One of the early development on Kung Fu Panda 2 was a system to create sort of foot dust.
For this system, I use a mix on Houdini and Maya. Houdini was use to detect the ground contact, during impact in between characters and during the change of the acceleration. Houdini is a perfect tool for doing this. Attributes transfer is your friend on many ways :-) This emitter was bake as points with many information like velocity, normal, distance to impact,.. A reduced version of the ground contact was created too.
After this automatic process, the emitter was sent to Maya a simulated. all this part was automatic and only attaching a auto dust template to the characters and the ground, the system was able to generate all the data , layers and a movie without any human interaction and without opening Houdini or Maya.
After this “free” first pass, artists can open Maya a do some adjustments for address the comments. This system help a lot to see quickly the a pass of this element without spending lot of artist times.