Enough of rants and raves for now. Let’s talk about something great.

One of my favorite things about Houdini is the diagnostic tool used to identify missing images in a render.

When your average render engine goes to do a job, it begins by loading referenced geometry, images and whatever else might be needed for a given frame. If an image is missing, it won’t show up in a render. However, it may not always be apparent that an image is missing until later…sometimes much later…sometimes after the shot is approved in compositing. This is, as they say, “very bad”.
Some genius at Side Effects Software realized that, if you were to make missing images more apparent, things would rarely get to the extent that finalized shots needed to be unapproved and brought all the way back to render. So instead of simply leaving the image out of the render, Houdini’s renderer “Mantra” replaces the missing image with a nice, vibrant pink colour…one that is unlikely to be mistaken.

There are several great aspects to this.

For one, if the image has been moved, renamed or deleted, the texture will be pink throughout the shot. A steady pink means that the image is missing or inaccessible. Which means that the image is either moved, renamed or deleted, or all the machines trying to render it have a network setup or permissions problem.

For another, if only a particular machine on the render farm is having trouble finding the image, then the sequence will flash pink only on frames from that one machine. This shows us immediately that the image exists where it should be but there is a problem with the machine’s network setup or permissions.

If you are using an image in one of your lights, such as and HDRI in an environment light, then the lighting will flash pink, rather than a texture. Again, this points us directly to the problem.
This kind of engineering thinking is genius. And these are the kinds of things we have come to expect from software developers: tools that improve the workflow of the people using them.