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It Takes Three To Tango: Students

Through a series of pointed questions we take a look at the relationship between educators, industry representatives and students. See what Students have to say.

,b>Lyn Hart, Capilano College Commercial Animation Program, North Vancouver, B.C. Here I am; a squeaky-clean, fresh-out-of-school animation graduate. With my portfolio in hand and a slightly hesitant smile, I'm stepping out into the real world. But what has my two years of sweat and toil in Capilano College's Animation Program done for me?

For starters, it did exactly what it was supposed to do by providing me with the important basics I needed to land my first job. Some might have expected more. I must admit, I thought I was pretty hot stuff when I first began my animation education. I soon realized a good school could only teach me so much. The rest was up to me. There was a lot to learn and it was going to take plenty of hard work, discipline, and humility to succeed.

I was very fortunate as were others in my class. At our grad show, studios were invited to view our portfolios and reels. I received interest from several companies including Studio B and Bardel Animation in Vancouver, and Nelvana in Toronto. It was a tough decision but I went with Studio B. I felt they could give me the best training in my chosen area, character design and storyboarding.

Who knows what the future may bring but I hope there's never a shortage of work. I hope to succeed and become good at what I do but that is always challenging. I hope I'm always gracious to students trying to enter the industry no matter how successful or unsuccessful I become. I hope that no matter where I am, I never turn down the opportunity to learn from someone who wants to share their experience. And lastly, I hope I can one day afford the two-week vacation in Hawaii I've always wanted!

Art by USC's Rebecca Rogers. Image courtesy of USC

Rebecca Rogers, MFA Animation Program of the Animation and Digital Arts Division of the School of Cinema-Television, University of Southern California, Los Angeles

The expectations for my future in the art of animation are rich and exciting. I went into this genre of art specifically because of the variety of career choices I felt I had. Currently I'm intrigued simply by the study of movement. It has opened up a whole new way of looking at art for me, visually and conceptually. All areas of animation have interested me and I would probably be happy working in any field whether it be hand drawn animation, 3D modeling or special effects in film. I came to school to try and learn it all (Ha! Ha!). My number one expectation is to someday be involved with stereoscopic animation combined with live performance. I get tremendously excited when visualizing 3D animation in the form of characters, particles or environments in congruence with live performers. Presently you need a screen to project these stereoscopic images, but I want to someday realize the possibility of animating three-dimensional holograms. I believe I will have the chance in my life time to play with this idea, maybe even in the near future.

For now, at the University of Southern California, I will first be concentrating on learning how to animate. I plan to accomplish this amazing task by making hand-drawn projects, studying animations frame by frame and learning from our professors. Regarding my studies in computers I will begin to learn about stereoscopic animation in a class next semester titled "Virtual Reality and Stereoscopic Animation, Expanding 360 Degree Painting to Virtual Environments." The remainder of my time at the University will be spent continuing to study animation film, and stereoscopics. At the same time I will be applying this knowledge to my semester projects and finally my thesis. With the availability of the SGIs here at school and the support of my professors, I feel I have every opportunity to graduate and achieve the vast number of animation career opportunities of which I have dreamed. As for animating 3D holograms, I plan to continue working towards the idea and see it realized.

Linda Sharp, Capilano College Commercial Animation Program, North Vancouver, B.C.

I can't think of anything I would rather be paid for than animating. I am currently halfway through a two-year commercial animation program at Capilano College. Character design and layout are my current obsession, but we have much more to learn in the upcoming year.

When I graduate next year I hope that the industry will be in a hiring frenzy. My chief concern is to obtain a job upon graduation. In the best of all possible worlds, I will be able to work full-time in a studio for three to five years. After that necessary grounding in reality, I would like to work part-time and take courses to learn more sophisticated computer skills. I then plan to return to full-time work, but to keep developing my skills.

I am keenly aware of the cyclical nature of work in the animation industry, especially for the novice. If I am faced with downtime I have the option of doing illustrations (former career), more skill development, or the ever popular "I have this idea for a film..."

I believe that animation is in a renaissance, building on the possibilities generated by new technology, and the excitement of new markets. I hope that the industry will be able to absorb a substantial number of the many students presently training in animation.

Human plans are often the playthings of the gods, so I don't discount the possibility that one aspect of animation will absorb me so completely that my career path will dictate itself.

A painting by Glenda Wharton, another MFA student at USC. Image courtesy of USC.

Glenda Wharton, MFA Animation Program of the Animation and Digital Arts Division of the School of Cinema-Television, University of Southern California, Los Angeles

Two years ago, I came to California to study at the MFA Animation Program of the Animation and Digital Arts Division of the School of Cinema-Television. I already had a Master's of Fine Arts from Columbia University, and I was an assistant professor of art at a university in North Carolina. As an art professor, I had created a computer animation lab and designed a computer animation and digital arts program.

I already had two careersone as an exhibiting artist, one as a college professor but still was not satisfied. For all of my life, I had flirted with cinema. There seemed to be something in me that only cinema could satisfy.

I feel that I have found for what I was looking. I came into the program to learn computer animation, but, I have learned so much more. The USC program is special because traditional animation, experimental animation, and the visual expression of pure cinema are beautifully interwoven. We learn creative expression by exploring the diversity of animation techniques.

This expressive melange transmutes digital technology into cinematic art. This rich preparation gives depth to my digital animation, so that I am not merely a "mouse monkey," aping to the crowd, climbing aboard the band wagon of new technology.

This broad vision of animation has allowed me to bring the diversity of my artistic background into animation. I did not have to throw out my painting, sculpture, drawing, dance, theatrical talents or visionary instincts. The mastery of all of these toolsalong with the computeris shaping me into a formidable artist animator.

Because of my heavy art background, I see my introductory place in the industry in conceptual development, storyboarding, or the creation of art for inspiration. I love science-fiction and I would also be interested in visual effects design and animation.

My ultimate goal will be to develop animated films which reflect the cultural diversity of the world. As a woman of color, I can add a distinctive spice to Hollywood's table of delights.

Joanne Chalkey, Bare Boards/Cosgrove Hall training scheme, February to April 1998, Manchester, U.K.

My excitement at being accepted onto the Bare Boards/Cosgrove Hall training scheme was only slightly dulled when, on our first day Barry [Purves] gave us each a black wooden block, stating that we would not get puppets for at least three weeks. We found the block work invaluable, the strong shape showed every judder and mistake and taught us control. My fellow trainees, Justin and Steve, and I all had very different experiences prior to training. This showed in our often different interpretation of a given exercise, allowing us to see there is more than one way to tackle a shot.

We worked on building a move, starting with a simple movement, then adding character, often doing a move wrong to see why it did not work. We were encouraged to be aware of the shot and its position within the scene. We concentrated on balance, strong poses, and how to anticipate a move. Barry stressed we must think from where the energy within the movement is coming. We studied dance, theater and comedy to help our choreography. Starting simply enabled us to build our confidence and by week 12 our puppets were juggling, running, dancing and more.

One quality vital to the animator is patience. Barry tested ours at an early stage by making us move our blocks across the set as slowly as possible. After five hours of nudging the block with the very tips of our fingernails I think we were all ready for a fight! On his more sadistic days Barry would make us work blind by turning off our monitors.

The practical and financial support offered by the Cosgrove Hall Sponsorship allowed us to concentrate on our training and gave us positive input and a wealth of advice from the animators, producers and directors working within the building. Based within Cosgrove Hall's working studios, we were able to relate what we learned to ongoing productions and toward the end of our training we had the opportunity to work occasional days on `live' shows, easing us more gently into the work environment.

We have now each moved on to three very different productions and our training has prepared us well. We are concentrating on building up our speed and bending our skills and styles to suit each program. The best aspect of the training was Barry's hugely infectious enthusiasm for animation and, beyond the basics taught, he has encouraged us to observe life and theater, enabling us to continue to improve our animating skills. I think we are all extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to be taught by Barry.

Joanne is now animating on a series called Rocky and the Dodos, which is currently showing on British television.

Brian G. Smith, MFA Animation Program of the Animation and Digital Arts Division of the School of Cinema-Television, University of Southern California, Los Angeles

My expectations about my career upon my graduation are very high. The Division for Animation and Digital Arts at the University of Southern California's School of Cinema-Television is providing me with a very well rounded experience in all forms of animation and production. I have completed two years of the three year program, and I have tried my hand at everything from scratching on film to fully rendered digital images, and just about everything in between.

I feel confident about having a successful career because the instructors and the classes at USC have done an excellent job in showing us that as long as we're good animators and artists, it doesn't matter what medium we choose, we will have the tools to be successful. So with that in mind, they have taken great strides to train us in traditional character animation, experimental animation and computer animation. They also make sure that we have a strong sense of story, so that even the most experimental projects have very clear themes and narratives.

Not to mention the fact that we are apart of USC's School of Cinema-Television, which is regarded by many as the finest film school in the world. As a result, we have access to all of the film school classes, and are able to mix a well rounded film education with a well rounded animation education. This could prove to be a huge advantage upon graduation.