QuickTip – OS X Environment Setup for Houdini

I recently upgraded my computer to Yosemite OS X 10.10 and everything seems to be working correctly with all my day to day software. As I had mentioned in my previous post about Houdini running under Yosemite, you need to start Houdini from the shell otherwise you will encounter problems with Mantra trying to render.

Now, you just can’t start Houdini from the regular OS X terminal. You need to use the terminal profile provided by SideEffects. This profile is located in the Utilities subfolder of the root Houdini install path.

imageIf you try to use the regular old OS X Terminal app, Terminal will complain that Houdini is not a recognized command. The reason for this is that the Houdini environment needs to be initialized. By using the Houdini terminal profile, Houdini sources and runs a shell script on startup to setup various environment variables. This is how Houdini knows where to find the various commands such as iconvert, mcl, Hindie, etc.


Navigating to that utilities folder is a pain. Depending how you work and how your desktop environment is setup, you can just easily drag that icon to the dock and be done with it.

I don’t have any icons on my dock. I use Launchpad to start my applications. In addition, what if you already have a customized profile for your Terminal? It would be nice just to use your custom terminal profile and have the Houdini environment also initialized.

This is actually simple to setup. There are two ways to do it. Both ways are relatively easy but one involves a few more steps and may seem more technical. First, the quick way.


Open up your regular Terminal app and open its preferences. Select the Profiles section. The profiles are presets of various settings for your terminal. You can can customize several things such as window size, colors, etc and save them to a profile. You can think of them as Houdini Desktops or After Effects Workspaces.imageIf you select the profile called Houdini Shell and then go to the Shell tab, you will see that the Run Command option is checked off with a command string in the text field. This is the command that sets ups the Houdini Environment. It runs every time you execute the Houdini.Shell.terminal file found in your Houdini Utilities folder.

You can simply copy that line and add it to your custom profile. Alternatively, if you don’t have any custom options, you can just set the Houdini Shell profile as your default and be jolly.

Bash Profile

If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can do the same thing by adding that shell command to your bash profile. This may seem overwhelming if you have never played with the shell. I’ll go over a quick overview of using the shell in the near future. I know what you are thinking, “Dude, it’s not the 80s anymore.” But believe it or not, knowing how to work with the shell will help you tremendously in Houdini.

Open your bash profile, which is a hidden file located in your home directory and may go by various names. Mine is called .bash_profile. Add the following command somewhere in the file:

cd /Library/Frameworks/Houdini.framework/Versions/13.0.XXX/Resources

source houdini_setup

cd -

Take note that the version number in the first string may be different for you depending on what version of Houdini you have installed. There is really nothing complex about what is happening. The first line just navigated to the Resources folder where the script houdini_setup and other scripts are located.

The second line actually runs houdini_setup within the existing shell. This script sources other scripts located within the Resources folder. It’s like a daisy chain. One script calls another script which calls another script. You get the picture. You can open up these files with your text editor and even modify them to add your own custom settings, although I wouldn’t recommend it. Finally, we navigate back to the user home folder or the folder we originated from.


Restart your shell and if everything went well, you should see your custom shell along with a message indicating Houdini has been initialized. Yay!


Now, not only can you start Houdini from the command line using your custom terminal profile, you also have access to a plethora of small utility programs Houdini provides that are useful for batch processing scripts.



I am a motion designer & developer based out of South Florida. When not designing or animating pixels, I wrangle some code. If all else fails, I watch Twilight Zone, I Love Lucy, or Three's Company reruns.