Bill Desowitz presented six questions to a host of schools and has compiled the third collection of the answers.
As part of the Education & Training theme of June, VFXWorld queried a wide range of education and training institutions around the world about their individual programs and approaches in preparing students for careers in the rapidly changing 3D animation and visual effects industries. Here is the final collection of their informative responses to the following topics/questions:
Please describe your core philosophy of balancing education and training and what distinguishes your program.
Talent is in-born and Skill needs to be inculcated. We have designed the course to identify & sharpen the talent and train their mind and body to meet the challenges. Toonz AnimationIndia
Our core philosophy at Escape Studios is to provide training by being able to effectively replicate a "real world" production environment. This is crucial, even from the earliest stages of the learning process. This is reinforced by using practicing professional freelancers as tutors in order to let anyone who wants to learn benefit from their production experience. It is a broad-based creative education that allows artists to develop their traditional skills and aesthetic awareness is of paramount importance. However, the opportunity for those artists to then acquire the technical expertise and professional practices required by the industry must also be provided.
We try to keep the development of critical thinking skills as an overarching theme of our program. We also stress the development of good communication skills, problem solving and the importance of developing the skills necessary to visually communicate ideas clearly to the intended audience. Middle Tennessee State UniversityMurfreesboro, Tennessee
The balance lies in providing useful and up to date technical skills with the developments in theory and historic perspective. Our programs look to encourage this balance to provide artists with powerful tools and technicians with artistic principles. Fiction Lab Animation SchoolMexico
The core philosophy is one of applied learning: from pencil to digital, graduating animators and not operators. The first year is entirely 2D animation. The third year is entirely 3D character and digital post effects The second year is a transition into 3D animation and 2D digital ink and paint. Theory (education) is based on applied learning. For example, second years write a digital post-production terminology exam at the end of academic year. Lecturers are ex-industry pro's.
Distinguishing characteristic: a third year will graduate with specialization on his show reel but have experience in Stop motion shoots, 16mm, Flash, 2D, 3D character and effects pretty much all forms of animation production. Lastly, the animation department is run like a working studio with interaction with the sound and edit departments for studio bookings.
CityVarsity Film & TV and Multimedia School
Cape Town, South Africa
What recent changes have you implemented in your coursework and faculty to emphasize creative or technical trends and advancements?
We are constantly adding classes and revising curriculum based on the feedback we receive from the industries we serve. Our instructors are all working professionals who use the tools and techniques they teach to earn their daily bread and they gear their classes towards giving students current information. The Gnomon School of Visual EffectsLos Angeles, California
In line with recent movies and games that highlight animated characters (Shrek, Nemo, Lord of the Rings, Spider-Man), we emphasize the creative use of animation rather than treat it as a technical exercise and just learning the software. Intense Animation StudioSingapore, Singapore
We have revamped the curriculum to give a degree specialization that runs the gamut from Intro to 3D Animation to Advanced Modeling, Animating, Lighting, Rendering and Compositing. The coursework is constantly being updated and developed as the industry changes. University of HawaiiManoa, Hawaii
Who do you perceive as your market and how are you addressing the ever-changing industry needs of your region?
With graduates at the top gaming organizations and the top studios we are directing expanded initiatives to opportunity in higher end Internet applications. This is why all animation students study both 3D and 2D applications.School of Communication ArtsRaleigh, North Carolina
Our market is specifically the prospective animation and effects artist. Our students do not learn programming or scripting but rather spend time developing the ability to create believable character animation and aesthetically pleasing as well as convincing environments either through modeling or compositing. The affordability of studying in Australia coupled with the high quality of our facilities and staff make Holmesglen an attractive prospect for international as well as local students. Design, Multimedia & ArtHolmesglen Institute of TAFEGlen Waverley, Victoria, Australia
We have people who would like to change careers, those who would like to advance in current careers and people who love to learn in general. We have courses for all types and all levels. It's a difficult task, but we see ourselves as non-exclusionary. Now, our Masters program is a completely different story. It has been built for those with a few years of industry experience or those who are just out of art or film school. It helps them to have the edge on the competition now required to get in the door. We've done pretty well in that case. We've seen our graduates go onto jobs at Blue Sky, the Mill and other great companies.
One thing that we have seen is an increase in motion graphics and sound design jobs in the area. We have been offering that curriculum for years, but we now have the cause to build it out more in order to help those who need specialized skills in the areas. We are also strong proponents of making the East coast more attractive to the game industry. We are strong supporters of the companies in town and they have been elemental in helping us make sure that our game curriculum is industry-worthy. School of Continuing and Professional StudiesNew York UniversityNew York, New York
Please describe recent initiatives with hardware/software companies aimed at making new technology more accessible to students.
Alias does have the learning edition of Maya. We would love to have companies keep us informed of these initiatives. University of HawaiiManoa, Hawaii
We will be working with HP and Maya. Our students will have the availability to use laptops on our wireless system, so they can create and then share their files with others in the group from a distance. Maya is also supplying us with Maya Unlimited (at a small cost, of course). Northern Oklahoma CollegeMMDC Advanced Animation LabTonkawa, Oklahoma
What do you think about industry concerns that schools need to stress more technique than technology?
We absolutely agree and always have. The technology will always change. If you understand why you do something, you will be able to figure out how to do it in the new tools.
The Gnomon School of Visual EffectsLos Angeles, California
On the whole these concerns are well founded. This is, however, a symptom of the difficulty, if not near impossibility, for many educational establishments to find tutors of a suitable quality. This is certainly not a general rule, as there are many excellent courses and tutors out there, but more often than not an abundance of money is thrown at the situation. This can provide the technology, but without the relevant expertise the program will inevitably fall short of its ultimate aim. Escape StudiosLondon, England
Please describe recent outreach training programs with industries inside or outside your country.
Since we are on the Internet, we do reach folks outside the US. This includes most of the instructors that are currently training folks at other institutions.
That also includes the Middle East. We are not about politics we are about knowledge in animation graphics and digital media. The plain truth is, if you haven't attended one of our classes, you're not as good as you could be. If you're a hobbyist and want to get up to speed in a hurry that's O.K. too but you have to remember there is no substitute for spending time in the program. Virtual Partners Training CenterJMC Inc.Green Bay, Wisconsin
There are two extremes. Either they teach the tools and do not care about the talent looking at short-term benefits for the people who run the institution or they are too academic in nature and turn out only animation designers and not animation production professionals. Ultimately the industry is still short of efficient and effective CG animation artists who can deliver world-class product. The graphic software companies and big production houses with muscle power should come together and initiate useful institution building in the entertainment industry. There are such ventures outside of the country but none within India. Some production houses are conducting in-house training programs to meet the challenges. But that is not enough to tackle the present skilled manpower issue. Toonz AnimationIndia
Bill Desowitz is the editor of VFXWorld.