Flowing inside a Box

As a part-time geek/ nerd of course I’m no stranger to node-based apps and workflows, be that XPresso in Cinema 4D,compositing stuff in Fusion or Blender or modo‘s Schematic view. I even dabbled with Nuke and Houdini every now and then and of course if it wasn’t for the price and licensing restrictions would also enjoy The Plant Factory. What am I getting at?

While I certainly appreciate the power of nodal workflows, there have been a few things that always made me scratch my head such as:

  • Most nodal apps/ tools are just plain ugly to look at. (Hello Nuke!)
  • Some of those things are extremely focused on structure without a good visual feedback.
  • Often the lack of realtime updates of viewers/ viewports, obstructions from drawing the nodes or obscure naming conventions further reduce accessibility.
  • There is many times a lot of stuff going on that the user never can access or reasonably understand (think of  “invisible” connections only used internally or things like expressions).
  • In an odd contrast to the previous point few tools leverage the power of nodes in terms of the underlying data structures and processing models, but only use them as a different representation of more conventional approaches.

Now at long last it seems some of those points have been addressed. The latest FXGuide TV episode features quite a few bits on Flowbox and while I had heard of it earlier this year, but only now some info is trickling out (and their web site has some content), I’m actually getting a bit giddy. This is not only nice to behold, but it also seems extremely powerful. Too bad that I can probably file this under the “would be nice, but too expensive” category and will never actually get to use it.

In that same category is of course Houdini. A question on my dashboard here reads “Houdini 2014 suicide” and even though it seems funny, financially that’s certainly true on some level, at least for the “big” FX version. “But there’s Houdini Indie?!” some might say. Yes, of course, but that doesn’t really cut it for me. It’s sure a nice way of learning the ropes, as it were, but as I (mis-) understand it, I could never really use it due to the licensing restrictions and some of the technical limitations. Most notably I could not be able to easily exchange stuff with other people and send stuff to a render/ simulation farm due to the node-locked licensing and limited “tokens”, as they call it. In fact I would already need a second license for my perfectly legit second install of my MSA license for Cinema 4D. Ah, tragedy of my life…

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