Netherlands Film Academy
The first six weeks of the second year are split into two exercises in which students need to use Houdini alongside Maya. The students create a fantasy train which has some animation constrains but also some dynamics, like steam or smoke. The second exercise is called Dynamics and together they have to create a dynamic system that passes on a movement. Each student creates a small part of it. For example, it starts with a candle burning a rope, which then unleashes a hammer which hits a wall, which in its turn crumbles on a button etc. It's a combination of Houdini and Maya.
In the second half of the second year, students work on "Creature Creation". They go to the zoo to draw and be inspired by animals. Based on their drawing they have to come up with a fantasy creature. They pose the creature in an action-packed pose and it should have some form of dynamics. This could be sand that is being kicked up or a fire breathing dragon and very often the creature has fur. The final result contains a creature that doesn't move but the camera moves around it, hopefully in an interesting way.
Often the VFX in the second-year movies contain Houdini-created elements like a flock of birds. In the third year there always are a couple of students who want to specialize into Houdini, the last couple of years this has been about four to six of the 18 students. We have a masterclass called "The Michael Bay Block" in which students have to create an action-packed shot by using a combination of Houdini and Nuke. For example, a helicopter crashing into an ancient bridge. The footage is a drone shot, so it has to be one hundred percent photo real. Again, the third-year movies rely on Houdini.
In the final year, students use Houdini as the VFX tool it is meant to be. In 2020, students had an animation movie in which there was very special way of transferring from room to room. They created a particle effect that broke down the first room and from the particles builds up the second room. Last year they had a live action movie which ends with a house whose roof collapsed, again a Houdini effect both for the breaking of the roof as well as the smoke/dust coming out of the house.