Featured Artist: Ehsan Parizi, NYC and Iran
Hi everyone – my name is Ehsan Parizi. I'm originally from Iran but, after detours to San Francisco and Dallas, I am now based in New York. I have worked at Reel FX, The Mill (NY) and Method (NY).
How I got started doing FX and using Houdini
I originally went to university to study industrial engineering, but I was always fascinated by the magic of animation. To feed my passion (and to take a break from studying!) I started making simple 2D animations with Macromedia Flash MX and then, after I graduated, I was fortunate enough to find an internship opportunity in a small studio in Tehran, where I produced Flash animations and learned other programs like Maya. After that I felt industrial engineering really wasn’t for me, so I decided to take the plunge and apply for the MFA program in Animation and Visual Effects at the Academy of Art in San Francisco, where I eventually graduated in December of 2011.
After I was introduced to Houdini at the Academy Of Art it quickly became my main software tool. I think it’s very powerful and the node based system gives the artist a lot of freedom and saves a lot of time when changes are necessary.
Why I create personal projects
One of the frustrations I’ve experienced as a professional FX artist working as part of a larger team is that, on many occasions, my effects are comped and dialed back so much that you can barely see them. Of course this is to be expected, especially when an effect is just part of a shot and not the main focus, or when the job is live action and the effect has to look so good that nobody can even tell it's CG.
However, to me, the effect itself is an art form and sometimes it should be the main focus. If my product is always just a tiny piece in a big picture, I’m not an artist - I'm just a technician.
That dilemma inspired me to use my free time to create what I wanted to create. I started dedicating time to my personal Instagram (which you can find here) as a way to showcase my work.
Growth Patterns in Houdini
Some of the work I am most proud of is based around the idea of growth patterns. This concept was born when I was working at The Mill and I saw some very cool reaction diffusion videos. I loved them and, while I initially couldn’t quite replicate them myself, I ended up inadvertently creating something both beautiful and fascinating.
Technically speaking most of my growth patterns are very simple, it's usually a line that goes to a sop solver and some kind of displacement happens there and at the end I resample the line. In the case of the very famous differential growth I'm just getting the difference of each point's
position and add it to the average position of neighbor points. Theoretically it’s very easy, but what makes it more interesting is messing with these simple formulas to create something unusual.
Here are a couple of examples:
This is a new growth method that was somewhat of a happy accident - I’m still exploring what I can do with it, but the main method is very similar to the one I’ve shared below.
This differential growth uses some changes to the formula, including the logarithm function. I’ve included the file here so you can take a look at the exact method I used for this effect.
The last example here is a basic differential growth, which uses original photography taken by my brother, Saman Parizi. I transferred color data from the photo and rendered with Mantra.
After a few months of doing these tests I had a great opportunity to work on a job for OFFF By Night and I started developing some other effects based on same principles that I have just explained. I got a great reaction from the team and some of my effects made the final spot, which you can see here.
3D Growth Patterns
My growth patterns were mostly 2D effects, but I recently decided to create some 3D work as well. Same method, keeping it simple with the goal of making something that's visually interesting, something that makes people ask "What is this?!", something that looks like it could exist in real life, but which you haven't seen before. The result are these images:
I call them “the Bloated series” and have been thrilled by the reaction I’ve gotten to-date. The Bloated Series has a very simple technique, where I first create a black and white map for each image. Based on that map, whose elements are fundamental to the end result, I start displacing the geometry along a normal in a SOP solver. In some cases I use a point-cloud to avoid penetration. The biggest problem with this system is that the geometry has to be very dense to get a good result, and that can slow down the process and make it very expensive to cache. To try and get around this, I recently started experimenting with the same effect with VDB - results yet to come!
The rewards of doing personal work
Dedicating some of my free time to my own personal projects has been extremely rewarding - despite some challenges. Lack of time can be an issue when I’m also working in a studio full-time, and not having access to a long-term Houdini Apprentice license at home limits my output. However, personal projects remain an important creative outlet for me and a way to showcase the art I try to create. Continuing to experiment and try new techniques, with the possibility of getting real-time feedback from the small community I have created, is a huge opportunity. My ultimate goal would be to have my work featured exhibition-style, to fully showcase the power of visual effects in what I consider to be its purest form.
Ehsan Parizi 2017
By: Patricia Cornet