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POPs: The New Operator Family in TouchDesigner

This year’s TouchDesigner Event Berlin included a surprise announcement that took the TouchDesigner community by storm: there’s a new operator family coming to the program. You read that right 👀 According to Derivative, the last time a new operator family was added to the program was back in 2005, when DATs were initially developed — so this is big news! The new family in question will be called Point Operators (POPs for short), and are focused on manipulating 3D data like points, polygons, primitives, and more on the GPU. In this post, we’ll take a look at what we know so far about the new POP family of operators in TouchDesigner.

TouchDesigner Event Berlin 2024

First, a brief aside about the event where the announcement took place! The TouchDesigner Event Berlin 2024 was hosted from May 21-23, 2024 at HOLON and other venues in Berlin. Founder of Derivative Greg Hermanovic officially introduced the new operator family in a presentation called Introducing POPs, A New Feature Set in TouchDesigner. You can watch the full talk here:

The entirety of the talks given on the second and third day of the event were live streamed and are available to view on YouTube — we’d definitely recommend checking them out! The Derivative website has a great page about the event, including background info about all of the community members who gave talks:

What are POPs?

So, back to the the topic at hand: POPs! POPs, short for Point Operators, are a new family of operators used for manipulating 3D data, including points, polygons, primitives, point clouds, particles, line strips, and more. Unlike SOPs (Surface Operators, which are CPU-based), they “run almost entirely on the GPUs, and are speed and memory-optimized”1. In other words, POPs will be efficient and fast.

They are intended to help users do more with less operators, making complex functionality that might have previously required a knowledge of implementing compute shaders more accessible and easier to set up. The new operators can also allow for complex math to be broken down into simpler steps, making it easier to visualize and understand.

That said, for users with experience working with compute shaders and C++, POPs offer great utility in formatting and processing data.

pops operator family touchdesigner
popViewer of Point Velocity. Source: POPs-A new Operator Family for TouchDesigner

POPs will have a heavy focus on the attributes of points, primitives, and vertices. As you can see in the image above, there’s now a popViewer for viewing the attributes visually, which is particularly helpful when working with vectors as in the image.

POPs will also be great for dealing with the next generation of data workflows and IO technologies/ standards, as they’re particularly suited for getting data in/out of other formats.

What POPs will be available?

In the alpha version of TouchDesigner shown at the event, the POPs family includes 75 new operators, some of which will look familiar. Below is a screencap of the new POPs page of the OP Create dialog.

pops operator family touchdesigner
The POP category in the OP Create dialog. Source: POPs-A new Operator Family for TouchDesigner

From this list, we can see some crossover with the SOP family, including generator operators like the Box, Circle, Grid, Line, Sphere, Torus, and Tube POPs, as well as filter operators like the Extrude, Facet, Ray, Revolve, Skin, Sprinkle, Subdivide, Trail, and more. There’s some similarity to functions found in the CHOP family, too, in operators like the Phaser POP. During his presentation in Berlin, Greg also noted that the underlying functionality from the point cloud TOPs has been adapted for POPs as well.

pops operator family touchdesigner
A preview of the Trail POP from Greg’s presentation. Source:

From the looks of it, we’ll be getting a kind of “best of” series of functions from some of the existing families, along with a bunch of brand new tools! We’re very excited to dive further into the functionality once the Experimental build is released.

Derivative have said that this initial set of operators should be seen more as a foundation of what’s to come — they will continue “to evolve and become more sophisticated over time1.

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Release Plan for POPs

Finally, you might be wondering when you can start experimenting with POPs yourself!Here’s what we know about the expected rollout: as of the writing of this article, the POPs family of operators are in the alpha state, which means that there are still crashes, bugs being worked out, features changing, and thus are not yet production ready.

POPs will see a wider beta release in the Experimental 2024 Build, which is expected to drop later this summer. After that, the intent is for POPs to reach final production-ready status and be officially rolled out in the Official 2024 Build at the end of the year. We’re looking forward to tracking the progress!


That’s it for now! Once the experimental build is released, we’ll certainly have a lot more to report. That said, I hope this small taste of what’s to come has you as excited to try out the new POPs family as the rest of us. In the meantime, check out the talks given at the TouchDesigner Event Berlin 2024 — you’ve got at least 12 hours of content to distract you!

1. All information for this article has been sourced from Greg Hermanovic’s talk at the TouchDesigner Event Berlin 2024 and Isabelle Rousset’s post POPs-A new Operator Family for TouchDesigner on the Derivative website.
2. Featured image: POPs network – y=f(x) lab, Roy + Tim Gerritsen