Bobby Beck Talks New Directions in Animation Education
We really want to give people what they need and cut out all the fluff. That’s really important to us. So, as far as observation and an understanding of film and acting and improv and beats and timing and making sure that your character pauses and has those moments where the audience can breath and all that structure that happens within a good film, that’s the stuff we teach our students. It’s not just, “Here are the buttons in Maya and move your arm like this and that’s how you create a perfect arc.”
Now we’re teaching visual effects as well in a similar kind of fashion. We designed our entire new VFX program around what the industry needs for look development, lighting and compositing, what studios need from that kind of artist, both for full computer generated studios or a live action integration visual effects-type studio. We've designed both types of tracks for exactly what those types of studios need. We teach in a real production setting now too, which is, for me, the coolest part of the whole thing.
DS: Tell me about Animation Mentor's new AMP Studio Production Pipeline and how it will impact education and hiring?
BB: When we created Animation Mentor in 2005, we wanted to create an online school that taught people by giving them a mentor. It felt like the right thing, and it was and remains very much the right kind of way for people to learn this craft. Our online campus was designed to be a learning management system, an online school.
Some time ago, we decided to step back and start over with knowledge of what the industry wants and asks for in student hires.
One of the things that we've been trying to figure out is what’s the next level of our growth. I think it’s important for any company to constantly evolve and grow and change with the times. Studios were telling us they needed artists who aren’t just working on their own perfect little animations or visual effects. If you’re working on a film like Avatar or Transformers, it’s so complex that hiring a student out of school is nearly impossible. They just can’t cut it and studios can’t guarantee that the hire is going to work for them. They told us, if you create another school like you’ve done for animation and just teach visual effects, that won’t be effective for us. There are other schools teaching that and it wouldn’t be the most effective thing to build.
The idea came about to create a real production environment for students. An animator works with other animators on a shot and across cuts, working in a pipeline setting. That gets picked up by the lighter or look development, then kicked back over to animation to fix something. And then it gets kicked back to lighting, then into compositing and out comes this finished film that was touched by many, many hands.
So we decided to build an online studio into which we could wrap education. It's coming at the whole idea from a new perspective. Why not teach students “exactly” how to do what they will be doing when they get into the industry? This is nothing like GoToMeeting and a forum slapped together and called, "a studio-like experience," this is full, studio production education designed and built by top industry professionals from every aspect of production.
Of course, it’s not going to be at the level of Avatar or Transformers, but it is real production. Students come out with a credit, having done real action work they can put on their reel. They’ve worked with their mentor, who acts as their supervisor. Education has never been done like this before and now the studios feel like they’re actually going to be able to have a place they can go to and feel much more confident about the hires they bring in.