Side Effects Software has released a public beta of Houdini 7, the imminent latest version of its family of 3D animation and effects software. The company claims that Houdini 7 makes significant workflow improvements for the entire CG pipeline.

New features include the Take Manager, which allows users to layer, compare, render, merge or delete ‘Takes’ – single scene files representing creative decisions used to bring a shot to life.

Character Rigging tools now allow Houdini characters to be set up as digital assets that can be updated when any part of the character is changed. Capture Layers, Capture Blending and Attribute Transfer tools then allow users to respond to rigging changes.

Flipbook functionality allows animators to make timing decisions based on a flipbook of key poses, which is only committed to the 3D scene when approved. Houdini's animation workflow also includes a new channel list for access to animatable parameters, dopesheet capabilities in the timeline and enhancements to the channel editor.

The public beta is available from the Side Effects Web site. Houdini 7 will also be demonstrated at Siggraph 2004 in Los Angeles in August.