The Journey of Creativity Exploration with Houdini: Introducing Houdini FX TD, Ben Watts
At the end of June 2021, the world-famous game League of Legends: Wild Rift posted its flagship campaign Ruination: The End Begins on multiple social media platforms. The foggy dark night scenes with flashing thunder have drawn tons of views and discussions online.
Ruination: The End Begins | VR 180 Video - League of Legends: Wild Rift
Client: Riot Games
- Design, Production & Post : New Holland Creative
- Director: Brendan Savage
- Executive Producer: Mark Millar
- Producer: Martina Joison
- Concept Design: Simon Cowell
- Animation Lead: Chris Breeze
- FX Leads : Ben Watts & Bronic Bednarek
Additional 3D: Raymond Leung
- Colourist: Clement Bouchet
- Sound Design: Massive Music
Fox Renderfarm, as the best cloud rendering service provider in the world, is so honored to have provided cloud rendering services to Ruination: The End Begins. We really appreciate the team’s trust and support.
Some of you may have already guessed that the fog and the well-made lighting design help establish the atmosphere for the whole short video. They were made by the excellent Houdini FX TD - Ben Watts. He accepted our interview and shared with us his creative process and his Houdini creation journey.
- Freelance Houdini FX TD
- From: Australia
Ben now works as a freelance Houdini FX Technical Director who specializes in creating all kinds of simulation and procedural FX - including fire, smoke, destruction, fluids, particles, etc. He also has experience in lighting, rendering, and compositing.
Projects Ben involved in
Mercedes Benz - Stronger Than Time
Nike Presto Mid Utility
Paramount Animation Logo
AHS Apocalypse Teaser
When talking about Houdini, most people comment that it’s very hard to learn and progress. Actually, Ben encountered Houdini for the first time in 2015. With years of trials and explorations, he became an excellent Houdini FX TD that he was invited by Hounidi to do presentations in SIGGRAPH 2018. More than that, he has been interviewed by several organizations.
Ben in SIGGRAPH 2018
(Up: Ben interviewed by Murray Mallee LLEN, 2020; down: Ben interviewed by The Node, 2019)
Let’s explore Ben’s Houdini journey together while appreciating his artworks.
Fox Renderfarm: Hi Ben, thank you so much for accepting our interview! Could you briefly introduce yourself?
Ben: I’ve been a freelance FX Artist and Technical Director for around 6 years working exclusively in Houdini.
Fox Renderfarm: The video Ruination: The End Begins is so stunning, especially the amazing atmosphere with the smoke and lighting. Which part are you responsible for in this project?
Ben: The project was a collaboration between the team at New Holland Creative and myself as FX lead / TD. Bronic Bednarek worked with me as the Senior Houdini FX artist. Together we handled all the FX, lighting and rendering. New Holland completed the compositing.
Fox Renderfarm: Could you elaborate on your creative process in Houdini, from the concept in mind to the final rendering?
Ben: Many times I’m only provided with rough boards but in this case we were supplied beautiful concept art from New Holland Creative. This made the process much more enjoyable and set the bar very high early on. From there we went straight into Houdini and began the FX build with motion in mind from day one.
Fox Renderfarm: In the creative process of this project, how did you communicate and cooperate with other artists to realize your ideas and deliver on time?
Ben: I did regular check-ins with the studio and Bronic to make sure things were on track. Other than the producer, the only other person I’d liaise with was New Holland’s lead animator Chris.
Fox Renderfarm: How long did it take to finish the project? In this process, did you meet any difficulties? And how did you solve them?
Ben: We spent 9 weeks from beginning FX RnD through to final renders. The most difficult thing is solving how to render that much volumetric data. The caches were massive, so we had to be smart about asset usage and resolution. I leveraged Redshift’s instancing to manage volume propagation throughout the scenes.
Fox Renderfarm: You are very experienced in making FX in Houdini such as fire, smoke, destruction, fluids, particles, etc. What are your secrets of making the FX powerful and appealing while believable?
Ben: For me, it’s always been about spending time studying reference material and trying to finesse things as much as time permits. Adding detail is such an important step in FX work, not only in regard to the look of something but also the motion/animation.
Paramount Animation LOGO © Ben Watts
Fox Renderfarm: Could you share with us how you encountered CG. Why did you choose to specialize in Houdini and made all your creative journey in Houdini till now?
Ben: I started to move into 3D after finding myself bored just doing regular 2D motion design work, from there it was a small journey through a couple of other 3D packages before I found Houdini around early 2015. Houdini is very open and allows you to fully explore your creativity, I never felt free like that using other 3D apps.
Fox Renderfarm: As a brilliant Houdini artist who has participated in multiple successful cases, which one of them is your favorite? And why?
Ben: That’s easy... My short film ‘Obsidian’ mainly because there was no pressure, and no brief. Just a fun time exploring ideas and bringing them to life in 3D. Other than that, I’ve been very fortunate to work on many other cool jobs
Obsidian © Ben Watts
Obsidian - Process © Ben Watts
Fox Renderfarm: In your opinion, what are the keys to be an outstanding Houdini artist? And how do you enhance your techniques and sense of art constantly?
Ben: I feel like you have to be very passionate about art in order to be at your best. That’s not always easy when you’re being asked to create horrible work, or you’ve been told to implement things you know will look bad. Taking time out for personal exploration, such as a short or even just some RnD is very important and can help inspire you to push your skills to the next level.
RnD Examples © Ben Watts
Fox Renderfarm: Many people would say Houdini is kind of hard for beginners, so do you have any advice on learning Houdini efficiently and effectively?
Ben: Houdini can feel difficult to grasp but the key is to take things slow. If you try to rush, you’ll end up very frustrated. If Houdini is what really intrigues you, keep at it and things will come together over time.
Fox Renderfarm: The video RUINATION is also shown in the form of 180 VR. What possibility do you think the advanced technology such as AR, VR will bring to motion design? And do you have any plans to try some new things in the near future?
Ben: AR/VR is not really something I’m interested in, maybe things will change in the future.
Fox Renderfarm: What’s your next step?
Ben: I’ll continue to refine my skills as a digital artist, maybe even get into directing a bit more. I’d love to do another short film soon.
Human Aid © Ben Watts
Fox Renderfarm: Any artwork or artist that inspires you the most?
Ben: I love detailed abstract art, whenever I get the chance, I parooz social media in the search for something different. I’m usually drawn to artwork with dramatic lighting and a dark atmosphere.
Fox Renderfarm: How do you feel about Fox Renderfarm’s cloud rendering services?
Ben: Fox Renderfarm has been great. I’ve used them for a couple of heavy jobs and the service has always been excellent.
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