Aidan Merryman - Student at Rebelway

How did you start in 3D and how did you discover Houdini?

 I discovered CG as an eleven-year-old who enjoyed drawing and traditional art, and wanted to see if I could make things that looked as cool as the Pixar movies that I watched as a kid. So, I bought myself a Maya book (owned by Alias, at the time, not Autodesk) and some tutorial DVD’s from 3Dbuzz and got addicted. I was essentially a generalist when I started attending the Savannah College of Art and Design, in the animation program. During my third year, I was tasked with creating a 20 second short all on my own, and I ended up creating a setting where I needed some dusty desert wind. My professor suggested I take a look at Houdini, since it was known for that kind of thing, and so I went home and started working through tutorials. I spent 18 hours working in Houdini the following day, and couldn’t put it down for the next year.

 I had a minor in VFX at that point, and I eventually found myself in SCAD’s procedural modeling class. I was having a blast working in Houdini, and mid-way through the year, Dreamworks visited campus and hosted a Q/A. I took a chance that same day and switched majors to VFX, with a focus in Houdini FX. It’s turned out well so far!

Where do you currently work?

 Right now I’m working at Framestore, albeit remotely due to current circumstances. It’s my first studio since I graduated, and I’ve been here for just over a year now. Highly recommend it!


What drives you to learn the craft of 3D & VFX?

 Personally, I like following people that are extremely good at their craft, and watching them create inspires me to do the same. It doesn’t have to be FX artists only, I follow traditional artists, tech artists, animators, and others as well. I also have a group of friends from school who all enjoy experimenting with and discussing Houdini projects, so having a good network of like-minded people has given me plenty of opportunity for growth through the years. Seeing others push themselves inspires me to do the same!


There are many vfx schools & tutorial websites. In your opinion how does Rebelway compare?

 I find Rebelway to be pretty unique in the landscape of CG tutorial websites. I’ve followed Rebelway’s progress ever since its inception, and their focus on fostering a strong community of artists is what I think really sets them apart. Signing up for a Rebelway class doesn’t just give you access to several weeks of workshops with personal feedback, it gives you access to a passionate and excited group of people who love learning and working in CG.

 Another thing I enjoy about how Rebelway structures its classes, is that they don’t just show you how to use the basic Houdini tools to make a pretty render, they put a lot of thought into the workflows they design and they help you develop the most important skill you can have in Houdini, which is to experiment and hack your way around problems on your own. Schools that are stuck teaching a specific curriculum and set of workflows for years on end tend to get outdated and unimaginative, which are two things a budding CG artist should definitely not be.


What did Rebelway help you achieve?

 Practically speaking, Rebelway helped me craft a professional (enough) reel to land an internship at SideFX, which was instrumental in establishing my credibility as an artist when it came time to apply for junior positions once I graduated. 

 Thinking more abstractly, Rebelway was largely responsible for helping me take my problem solver mind and apply it to a field of study where it could thrive. Watching Saber and Igor develop custom workflows on their own gave me a lot of hope for what I could become one day.


How did Rebelway help you take your craft to the next level? What were the highlights? 

 I think the biggest takeaway I’ve gotten from Rebelway’s courses is becoming comfortable inside of the DOPs context. Had I relied on SCAD’s Houdini education alone, DOPs would have remained arcane to me, and I doubt I would have the level of creative problem solving ability that I have today.

Tell us about your favorite project accomplished in Houdini. What made it interesting? What were the challenges you faced? 

 During my time at SideFX, I was allowed to dedicate most of my time to a personal project, so I went with something ambitious. I decided to create a fully simulated semi truck crashing through the wall of a warehouse. I wanted to do something complex with a lot of constraints, and I really enjoyed working through different problems each day and learned a lot. I had to come up with a solution for simulating denting and bending metal, and due to the fact that I was at SideFX at the time, I got to try out early builds of vellum for that specific purpose. I sadly don’t have any WIP renders of this one, but the final render is pretty cool:

Who inspires you as an artist? Who do you look up to and why?

 The list is pretty long, but some personal favorites are Matthew Puchala, Artem Smirnov, Oskar Stålberg, and Anastasia Opara. Generally people that have a propensity for thinking creatively and creating unique workflows and projects really inspire me

What podcasts or Youtube channels keep you motivated to grow as an artist?

 I’m not a huge podcast guy, and sadly there aren’t too many Houdini YouTube channels to begin with, so I find most of my drive and inspiration from following various artists on Vimeo, Facebook, and Twitter (a gold mine for games FX). There’s also my personal group of Houdini friends that continually challenges me as well!

What’s next for you on your artistic journey?

 This period of quarantine has finally given me the copious amount of free time I needed to really start learning FX in Unreal, so I’ve been broadening my horizons in that direction recently. I’d like to steer my abilities towards the technical side of the FX spectrum, so lots of python and C++ on the list as well in the future!

Aidan Merryman - Student at Rebelway

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