May 2020 update - FAQ about Houdini at Ranch Computing

Ranch Computing released Ranchecker for Houdini version 1.0.0, this version replaces the existing stable 0.9.91 version and adds the following list of features :

  • Support for Houdini 17.5 on Linux
  • Support for Houdini 18.0 on Linux
  • Support for Houdini 17.5 on MacOS X
  • Support for Houdini 18.0 on MacOS X
  • New Ranch alembic Cache - use it as an input (CacheToRanch) or as an output (CacheToSimulate)
  • Improved Ranch flip Cache
  • Support for Arnold-CPU with Houdini 18.0
  • Support for Arnold-GPU with Houdini 18.0
  • RanCHecker Render is now located in /obj/topnet - please create a topnet, dive into it, TAB menu, voilà!
  • RanCHecker Sim is now located in /obj/topnet
  • All Ranch Cache nodes are listed in the TAB menu within a geometry.

Please be reminded that per SideFX terms and conditions, Houdini Indie (or above) is required for any third-party rendering.

Frequently Asked Questions about Houdini at Ranch Computing

Document Version : March 2020, with a May 2020 update

- What is RanCHecker?

RanCHecker is a Ranch Computing Houdini custom Digital Asset that collects information about your .hip scene (or .hiplc, or .hipnc) and generates a .vuh ZIP archive file that you may upload to Ranch Computing ( , Log In, New Project from your Dashboard) for computing a render or a simulation.

- What is the login in RanChecker about?

  • This login, which is different from your login account at Ranch Computing, will be activated for FTP transfer in a near future. You do not need to input any login/password into the RanCHecker node in Houdini when you plan to upload all the scene data from your workstation to Ranch Computing.

- Which Houdini versions can I use with RanCHecker?

RanCHecker uses Houdini for Windows. Our systems run Houdini 17.5 (“Houdini 17” on Ranch) and Houdini 18.0 (“Houdini 18” on Ranch). As a rule, we run production versions from SideFX, not nightly builds.

- Which simulations do you support?

Our systems run Houdini simulations from the SideFX Dynamic OPerators (DOPs), e.g. pyro, smoke, flip, whitewater etc. The RanCHecker Sim node helps you with that.

-Which Renderers do you support?

We support a growing list of combinations. The RanCHecker Render node (formerly : “Ranch Build Archive Render node”) helps you with that.

  • Houdini 17.5 or 18.0 with Mantra (CPU)
  • Houdini 17.5 or 18.0 with Redshift (GPU)
  • Houdini 17.5 or 18.0 with Renderman (CPU)
  • Houdini 17.5 with V-Ray Next (CPU or GPU)
  • Houdini 18.0 with Arnold htoA (CPU or GPU) - May 2020 update
  • Houdini 18.0 with V-Ray Next (CPU or GPU) - May 2020 2nd update

-What about Octane?

If you are an Otoy fan and wish to render your Houdini scene with Octane and GPU, please contact for beta tests. No specific issue here, it works. It's about setting up the Octane 2019 All Access system so it includes Houdini.

-What about Solaris, Karma and PDG?

As SideFX develops new cool things, we shall think of implementing them as soon as they are released for production. This may apply to Karma, to the .usd file format support, or to the Procedural Dependency Graph and its Task OPerators. We'll keep you posted with news!

Howtos, Video Tutorials

How to install the Ranch HDA?

You may download it from Unzip the .hda file into the OTLS folder (default folder for custom HDAs) or into a folder that is listed in the houdini.env file.

Then, you may update it smoothly from Houdini when already installed.

Where are the Ranch nodes?

At the OBJ level, create a TOPnet. Dive into it, use the TAB menu, type in “Ranch”, it displays

  • RanCHecker Render : a tool to make a .vuh zip archive, ready to be rendered with Ranch Computing
  • RanCHecker Sim : a tool to make a .vuh zip archive out of a list of sims, ready to be computed with Ranch Computing

Nota : when you select a RanCHecker node, please clear the displayed “error” message by clicking on “send future errors to the console”. As our hda is compiled (blackbox hda), the behavior is normal. We asked SideFX support why Houdini needs to check the access down into the TOP node, we shall keep you posted about this.

Within a Geometry, use the TAB menu, type in “Ranch”, it displays

  • Ranch Alembic cache : a file cache format with a single .abc file;
  • Ranch Bgeo cache : a file cache format with files;
  • Ranch Flip cache : a specific with two outputs, one for particles, one for volume;
  • Ranch vdb cache : a set of .vdb file caches with two outputs, one for low-res and one for hi-res. This includes some unique Ranch optimizations for faster computations.

Are there available tutorials should I watch?

Yes. We made a 13-min video that contains a few short topics - 1 minute or less each. Watch it all here or jump to a specific time of the video to watch about the following topics :

Quick answers about the tutorial

  • Ranch Build Archive Render is now called RanCHecker Render. Same node, simpler name.

How should I submit a simulation to Ranch Computing?

After the RanCHecker Sim HDA has created a .vuh file with your sim, select “New Project”, “Houdini”, the Houdini version (17 for 17.5; 18 for 18.0), then select Mantra.

We also recommend that you follow these guidelines about farm priorities :

  • Always select CPU-Low for computing Houdini Simulations;
  • Almost always select CPU-Low for rendering with Mantra, Renderman or VRay-CPU;
  • Almost always select GPU-Low for rendering with Redshift or V-Ray GPU.

Is there an example of how I should use the Ranch File Caches for Sims?

Sure. In the graph below, a rock falls into some water and the sims compute the flipSim, then the particle and volume bgeo outputs of the flipSim are the input to compute the Mesh and the Whitewater.

All the Ranch Caches in this simulation (all but one are Ranch bgeo Caches, and one is a Ranch flip Cache) were created with the default folder location, which is $HIP/geo. RanCHecker will look for input files with the following structure : $HIP/geo/$OS/$OS.$ (e.g. $HIP/geo/MyNodeName/ When the input file changes with the frame number, RanCHecker will retrieve the list of files along the frame range. When the input file is the same for all the animation, please check that you named the file with the .0001. in it.

Now, in order to keep my scene file as light as possible, I want to cache as an input only one file, which is $HIP/geo/rock01/ . In the RanCHecker Sim node, I drag and drop it into the CacheToRanch tab.

In order to compute at Ranch Computing all the other Ranch Caches that are in the scene, I drag and drop them (in the right order!) into the CacheToSimulate tab.

Ranch Computing will simulate the rock SOPs (a few transformations of the rock01 file), the ocean waveforce, the beach - now the flip solver is run - and I take out of it as a DOPimport my Ranch flip Cache beachSim (two bgeos outputs : left output for particles, right output for volume), which split into two more simulations, one for the Mesh (particles output –> Mesh), and one for the WhiteWater (volume output –> Whitewater). These simulations are run in order, on a single hi-speed computer, at Ranch Computing.

After this is done, I can retrieve all the files that were generated.

Any other question?

For any other Houdini topic with Ranch Computing, please send us an e-mail, . Thank you!

houdini/ranchecker.txt · Last modified: 2020/05/25 12:39 by ranchadmin