How to stream SideFX Houdini over Zoom without lag

If you’re a VFX artist working from your home studio, you may be painfully familiar with this chain of events:

Step 1: Finish a brand new element for a project.

Step 2: Render and export the element for approval. 

Step 3: Upload your export to a cloud drive. 

Step 4: Email the link to the file to the other members of your team for approval. 

Step 5: Receive the first email with notes.

Step 6: Receive five more emails with additional notes, all out of sequence. 

Step 7: Begin to make changes while still receiving revision emails. 

Step 8: Repeat Steps 1-7 until a permanent impression of your forehead is imprinted onto the desk. 

You’re not alone in wanting to find a better way to collaborate with your team and get projects done faster. 

The most obvious solution to this email and revision hellscape in a remote-work world is to try to stream your SideFX Houdini workspace directly over a video conferencing platform like the ever-popular Zoom. This way, you can chat and receive feedback in real-time and significantly cut down on time-wasting draft reviews and email chains. 

However, with a processor-heavy program like SideFX Houdini, is this a realistic solution for VFX artists and animators? 

In this article, we’ll examine some common workarounds that can be used to stream SideFX Houdini over Zoom and see if they can meet the needs of modern VFX teams. 

What are the Challenges of Streaming SideFX Houdini Over Zoom?

If you remember how your laptop or desktop fans used to spin like an over-enthusiastic DJ when you first started working with professional effects programs like SideFX Houdini, then you know the first problem we’re going to discuss; processor power. 

This is an immediate problem when it comes to streaming over Zoom because Zoom itself demands a significant amount of processing power as well. The focus of Zoom’s design is for basic conversations or screen-sharing web pages and documents, and it doesn’t like to compete with other CPU-heavy programs. 

When Zoom does have to compete for resources, it will attempt to balance the load by downgrading the quality of the stream on one or both ends. This not only can result in a loss of video quality but can also lead to other issues like video lag and application crashes. 

All this aside, the key benefit of Zoom is that it is so universal, nearly everyone already has it installed on their computer and knows how to operate it. Because of that, it seems worthwhile to see if there are any workarounds that will allow you to stream your SideFX Houdini workspace over Zoom well enough that you can collaborate with your team in real-time during your editing and review sessions.

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A Few Common Workarounds to Stream Adobe After Effects over Zoom

Option #1: OBS and an NDI

For this workaround, you’ll need:

  • Two separate screens
  • Ideally, two separate CPU systems
  • OBS (Open Broadcasting Software)
  • An NDI (like NewTek) 

For this workaround, you’ll want to download both OBS and an NDI that you can use to broadcast the screen you’ll be running SideFX Houdini on. Once these two programs are installed, set up your NDI for screen sharing. Once your screen is broadcasting, you can receive the feed into OBS, add your webcam so that you can video conference while editing, and then select your OBS feed as your video source on Zoom. 

While this workaround will allow you to stream your workspace over Zoom,  it also won’t necessarily solve the Zoom downgrade issue, though your chances of success improve dramatically if you have two separate systems. 

Option #2: Use a Second Webcam

This is a lower-tech solution for anyone who doesn’t want to learn how to install and operate an NDI. First, get an external webcam and point it at the screen of the computer running SideFX Houdini. Then, you can either run this feed through OBS or stream the webcam feed directly to Zoom as your video input. This will solve some of the Zoom downgrade issues, as most webcams stream in 1080p; however, the video quality of a webcam pointed at a screen is hardly the HD experience you may be looking for. 

Also, you won’t be able to stream your face simultaneously unless you run both webcams through OBS first to combine them into a single video feed. 

Of all the solutions we found, these two were the most feasible for streaming SideFX Houdini over Zoom.  However, neither system provides a seamless HD stream of your workstation that you can rely on without having to worry about lag and Zoom quality downgrades. 

If you want a truly seamless experience, you’ll need a purpose-built system for creative teams and their HD workspaces. Thankfully, there is a platform built specifically for your needs: Evercast. 

Streaming SideFX Houdini with Evercast

Evercast is specifically designed to address the needs of modern creative teams and the powerful editing software professional editors, and VFX artists use. To use Evercast with SideFX Houdini, you’ll need to complete a simple one-time setup. Once you’re set-up, you’re ready to stream your whole workspace in ultra-low latency HD video. 

The benefits of using Evercast instead of Zoom include:

  • Ultra-low latency (less than 150ms on average) streaming
  • Real-time video conferencing
  • On-screen annotation tools
  • Timestamped notes

These features mean that there will be virtually no lag when showing your edits in real-time. It also means that instead of a barrage of vague, out-of-order notes, you can see exactly which comments align with which frames in the edit. This speeds up communication significantly and cuts down on frustration. 

And for your less tech-savvy participants, they’ll be relieved to know that they don’t have to download any additional software to participate in a meeting. Just follow the link and join from any device, anywhere in the world. 

If you’re looking for a better way to bring your remote editing team closer together and collaborate more efficiently from a distance, check out Evercast and work smarter, not harder.

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