Creating a Subnetwork

To create an HDA, all the parts of your digital asset must be grouped in a subnetwork operator.

A subnetwork can either be created from scratch or from a pre-existing shader network using the create subnet from selected button. You will need to know which parameters are going to be exposed. To parameterize selected inputs add connections that won't be included in the subnet selection.

Selecting the nodes and clicking the subnet icon

A subnet has been created

The nodes inside the subnet

Creating an HDA

From the subnet, a digital asset can be created. Right-click on the subnet and choose Create Digital Asset which brings up the Create New Asset from Node dialogue.



The HDA must be given a unique Operator Name. It must not have the same name as any other operator in Houdini as it will override it. For safety, it is a good idea to prefix the HDA with your username, show or shot depending on its use.


An OTL is a library of HDAs. The HDA can be added to a pre-existing library although unless it is going to be part of a sophisticated pipeline that requires otherwise it is recommended to save one HDA per OTL with the OTL given the same name as the HDA. The OTL will be saved into /home/user/houdini/otls unless specified otherwise.

Clicking Accept will save the OTL file and bring up the Edit Operator Type Properties box. This will be discussed more in the next section.

The HDA will now be available in the Tab menu.

More information can be found in the Houdini documentation: Creating a digital asset.

Editing HDAs

While working on an asset you will be able to lock, unlock and edit the digital asset by entering the subnet to alter nodes. A blue title indicates that the HDA is locked and cannot be changed whilst a red title shows it is editable and the internal network may differ from the original HDA. Once the changes have been made to the HDA; right-click the node > Save Operator Type. To update duplicate HDAs in the scene to be the same as the saved version; right-click > Allow Editing of Contents; right-click > Match Current Definition

HDA Properties

The inputs for the HDA will show the data type but it would more useful to give it a name to what it is connected. To edit a digital asset; right-click > Type Properties; and click on the Parameters tab.

Before adding any parameters it's advisable to make sure the Prefix Linked... options are unchecked in the options and Forbid Linking... is turned on.

Choosing a parameter in the Existing Parameters column allows the names to be changed. Name is the internal Houdini token whilst Label is the nice name for the interface. The parameter Type can be changed, for example from Float to Color. It is also possible to add range limits and interface options.

Default parameter names and types

Parameter names and types changed

Matching Inputs

It is important that the input must have the same name as the corresponding parameter. Choose "Create/Update Inputs From Parameters" from the Input/Output tab. This will add the updated names as Inputs. Delete the old inputs using the cross. 

Changing Tab Submenu

The Tab submenu can be changed in the Shelf Tools Tab > Context Tab; and then change "Digital Assets" in the Tab Submenu Path.

Setting The Vopnet Mask

Under the Node tab, the vopnet_mask sets where the HDA will be available. If blank it will appear everywhere including Houdini SOPs. Enter arnold_vopnet to constrain it to Arnold shader networks.



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