking on the plus icon and selecting cryptomatte from the list. You can also edit the cryptomatte parameters, such as the name, the type (object, material, or attribute), and the depth (the number of IDs per pixel). Cryptomatte will generate an ID matte for each object, material, or attribute in your scene, allowing you to easily isolate and mask them in post-production.



  • To use light path expressions, go to the render settings window and click on the AOVs tab. Here you can add a new AOV by clicking on the plus icon and selecting custom from the list. You can also edit the custom AOV parameters, such as the name, the type (float or RGB), and the expression. Light path expressions are a way to create custom AOVs based on the path of light rays in the scene, enabling complex effects such as reflection, refraction, caustics, and more. You can use the syntax and keywords of the Arnold light path API to write your expressions. For example, you can write an expression like "C.*O" to create an AOV that shows the color of the objects multiplied by the opacity.



Conclusion




In this article, we have introduced you to SolidAngle Houdini To Arnold (HtoA), a plugin that allows you to render your Houdini scenes with Arnold, an advanced Monte Carlo ray tracing renderer. We have explained the benefits and features of using HtoA, and how to install and use it on Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms. We have also shown you some examples of rendering with HtoA v4.2.0, which is the latest version as of June 2023. We hope that this article has helped you to get started with HtoA and to create stunning photorealistic renders with Houdini and Arnold.


FAQs




Here are some frequently asked questions about HtoA v4.2.0:


  • What are the system requirements for HtoA v4.2.0?



The system requirements for HtoA v4.2.0 are:


  • Houdini 17.0, 17.5, or 18.0 (FX or Core edition)



  • Arnold 5.4.0 or above



  • Windows 7 or later, Mac OS X 10.11 or later, or Linux with a glibc version 2.17 or later



  • A CPU that supports SSE4.1 instructions



  • A GPU that supports CUDA 9 or later (optional for GPU rendering)



  • At least 8 GB of RAM



  • At least 1 GB of disk space



  • What are the differences between HtoA and other Arnold plugins, such as MtoA and C4DtoA?



The differences between HtoA and other Arnold plugins are:


  • HtoA is designed specifically for Houdini users, and integrates seamlessly with Houdini's interface, workflow, and features.



  • HtoA supports all the native Houdini geometry types, such as polygons, NURBS, curves, volumes, packed primitives, and LOPs.



  • HtoA allows you to use Houdini's node-based system to create and edit Arnold shaders and lights, as well as Arnold operators and procedurals.



  • HtoA provides a consistent lighting and shading experience across different applications and platforms using Arnold's unified framework.



  • How to troubleshoot some common issues with HtoA v4.2.0?



Some common issues with HtoA v4.2.0 are:


  • If you encounter any errors or warnings during the installation or the rendering process, you can check the log file in your user preferences directory or in the Arnold render view window for more information.



  • If you have any problems with your license server or your license file, you can check the license server web page or contact Solid Angle support for assistance.



  • If you have any questions or feedback about HtoA v4.2.0, you can visit the HtoA forum, the HtoA documentation, or the HtoA tutorials for more resources and support.



  • How to update HtoA to a newer version?



To update HtoA to a newer version, you need to follow these steps:


  • Go to the downloads page on the Solid Angle website and download the installer file for the latest version of HtoA that matches your Houdini version and operating system.



  • Run the installer file as administrator (Windows) or follow the instructions (Mac and Linux).



  • Follow the steps of the installer wizard and overwrite the existing installation directory and components.



  • Restart Houdini if it was running.



  • How to get feedback and help from the HtoA community?



To get feedback and help from the HtoA community, you can:


  • Join the HtoA forum and post your questions, feedback, or showcase your work.



  • Follow the HtoA Twitter account and the HtoA Facebook page for the latest news and updates.



  • Subscribe to the HtoA YouTube channel and watch the tutorials and demos.



  • Contact the Solid Angle support team for any technical issues or inquiries.



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