Thursday, 4 April 2019

FX TD Timothy Stam Visits Escape Studios

FX TD Timothy Stam
Yesterday we held our latest "Evening With..." event, this time with Timothy Stam, Houdini FX TD at Goodbye Kansas Studios in London.

Animation with Houdini is a growing part of the business, especially for FX work, such as explosions, simulations and dynamics. Think water and fire effects, and giant cityscapes - this sort of work is increasingly done in Houdini, rather than Maya.

A few studios are even using Houdini for keyframe animation, though Maya remains the dominant software package, with a huge user base.

An Evening With Timothy Stam
On April 3rd Escape Studios welcomed Timothy Stam, FX TD at Goodbye Kansas, to talk about his work.
Tim showed some amazing scenes from The Walking Dead, showing how Houdini was used to create huge crowd simulations, crowds of stumbling zombies (based on MoCap animation), big explosions, fire, smoke, and a bridge collapsing into a raging river. Even the smoke was digital. Everything was done in Houdini. One of the best bits of Tim's job is, as he puts it, that he "gets to blow stuff up".

Goodbye Kansas does a lot of crowd work, so they have their own in-house tools to smooth the process, as well as ensuring their own team are present on set to make sure that lighting and camera information is correctly recorded.

What is Houdini? 
Houdini is a powerful animation tool which is making big inroads into our industry. It has not (yet) replaced Maya for 3D keyframe animation, but it is snapping at Maya's heels.  Houdini has replaced Maya for most FX work and, according to Tim, Houdini has now "defeated Maya" when it comes to cloth simulations, a traditional Maya stronghold.

Houdini is a software package which is gaining ground and offers plenty of job opportunities for graduates with the Houdini skills.

Does any studio use Houdini for Animation?
Yes, Electric Theatre Collective uses Houdini for everything - including keyframe animation - rather than Maya.  But this is unusual. The vast majority of animation studios still run a Maya pipeline, reserving Houdini for FX work. 

About Timothy Stam
Timothy is a FX TD/Houdini artist. Timothy studied Game Art at the Utrecht School of Art and Technology and later went on to do a course in Digital Photography at the Fotoacademie Amsterdam. He then joined the MA Digital Effects course at Bournemouth University. He broke into the industry by working as a runner for over a year, and learning Python because he was told: "if you don't learn Python we're going to have to fire you".

Timothy's Credits
Timothy has worked at Double Negative (in Tech Support), and also as an ATD and FX TD. He is now FX TD at Goodbye Kansas Productions.  His film credits include The Brothers Grimsby, Star Trek: Beyond and Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.

You can see Tim's website and his work here.  You can also find him at LinkedIn here: 

Getting hired as an FX TD 
Timothy suggests having "one representation on your reel for each effect"; that is to say, water, smoke, explosions, fire etc, showing that you can tackle a range of different FX in Houdini. If you can script, let the studio know you can drive a simulation procedurally. 

Houdini at Escape Studios
If you'd like to learn about Houdini, sign for our Introduction to Houdini evening class, taught by Head of 3D Mark Spevick, here

The Escape Studios Animation Blog offers a personal view on the art of animation and visual effects. To find out more about our new BA/MArt, now recruiting for September 2019, follow this link.   To apply, visit the offical page here.  

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