Curriculum Outline

We produce FX primarily with Houdini software, and perform final compositing with NUKE. The program is supplemented by other specialty software. Scheduled courses include various FX techniques. Each week students are provided with several lectures and demonstrations to learn key concepts and further assist with technical and artistic development. Weekly industry studies bring students together to view current media, breakdowns and up to date FX techniques from real-world industry examples. Every Monday classes gather for weekly screenings, where finished and work-in-progress projects are presented and discussed. Students complete assigned projects, working both individually and in groups. In the final term the FX students will work on industry caliber FX shots, demo reel finalization, and a group project alongside compositing students to fully experience the dynamics of working on a VFX production as a team member.

Term 1 - Studio - 6 Months

  • Orientation/Basics
  • Project relevant technique lectures
  • Industry Studies
  • Procedural Geometry Generation Project - The basics of Houdini’s procedural geometry are explored to create a natural still life. Variation, copies, geometry types, distribution, rotation procedures, noise and deformation functions, and fracturing are studied and applied. The basics of composition and look development are started.
  • Mantra Photorealistic Shader Development Project - Real world reference will be studio-lit and photographed. The various visual and textural properties are analysed and reproduced with photoreal Mantra shading and lighting.
  • Crowd Animation Project - The crowd animation project combines key-frame animation, character rigging and deformation, particle logic and animation, and procedural motion processing to create a realistic crowd of 50-200 characters.

Term 2 - Studio - 6 Months

  • Project relevant technique lectures
  • Industry Studies
  • Digital Destruction - A large proportion of feature film effects fall into the category of destruction. This would encompass taking in structural, and other modelled assets and simulating them breaking in a highly realistic way. The techniques involved focus on procedural geometry cleanup and fracturing, particle simulation, and rigid body dynamics
  • Environmental Effects Group Project - Environmental effects are extremely common in film and involve the creation and rendering of realistic natural phenomenon. Tasks could include; snow, dust, rain, smoke, clouds, and terrain. These effects are also highly shot dependent. Students work in tandem on an original, filmed FX shot .. each producing their own environmental effects.
  • Advanced Simulation & Effects - This project will involve students with special effects tasks of higher difficulty. This final project relies on a more complete understanding of simulation and rendering. The main element of this project will be a Pyro or fluid simulation. This may include; fire, explosions, or water/fluids
  • Career Prep and Demo Reel Edit
  • Job Placement Assistance
  • Graduation

Instructional Delivery Methods

  • On-site delivery – supervised and unsupervised classroom and studio access
  • One-on-one mentoring with industry professionals
  • Project-Based Learning, a technique which enables the students to explore and grasp concepts and methods within a simulated production pipeline
  • Demonstrations/lectures
  • Individual and group projects
  • Extensive training library and online resources
  • Visiting artists and guest speakers

  • Technique Lectures

    Volumetric Systems in Houdini with Andrew Lowell

  • Industry Studio Tours

    Sony Pictures Imageworks with Greg Berridge

  • Industry Mentorship

    with Senior FX TD, Robert Thomas

  • Industry Guest Artists

    with CG Supervisor, Sean Lewkiw

  • Program Advisory Committee

    With Senior Industry Leaders

  • Industry Studies

    Pacific Rim - Behind the Scenes

  • Extensive Training Library

    Over 50 Terra-bytes of Resource Materials

  • Expansive Media Library

    Blue-rays, Art Books, and Games

Students develop and enhance their skills in the following areas:


Understand the fundamentals of effects techniques for creating effects shots. Develop the ability to choose the most efficient and appropriate technique and tools to create the required FX in production. We encourage the students to develop their skills and research look development for FX work. The students will also develop more independent thinking skills and break away from common techniques to develop their own styles and more comfort approaching challenging situations in a movie effects pipeline.


Develop the ability to use specific production techniques relevant to industry-standard skill sets, including appropriate modeling surfaces, animating, lighting, rendering, rigid body dynamics, creating simulations for destruction, environmental effects and more. A working understanding in expressions, scripting and common math operations. Topics such as particle logic, digital asset creation, expressions, scripting, common math operations in geometry, trigonometry, and calculus, and concepts in procedural motion will be demonstrated and practiced.


Understand and participate in some pre-production and execution of live action plates for effects shots. Understand and participate in the visual effects production pipeline in a group setting.

Supported by Side Effects Software, Houdini

Supported by Side Effects Software, HoudiniFX TD Program Lead, Andrew Lowell & Houdini CEO, Kim Davidson
Aliza Sorotzkin - Global Education and Training Manager
I have read through the proposed curriculum outline for your Houdini FX program and agree with it and agree with 8 months being an acceptable duration for this program. In addition, I highly recommend Andrew Lowell as Houdini FX program lead. He has proven experience in the VFX industry and is a respected educator.

There is a very large demand in the VFX and gaming industry for highly skilled Houdini FX technical directors and artists. Given the fact that Lost Boys | School of Visual Effects has a very good reputation for helping build relevant, ready for production skilled talent, I am very pleased to support your efforts.