Scientific Visualization in Houdini: How to use Visual Effects Software for a Cinematic Presentation of Science
2020-10-26T14:00:00Z – 2020-10-26T17:30:00Z
Cinematic scientific visualization makes three dimensional scientific phenomena approachable for mass audiences by using the artistic language of film including elements like camera choreography, lighting design, comprehensive scenic environments, and more. Cinematic scientific visualizations are an engaging way for domain experts to communicate niche information with the public, to refute widely held misconceptions, and to inspire the scientists of the future. Science films that feature these visualizations are screened at science centers to millions of viewers over the span of 10+ years and bridge different languages and cultures. They are shared widely on social media, featured regularly in television programs, and contribute to the success of public lectures. If you are a domain expert looking to share your data more widely, or a visualization designer who has focused on more analytical tools, what better way is there to get started with a Hollywood style than by using Hollywood tools? This tutorial will introduce participants to Houdini, a visual effects software package that can generate cinematic-quality data visualizations with ease and efficiency. It is used and appreciated by most major animation and visual effects film studios for its procedural architecture, its modular design, and out-of-the-box rendering algorithms, all important features for ease-of-use in the field of data visualization. Houdini is a general-purpose image-making software that differs from most traditional scientific visualization tools in that it is optimized for look development and design functionality. In this tutorial, participants will learn how to use Houdini to create a production-quality visualization from start to finish. They will translate a tornado cloud simulation into a Houdini-friendly format using Python, then ingest it into Houdini, transform it, add an environment, a camera, and a light source which mimics a sunset. Participants will be able to experiment with their own data transfer functions, camera movement, and lighting design. Several pre-made Houdini sample scenes will be explored to show how to create derivative data, how to turn 2D images into 3D height fields, and how to manipulate polygons, point clouds, and volumes.