Hologram User Interfaces tools for Houdini

Houdini Motion Graphics

This project is about Holographic UI’s, I developed tools within Houdini to help with the creation of these kinds of effects. This is the full project page, there is a more in depth look at one of the tools on my portfolio as well.

The video below is the result of the final animation. Enjoy!

For this project I created my “AD Hologram tools” for Houdini: tools designed to create sci-fi hologram user interfaces. They are each showcased one by one in the video below.

Somewhere around the halfway point in the developing progress I made a WIP test. The reason for this was that by using the tools myself, I could determine where they could improve in terms of useability and bugs.

I ended up with three categories of tools: Elements, Modifiers and Spacers.

The element tools are stand-alone 2D- and 3D-elements that make up a UI, this involves meters, rulers, grid outlines, graphs and more. The modifiers are tools that can modify any input geometry to make them fit within a UI, this involves changing colour and alpha values, turn geometry into wireframe and more. Lastly the spacing tools serve to clone objects in different ways: on grids, radially or on a custom surface. This idea came from references, where elements are often cloned in these different ways as well.

Why Houdini?

Usually when it comes to making these kinds of effects there tends to be a preference for Adobe’s After Effects, however I opted for Houdini. Although this software is not yet integrated in DAE, its benefits really appealed to me immediately.  It is entirely 3D (óAfter Effects), it is node-based so allows for a much more robust approach. It has native Python integration, which is a vast programming language in tool development in both game- and film-industry. All these traits make Houdini a versatile and procedural software with endless possibilities.


In my research I had to try and figure out what I needed to make exactly before I could start. I looked at a lot of reference from sci-fi movies, but also at other motion graphic work done in Houdini. Veteran Houdini artist Rohan Dalvi is very active about this topic and his courses and tutorials helped me out a lot in the beginning. It was really satisfying once I understood the basics and could start making my own stuff.

Digital Asset workflow

I developed a workflow around Houdini’s digital assets, which allows you to make your own tools/nodes. For this workflow I create a subnetwork with an internal node-structure, designed to do a certain action. Once this is done this subnetwork can be saved as an asset and I can create sliders and parameters for the ‘user’ to manipulate in order to get the desired result.


After this it was time to put my tools to the test and try them out in my own hologram UI animation. This helped me to discover what I still needed to change. I tested how user friendly they were and managed to detect bugs and mistakes which I could then later resolve. I filmed myself and animated the UI elements accordingly in Houdini, using mostly my tools along some basic transform and merge nodes. I am very satisfied with the result and for me it was a confirmation of how powerful my tools are to make substantial visual effects. The wide array of possibilities really shined here.