We recently spoke with Javier Toledo, TD at RushVFX where he works on VFX for films, TV commercials and other media contents. We are here with Javier today to get the scoop on all things related to Houdini, Math, Physics, Music and rubik’s cubes!
Javier also teaches Houdini at Barcelona’s ESCAC and he comes to us with nearly 10 years of experience in VFX. So if you like all things procedural. You will love Javier Toledo! “Lets get started!”
Q: Hi Javier! You have some very interesting and complex work. Personally I am fascinated watching your video on Maze Generation with VEX but was also intrigued by your DIY plotter video using Houdini and Arduino. Such interesting projects!
Pretty cool! Could you tell us more about your education and how you found your love for Math and Physics translate into Coding and procedural work for VFX, as well as how it brought you to the industry and where you are today as a Technical Director at RushVFX?
The plotter was a very interesting project. I’ve had in mind several ideas to connect houdini and arduino. I also wanted to build something physical, so I ended up mixing both ideas and started building it. It’s really gratifying when you build and code something from scratch and it works the way you envisioned it.
About my education, I’ve always been interested in math and physics. I studied building engineering, so a lot of my math foundations come from there.
I was used to Autocad, bim and structure softwares, but around 2007 I started fiddling with 3dMax to visualize some of my university projects. Once I was comfortable with the basics I saw that I could apply my math knowledge to things like simulations or tool creation, and I loved it.
Check out a few CGCircuit Python videos to start your journey into Python Object Oriented.
So I entered the VFX industry as a technical artist. The company where I worked at that time used Softimage as their main tool. The ice framework had been released recently and quickly started building tools, sims and procedural systems with it. That’s how I started as a technical director.
Being there, learning Houdini was the next logical step. And there was no turning back!
Q. The videos you have on Vimeo are more tutorial based. Are these freelance projects or projects that you would teach in one of your Houdini classes? Or are they typical research & development you would do to help you on the VFX you do for film and commercial projects? How in depth do you get with Houdini in your classes and how long have you been teaching Houdini? Do you find it essential for students to know Houdini today if they are going into VFX?
A. Throughout the years I’ve learnt lots of stuff online, so I felt like I could give something back to the community.
I always liked teaching, so I put together some ideas that could be useful to learn VEX, one of the most powerful aspects of Houdini, and recorded the Houdini pills series.
Check out CGCircuit’s Procedural Modeling with VEX by Javier Toledo here.
I started teaching Houdini in Barcelona in 2016. Houdini is a really broad and deep software, so I can’t cover all that I wanted to… I like to establish good foundations on the software philosophy, vex, and procedural workflows, and them move to rbd, particles, flip, pyro and so on. The idea is that the students learn the core topics so they can expand their knowledge based on that.
I think that Houdini is slowly evolving into a generalist software, not only used by TD’s and geeks. The procedural workflows are a great way of maximizing resources and simplifying pipelines. And studio owners know that.
So yes, go learn Houdini, you won’t regret it!
Q: If you had decided not to go into the VFX industry what route could you have taken with your background and skill set outside of the industry? Is there a project, show, game or procedural “challenge” that you would like to tackle in the near feature that you can tell us about?
A: I would probably had gone into the games industry, it’s a great place to apply math through coding. I think that i would enjoy creating game mechanics, Ai and so on.
Image from “Procedural Modeling with VEX” CGCircuit tutorial by Javier Toledo 2019
Q: Is there anything else you can tell us about yourself that we haven’t discussed to give our readers a sense of who you are on a more personal level? Any cool hobbies, businesses, upcoming events, workshop’s or any upcoming personal or general/industry events that you find interesting and you would want to share…
A: Well, I live in Zaragoza, a nice city between Madrid and Barcelona. I am married and have two small kids. When I can, I like to practice speedcubing (solving Rubik’s cubes as fast as possible). It’s really interesting hobby, there’s a lot of technique and different skills to master, you never get bored of it.
I also love music and play the drums, that’s a great way to relieve the stress.
On the cg side of things, I’m working again on a personal RND project that I had paused some time ago. Hopefully it will be finished soon…
I also would like to create another course, but I haven’t decided on the topic yet.
Q: I’ve noticed over the past few years Houdini has picked up pace in the educational system. Do you see that as true? Speaking of education and instruction, do you enjoy teaching and what drives you to create tutorials for others?
A: Yes, definitely. Houdini is more and more present in lots of schools. Years ago there was fewer info online, but now there is so much content online that you can’t keep track of everything, and that’s great, of course!
One of the biggest contributors to the growing list of Houdini tutorials is sidefx. Every new release comes with lots of features, so they create masterclasses about them and share them for free, that’s amazing. Some months ago when they released pdg it came with nearly 30 video tutorials so people could learn it properly.
Q: Any upcoming projects you are working on or hope to work on? Will you be creating more video tutorials for CGCircuit? Do you think an artist is ever done learning?
A: I would like to find some time to create another course, yes. The first course was an introductory look at vex-assisted procedural modeling, so maybe the next course takes it one step further and explores more advanced topics.
You can’t stop learning, this industry evolves at light speed and you need to be up to date as the software updates.
Q: Last but certainly not least, is there any other advice you can give to students that are just starting out? Any resources that you find helpful?
A: Well, my advice is to master the basics. Good foundations are crucial in a huge software as Houdini. And don’t be intimidated about the learning curve, it gets flatter faster than you expect. Also, learn software independent topics. Once you have the concepts its easy to implement them in any software.
There are lots of great Houdini resources out there. Matt Estela’s CgWiki, Entagma vimeo channel, sidefx vimeo channel, Steven Knipping’s CgCircuit dynamic series… lots of hours of great online knowledge =)
We hope you enjoyed our interview with Javier Toledo as much as we did, to learn more about Javier. Please check out his tutorial “Procedural Modeling with VEX” on CGCircuit as well as check out his links above.
If you have any questions or feedback on this blog, we’d love to hear it in the comment section below or email me at email@example.com
About the Author:
Lori Hammond, CG Circuit
Author & Content Producer
Experienced multi-talented Artist/Designer/Blogger with an extensive background in the Arts & Entertainment Industry(Animation, VFX, Game & Product Design)