A guide for experienced film vfx artists to start their journey into real time graphics.


The guide for experienced film VFX artists transitioning to real-time graphics focuses on adapting skills from Houdini used in the film industry to the video game industry. The primary goal is to increase awareness of the limitations in real-time game environments and the importance of optimization. This 45-minute lecture, originally presented to the Vancouver Houdini User Group in August 2016, serves as an introduction rather than a step-by-step tutorial.

The lecture covers several critical concepts for this transition, including sprite sheets, power of two dimensions, texture packing, particle trimming, GPU transformations, and vertex animation. Sprite sheets are discussed as a method for efficiently rendering particles by consolidating images into a single texture to conserve memory. Techniques for creating sprite sheets in Houdini using the mosaic node are demonstrated, emphasizing the importance of using power of two dimensions to maximize texture space utilization.

The guide explains the significance of particle trimming to reduce overdraw and suggests delegating transformations to the GPU to enhance performance. The workflow in Houdini for converting 2D images into 3D geometry is also explored, highlighting the usefulness of COPs (Compositing Operators) in game VFX and motion graphics. The importance of texture packing for efficient information transfer to Unreal Engine 4 (UE4) is underscored.

Vector math basics are introduced as a foundation for understanding transforms, which are crucial for exporting vertex animations from Houdini. The process involves creating textures that store point animations over time using a second UV layer. These textures are then utilized in UE4 to animate meshes by panning UV coordinates over time.

The course is designed for experienced visual effects artists from the film industry seeking to transition into video game VFX. It provides a broad overview of necessary optimizations and techniques without delving into detailed step-by-step instructions. The examples use Houdini 15.5.523 and UE4 4.12.5, with downloadable example files available for further exploration.

What You’ll Learn

  • take visual effects knowledge you’ve gained through working with Houdini in the motion picture industry, and understand the basics of how to apply it to the video game industry.
  • understand the importance of optimization in real time visual effects.



  • The audience should be familiar with 3D Visual Effects workflows. This means understanding basic math, and concepts such as UVs, Normals, and node based workflows.
  • Basic familiarity with Houdini is required to get the most out of the presentation.


This 45 Minute Lecture was originally given to the Vancouver Houdini User Group in August 2016. It is a talk that was designed for an audience familiar with feature film visual effects workflows, specifically those which use Houdini. The goal is to increase awareness of limitations in real-time game environments, and to help film makers take steps towards transitioning into interactive media.

Feature film effects artists are typically used to working with millions or particles, polygons, and voxels. While it’s acceptable for a render farm to chew through heavy data over the course of several hours for film; current game platforms are not designed with this kind of geometry in mind. It’s up to the effects artist to understand this and produce visuals that are as light-weight as they are beautiful so that game engines can spend their efforts on more than just the visuals.

This is not designed to be a step-by-step tutorial for making a “pretty” effect, but rather a general purpose guide geared at introducing a broad topic. If you are interested in transitioning from film to games, this talk may be useful as a primer as we’ll introduce concepts such as: sprite sheets, power of two dimensions, texture packing, particle trimming, letting the GPU handle transformations, and vertex animation. Topics are introduced in a way that should build upon concepts that are already familiar to those with training in the motion picture discipline. All examples in this lecture are given using Houdini 15.5.523 and Unreal Engine 4.12.5.

The example files may be downloaded and examined at the student’s own leisure.


Who this course is for

  • Experienced visual effects artists who have worked in a professional film environment.
  • Those who are looking for a transition from film to video game visual effects.
  • Those who are looking for a broad introduction without the slow step-by-step procedures typically offered in tutorials.

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