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Escape Studios & Post Houses Team Up

CG training facility Escape Studios has joined forces with some of the U.K.'s biggest post-production facilities to develop a course that will provide the houses with new talent. Cinesite, Double Negative, Framestore CFC, Glassworks, the Mill and The Moving Picture Company (MPC) have been working closely with Escape to develop an intensive seven-month program called the VFX | Production Grade. The course comprises five months of full-time training along with a two-month work placement.

This initiative comes in response to the severe shortage of U.K.-based CG talent. In order to attract U.S. film projects to the U.K. for post-production the government created tax breaks that, in essence, vastly reduced the tax bill for any overseas film that wanted to complete the post-production work in the U.K. However, this was on the condition that the post houses themselves employ a certain percentage of U.K. staff. Due to the shortage they've had to recruit from Europe and overseas.

In a bid to redress the balance Colin Brown, Cinesite's chairman approached Escape Studios md Dominic Davenport to discuss ways in which the situation might be improved.

The result is the VFX | Production Grade, where 10 students will be selected from a rigorous selection process in order to attend a highly specialist five-month program at Escape Studios covering the more advanced areas of tools such as Maya, Shake, Mental Ray and RenderMan. They will work on projects provided by the post houses who will also supply a stream of visiting specialists to lecture on specific topics.

Following the training portion of the course the 10 students will be split up and divided amongst the participating companies to work on a two-month placement. This will involve working in the 3D departments on live projects rather than as runners. It is predicted the course will maintain a virtual 100% employment record with all of the students being successfully placed.

Escape's marketing director James Huggins said, "This initiative is part of a wider plan to develop Escape as a professional centre of excellence. Our strong industry links have and will continue to allow us to deliver the very best in training and young talent. Our Production Grade model can also be applied to other areas. We're already in talks with several large games developers about creating a similar program for them. Over the next few years the next generation of games consoles will increase the complexity of the development process. A new level of technology always provides a new level of possibilities in any industry. Our goal is to make sure the next generation of aspiring artists are up to it."

The VFX | Production Grade committee includes the following members:

Colin Brown - CinesiteMichael Elson - The Moving Picture CompanyAlex Hope - Double NegativeNeil Hughes - CinesiteAndy McNamara - BBCMike Milne - Framestore CFCJonathan Privett - RushesMatthew Sagar - The Moving Picture CompanyRobin Shenfield - The MillBruce Steele - GlassworksSteve Street - Machine FXStephen Venning - The Mill

The VFX | Production Grade is set launch in September 2005 and will run twice a year. Any interested parties should contact Escape Studios by calling 020 7348 1920 or e-mailing vfxpg@escapestudios.co.uk.

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