Henri is an FX artist specializing in the creation of abstract effects. He recently completed a personal project in which he made one new effect a day for two weeks. As we often think of FX work in the scope of explosions, fire and digital destruction, we asked Henri to break down his techniques for thinking outside of the box, as well as his reasoning for doing so. Take a look:

I think it’s important to work every day while also doing art professionally, that’s why I decided to make a daily personal challenge: Every day, work on an abstract still frame using Houdini, in order to increase the skills I can use in my FX Artist job. Each artwork you'll see here took me under 5 hours to do. I wanted to finish one artwork a day and not in 3 days or more because it is really gratifying to finish one a day. Moreover, you can’t give yourself excuses to justify more time of work. You just have to make a finished still frame (or sequence) before you go to sleep. I think it is motivating and helpful to enhance your productivity.

At the beginning, it was really hard to sit in front of an empty viewport and asking myself "what can I do?" But day after day, it’s easier to know what to do. Somedays, while I was working on my artwork, I found a tool that intrigued me, that I wanted to try and then the day after I would work on it, trying to make something nice with the new tool I found (Houdini is really handy for that!).

1. Attraction and Repulsion

This artwork is an opposition between the round-shaped smoke behavior and the sharp-shaped wireframe made by connecting advected particles together. I also really like the contrast between the white aspect of the metallic wires and the black smooth shape of the smoke simulation.

The wires are made by connecting advected particles to create this wire blown away following the smoke. Don’t forget to set the 'Connection Type' to Adjacent Points when using particles.

 2. Symbiosis

For this artwork I wanted to illustrate the birth of life through this little spores growing from a primordial mixture. For this I used the same technique as Attraction and Repulsion, which is to combine a smoke simulation and advected particules. Here I created thin trails from the advected particles to gave the feeling of seeds growing from the smoke. For the rendering, I put a little bit of blue SSS on the trails to give it a skin or organic mater aesthetic. I use the "Trail" node to create Point trail like in this case or also to compute velocity of a mesh which is really useful in "traditional" FX, for example to input the velocity of a mesh in a simulation and fake an interaction between a mesh and a fluid without using collision which is really time-saving for secondary effects.

3. Gold and Glitter

These two artworks are in the same spirit. I really love the gold material aspect and I wanted to apply it to a smoke and also play with glitters. Here is one small test I made with gold shading, nothing too fancy juste a basic smoke simulation converted to polygon and I have mainly focused on the gold material.

Another gold artwork, more complex this time! I used fractures, particles and simple point connection tricks:

First the fractures, I use the "voronoi fracture" node with clustering to give a more natural look to the pieces:

Now the particles, nothing really hard, this is just a spherical emitter at the center of the fracture cells. Add a pop force to it to with some turbulences. Of course, set the fracture cells as collider to avoid bad penetration between mesh and particles. After that, to connect each pieces to the center I used a scatter on the fracture mesh and another on the center sphere and use an add node to connect point 2 by 2.

4. Sign of Life


For this artwork I wanted to find a way to show energie/life passing through a sort of detector which glows to do so I tried the Houdini L-system which is a good way to create fractal patterns. For that I used recursive rules to have this tangled shape.

Then I resample the curves I have with the intention of smoothing it and have round corners and equal distance between points.

Then I used a copy node to have one cube primitive on each point and control the scale with a noise in the color attribute to scale each primitive depending on his color with a primitive VOP. I used the same technique to generate a color emission attribute for the rendering step.

5. The Organic Abstract Series

My objective was to create a complete procedural FX in which you input a point system and it creates the same kind of FX based on different shape depending on what you put in. I made an HDA (Houdini Digital Asset) to make it really handy. An HDA is a node in which you have a network. You just have to connect in an input your point system and set the parameters in the HDA parameter interface then your point system is convert into an organic abstract shape. HDA is something really useful when you work on a production where the same kind of FX appears multiple times, you just have to plug your HDA set the parameters and the FX is already done.

6. Chaos

Let’s talk about volume and velocity ! This artwork is a pure basic volume manipulation. I put a noise in the velocity of a volume and then create trails following the volume velocity attribute. In order to render the curves in mantra I use a create attribut node and give the curve a  "width" attribute that define the thickness of the curves.

We want to thank Henri for sharing the process for his awesome creations. We hope this inspires you to think outside of the box!