HoudiniTops

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Simple cache then render locally

Pdg overview.jpg

Download hip: File:pdg_basic_v01.hip

Most existing Houdini users want the basics from PDG; cache a sim to disk, run a render. Maybe chaser mode as a bonus? FFmpeg the result into an mp4, why not eh, YOLO!

Here's that setup. Click the triangle with the orange thingy on it to start.

cache sim is a fetch top that points to a disk cache sop after a simulation. You DON'T want a sim cache running on multiple threads/machines, it should just be one job that runs sequentually. To do this enable 'all frames in one batch'.

map by index controls execution order and limits how jobs are created. If you have node A that generates 10 things, connected to node B that is also set to generate 10 things, PDG's default behavior is to generate 10 B things for each thing made by A. In other words, you'll get 10 x 10 = 100 total tasks. For situations like this, that's definitely not what you want.

The mapbyindex ensures tasks are linked together, so 1 frame of the cache is linked to 1 frame of the render. Further, it allows a 'chaser' mode, in that as soon as frame 1 of the sim cache is done, frame 1 of the mantra render can start, frame 2 of the sim cache is done, frame 2 of the mantra render can start etc.

mantra is another fetch top that points to a mantra rop.

waitforall does as implied, it won't let downstream nodes start until all the upstream nodes are completed. It also subtly adjust the flow of tasks; the previous nodes have 48 dots representing the individual frames, this node has a single rectangle, implying its now treating the frame sequence as a single unit.

ffmpeg top needs some explaining (and some adjustments to the fetch top that calls the mantra rop), which I explain below.

Note that the frameranges on the fetch tops override the ranges set on their target rops by default.

Also note that the button with the orange thingy on it kicks off the output, looking for the matching node with the orange output flag. See in that screenshot how I've left it on the mantra node? That means it'll never run the ffmpeg task. I'm an idiot.

Misc bits

Generate mode

Short version: If things are acting weird, set the 'generate when' option to dynamic, you'll get a little purple icon to say it's now dynamic, stuff should work.

Long version: Tops makes a distinction between 'generate' and 'cook' steps for nodes. Ideally you would know ahead of time what each node is going to produce, so you get a sense of how many images/sim caches/mp4's you're going to generate before the work is done. But sometimes you can't know that in advance, and you have to adjust workflow accordingly.

Eg, say you're using a Fetch Top to run a mantra render. You don't need to execute the render to find out how many frames you'll generate, its right there in the parameters on the mantra rop (or better yet on the fetch top itself). If you r.click the node and go 'generate', it'll populate with as many dots as you have frames in the render. Easy.

Now say you have a ffmpegextractimages top, and you want to use an attribute create top to set @framecount, the number of frames that were extracted. Tops cannot know this number until ffmpeg actually runs.

The 'generate when' mode at the top of every node tells the node when to do its workitem calculation (the generate step). The default is 'automatic', tops will try and guess if nodes should wait for previous nodes to cook or not. But sometimes tops guesses wrong, and things will silently misbehave. In this case with the framecount setup, I had to set the mode to 'each upstream item is cooked'. So now when I'm processing many videos, only when each video has been extracted will the attribute create node start, and be able to create the right result.

Get framecount from ffmpeg extract images

May as well show this while I have it open. The ffmpeg node generates images, but currently (Houdini 18.5.400) it doesn't create any attributes about the number of frames it generated. Ugh.

Instead I use a FilePattern top, and have it point to the folder used by the ffmpeg node. So if the ffmpegextractimages node is using the default

$HIP/images/`@pdg_name`/frame%06d.jpg

The following filepattern node uses

$HIP/images/`@pdg_name`/*

It also has 'split files into seperate items' turned OFF, so that way I just have a single workitem per image sequence.

If you try this now, it won't generate any workitems. The default generate mode will mean it tries to look in that folder straight away, finds no images, and as such returns no workitems. Change the generate mode to 'each upstream item is cooked', then it works as expected.

Ok great, but where's the actual number of frames? It's there, annoyingly hidden. There's some tops attributes that don't appear in the middle click info, one of those is @pdg_outputsize. In this case, unsurprisingly, it returns the amount of frames in the sequence. So with an attribute create node, you can create a new integer variable called framecount, and set an expression to use @pdg_outputsize.

Tops framecount.gif

Note that you don't need to change the generate mode on the attribute create. As soon as any upstream node is set to be dynamic (ie, it has to wait for previous items to cook), all subsequent nodes are also made dynamic.

Create attribute from element of string array

Related to the previous example, I used an attribute from string node to split a directory path into components, and then wanted to create a new attribute based on the last part of that path. Annoyingly I couldn't work out how to get an array element from the standard attribute create node, so I gave up and used a python script node instead:

renderpass = work_item.attrib('split')[-1]
work_item.setStringAttrib("renderpass", renderpass)

Force python scripts to run on the farm

If you have a python script node, even if you have a tractor or deadline scheduler, it will run in your local houdini session by default.

To fix this, turn off 'Evaluate in process'.

Ensure a rop geometry top sim runs on a single blade

You don't want 240 machines all doing their own run up, that's silly. Go to the 'rop fetch' tab, enable 'all frames in one batch', that'll lock it to a single blade and run sequentially.

Selection 117.png

Tractor scheduler stuck

Happens too often less often after some fixes from sidefx. Tricks to unstick it in order of least to most annoying:

  • Make sure there's no active stuck jobs of yours on the farm, delete 'em all and try again
  • R.click on tractor scheduler, 'delete temp directory'
  • Select the tractor scheduler, ctrl-x to cut it, ctrl-v to paste it
  • Reload the hip
  • Restart houdini
  • Quit FX
  • Quit the industry

Rez and tops debugging

Running this in a python script top to see whats going on with rez and environment values:

print('debug info...')
key = 'REZ_RESOLVE'
print(key+'='+os.environ[key])
print ('')
import pdg
has_tractor = str(pdg.types.schedulers.has_tractor)
print('pdg.types.schedulers.has_tractor: ' + has_tractor)
print ('')

Ffmpeg and non sidefx rops

I had a few issues getting ffmpeg to make mp4's from a renderman rop. In the end the fixes were relatively straightfoward.

Pdg tags.JPG

The ffmpeg top needs to know a few things:

  1. what part of the upstream nodes are making images, set with output file tag
  2. what the location of those images are, set with output parm name
  3. that the images are bundled into a single unit of work, using a waitforall top.

Top nodes can tag their output(s), in this case the ffmpeg top expects the images to have a 'file/image' tag. On the fetch top for renderman rop enable 'output file tag' and use the dropdown to select 'file/image'

To know what file name to put in that tag, enable 'output parm name' and set it to 'ri_display_0'. This is the parameter on the ris rop where the image path is set.

To bundle all the frames into a single unit, use a waitforall top.

A last specific thing for our setup, our build of ffmpeg didn't understand the '-apply_trc' option, so I disabled it.

Set a limit on the number of jobs

Tops filter by range.jpg

Say you have a folder full of images that you want to process, but for testing just want the first 5 images.

A filterbyrange top will let you do this.

Tractor

Pdg tractor edit.gif

Mostly works, the long story can be found below, but here's the summary:

  • Your environment needs access to the python tractor api. If you use rez, make sure to bring in a package for tractor.
  • PDG assumes it'll find $PYTHON set correctly. We didn't have this, but even then I found I couldn't use the regular system python, but had to point it to hython ( $HFS/bin/hython )
  • If your farm is behind a firewall, make sure your IT department chooses 2 ports you can use, and enter those ports into the callback and relay port fields on the tractor scheduler
  • As of 18.0.502 retry support exists on the tractor scheduler, as well as options for better logging.
  • Cooking jobs by default expects to connect to your desktop machine to update information, give you blinky lights and dots. This means that if you close your houdini session, the job will stop working on the farm. Call me old fashioned, but that defeats most of the point of using a farm. If you don't want this, use the 'submit graph as job' option at the top of the tractor scheduler, and it will run independent of your GUI session. Getting these to work reliably was problematic for us, YMMV.

Tops and tractor diary

Moving the diary to TopsTractorDiary.