If you are a 3D Artist, aspiring to be a 3D artist, or even just someone who works around video production, you are probably already familiar with the names Houdini™ and Maya™. These two programs are standards in their field, in the same way that Ableton Live and Logic are for musicians, or Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom are for photographers. Maya and Houdini perform tasks for 3D artists, but one is better at certain things than the other one, and vice versa. In this blog we’re going to break down just what just some of those things are.

What is Maya?

Maya is a 3D effects software with powerful character creation, rigging, animation, and rendering. The software is created by a developer called Autodesk and it is used to create assets for interactive 3D applications (including video games), animated films, TV series, and visual effects. The program has one version which houses all of the features within it, and therefore has one cost which can be paid monthly, yearly or three-yearly. The software is paid for as a subscription rental, so the user doesn’t actually own the software. Maya hosts its own rendering software plugin within the program called Arnold and a visual programming software for digital simulations called Bifrost, both being Autodesk-specific. These used to be external, separate pieces of software, but now come as standard within Maya. Due to Maya’s approach with dialable effects, it’s not possible to use a Maya project within a Houdini one or any other 3D graphics programs, i.e. the projects are not cross platform compatible.

Maya Screenshot image
A screenshot of a Maya project being used by Cutting Factory

What is Houdini?

Houdini is also a 3D effects software, and it allows the user to create VFX and 3D with rigging, animation and more. It is also used to create VFX for Film, TV, Video Games and VR. The program has five different versions, each with a different level of features available and a different cost for each version level, which caters from students to professionals. The program (and each version of it) is paid for as a subscription rental, as either a yearly or monthly contribution. Due to Houdini’s simplified node-based approach, it is very easy to integrate projects into other software, like Maya, for example. This can be done within Maya using a simple plugin that runs the Houdini engine.

Houdini project screenshot image
A screenshot of a Houdini project being used by Cutting Factory

Although the programs sound very similar on the surface level, what are the major differences between them and the advantages of both?

What are the advantages of Maya?

Everything in Maya takes place inside a black box, meaning that you can edit parameters with sliders which are set up based on what the program allows, and therefore there is very limited control. However, because the features within Maya are so intuitive, they are relatively easy to work with. But don’t be afraid of Houdini, even if it involves more work in the long run and comes across as a more complex program.

What are the advantages of Houdini?

Houdini is a better program for VFX, because of the level of control on offer. The difference with Maya is that the program is fully procedural, meaning that there are no set controls, and thus you have full control over parameters on a very granular level. For example, you can write a plugin inside the software and export it to another application (like Maya, strangely enough)! Solvers in Houdini allow you to manipulate inputted data. But within the solver there are microsolvers which can also be manipulated, allowing you to go deeper and deeper inside the simulation. This obviously requires more experience, but the possibilities are greater. Our team at Cutting Factory use both programs for our productions, as each program has its advantages; neither one is better than the other.

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