Houdini: Intermediate Ocean FX

I am doing some hard drive tidying and wanted to pull up some small experiments and studies to share. I’ve been exploring just a little bit of the awesome Houdini from SideFX. Definitely can’t say that I understand more than a few basics, but it’s potential has me interested! A while back I took the “Houdini: Intermediate Ocean FX” course on Pluralsight. I learned a lot through the process both about higher-end effect simulation and how to use the software in general, though there is so much more to cover! Here is the final product, created by following the course and using provided assets:

“Houdini: Intermediate Ocean FX” – final animation

The animation is short and sweet…mostly because the above clip took about a month to process and render, and completely filled my hard drive with cached data! It could simulate on forever, but this was enough to get the point across.

I am often more fascinated by the procedural previews of animation before final rendering occurs. Here was a work-in-progress snapshot while creating the white water on top of the ocean waves:

“Houdini: Intermediate Ocean FX” – white water simulation

And here is another of the ocean simulation itself:

“Houdini: Intermediate Ocean FX” – ocean simulation

The boat itself only had two keyed frames of animation: a starting location and some distance to move forward. Everything in between was procedurally generated based on the ocean simulation.

There’s still SO much to learn though, as evident in what might be my favorite snapshot early on in the course. I did not ace every lesson and had plenty of failures, but at least some of them were fun!

“Houdini: Intermediate Ocean FX” – boat fail

I’ve continued to use Houdini here and there and am impressed by what it is capable of. I hope to continue learning more!

Dove Pendant

My awesome aunt requested a dove necklace, which would be the first pendant-style print that I’ve modeled. It turned out to have a lot more of a learning curve than I had expected! More so than any other print, this one had quite a bit of back-and-forth prototyping to find what sort of detail I could get away with, and what the printer would actually be able to handle. This is where having a desktop printer of my own really came in handy, because now I could try out a test print and see the results in about an hour, instead of spending up to three weeks of time waiting for Shapeways to evaluate, create, and ship each change.

The pendant started off with a quick sketch to get started.


The idea was to have the dove carry a ribbon in its beak, which would curl around to form the bail. A few small details had to be tweaked for the sake of the medium, but in the end it stayed pretty true to the original concept!


Most of the prototyping trials came from trying to fit too much detail into too small of a space, particularly in the face. It was to be printed in polished nickel steel, which can only print as small as 1 millimeter. This might sound tiny, but when dealing with a small pendant you can quickly run out of room! A 1 millimeter gap in 3ds Max can look like a cavern compared to the fine engraved lines I had hoped for. I also found the scale to be a struggle to wrap my head around, because I am so used to thinking in generic units for the Unreal game engine. Luckily, Shapeways has some awesome tools to help you visualize problem areas before ordering a print, which really was a big help. Overall I had a great chance to learn a lot, while making something for someone special!

The final product was bundled up in a nest of fluff and sent to my aunt as a holiday gift, where it now has a loving home.


The dove pendant is available for purchase from my Shapeways store in a variety of materials, including stainless steel, gold steel, bronze steel, nickle steel, gray steel, black steel, raw silver, raw brass, raw bronze, and raw aluminum.

Happy Holidays – 2015

Wishing you all a very happy holiday season! Take time to relax with friends and family, and to recollect your thoughts for the new year.


Baby snow dragons guiding 'flakes to the ground.
(Because "gravity" just wasn't magical enough.)


My holiday card this year featured a teeny-tiny snowflake-sized dragon. You didn’t think that snowflakes fell so gracefully on their own now, did you? ^_~

The snowflake is a 3D model, with the dragon drawn over top of the render. This meant that I could print a “real” snowflake for each of the cards, which could be hung up as an ornament! I tried translucent filament for this, and though I had a few problems early on with the material burning and turning a cloudy brown, the end result made for a very pretty ice effect.


Thank you for checking out my projects this year. I hope to have plenty more coming up in 2016. Enjoy!

E-ZPass Color Plate – Orange and Black

I’ve received my orange and black E-ZPass color plates from Shapeways and gave them a go!

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I personally like the black one best. Below is a comparison of just the E-ZPass with no color plate, the black for hiding the transponder as much as possible, and the orange for color coordination. Special thanks goes to Ronan the Veloster* for modeling.

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If you’d like your own E-ZPass color plate, they’re up for sale on my Shapeways store! They’re available in blue, purple, red, pink, yellow, green, orange, black, and metallic, plus white for custom painting. They’re small, lightweight, and come in a nice little Shapeways baggie. Holiday gift idea, perhaps?

*Yup, I named my car Ronan. I am one of those people, and I regret nothing!

E-ZPass Color Plate

I never really grew up around the E-ZPass system, so these big, white bricks always stand out to me. I wanted to try making something that would allow people to easily “change” the colors of the transponders, without having to resort to painting or taping them permanently.

This was also a bigger step towards modeling a design for print that had to not only fit exact, real-world dimensions, but also needed to fit an odd, curved shape. You’d never realize how rounded the E-ZPass is until you take a caliper to one…

The color plate is meant to work with the pre-installed Velcro straps and has gaps for them to fit. The backing is thin enough to allow the Velcro to adhere and stay securely on your windshield. The front lip lines up with the bottom of the printed label, so all information is still visible from the inside.

I’ve printed an unpolished white version as a prototype for myself (defeats the “color” purpose, but is also best for testing!) and was surprised with how well it fit together on the first go! I’ve since gone through a few toll booths with the color plate installed, and had no problems with the transponder being read. I’ve opened it up for sale as a beta product on Shapeways, and will mark it as final once a few colors have been made. I plan to get a black one for my Hyundai Veloster, intending to hide the transponder as much as possible, but I’ll also order another in orange since it will match my car’s paint job.

The E-ZPass Color Plate can be purchased from my Shapeways store in a slew of polished plastic colors, including blue, purple, red, pink, yellow, green, orange, black, metallic, and white. Shown below is unpolished white, which is a good option for custom painting if what you’d like isn’t available.






If you order one, please consider sharing a picture in the comments below or directly on Shapeways!