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I was wondering if it is possible to enter an animation program as a graduate student without a previous degree in animation. I have a BA in studies in cinema and media culture and a general BFA in art, but do not have much of a backround in animation exept for basic flash and stop-motion video work. If I see experimental or character animation as something I want to pursue, should I apply for a BFA in animation instead of an MFA?

Any help will be much appreciated.


I have a BS in film and since graduating I have mostly focused in the storyboarding side of things. I was accepted this fall to get my mfa in computer animation. I have to catch up on my Maya skills... but cinema is useful as a background for animation, at least as much as film is. I find that lots of poor animation is lacking cinematically and that my film background has helped from that point of view. I pointed this out to the dean of the school and he agreed. So I'm in and I start next week (eek).

Don't do nothing because you can't do everything.

It depends on the school's requirements. Where I went (Rochester Institute of Technology) didn't require a BFA for the MFA program at the time.

I'd recommend not going back to a BFA program as you'll have to put up with all the liberal art programs and lower end degree stuff. A master program will typically focus in a little more directly on what you're studying and still get you a degree that will help out if you want to go into teaching. The other option being a certificate program like Animation Mentor, that's more directed at just tweaking your animation skills to a high professional level.

It all depends on where you want to end up I guess.

Producing solidily ok animation since 2001.

Now with more doodling!

Hey KDiddy, did you take the MFA or BFA program at RIT? i'm trying to get into the MFA program at RIT myself with a BA in Studio Art and a background in computer art, computer science, and figure drawing >~< i'm not sure its going to work but I'm trying. I know RIT has told me the MFA program in no way requires a BFA or BA in Animation to get in, its all based on the portfolio. I tried applying to Sheridan for their post-graduate degree but they won't accept my BA as an undergraduate degree, but I'm still trying to convince them otherwise or wow them with a portfolio.

IMO it can be done you just had better have your portfolio say you are perfectly capable of doing the work that people from those undergraduate programs can do.

Hey Gamirk,

I got both, but with a break in between. I'll give you my brief (or extended...) history with RIT. Skip to the last couple paragraphs if you want to cut to the chase.

After spending two years and a bunch of money partying too hard at a state school, I transferred to RIT for Film/Video/Animation BFA program from 1994-1998. I was fully intending to take up computer animation as they were one of the first schools to have a program. We were all required to take a year of film courses first (that's since changed for the undergrads, you now start with film and animation classes). I fell in love with film and only took 1 intro to animation class as an undergrad (my choice).

After milling around after graduation for 8 months, I moved to Boston and got a job as an editor on a documentary. I then did some grip/electric work on a couple of low budget features. And then I found Flash and started playing around with it. I went to a company doing multi-media and editing. I tried to pick up Maya while I was there and they told me I couldn't learn it (they were using Max and had 1 license of Maya that no one was really good at). I decided they were wrong and decided to go back to school for it at RIT in 2001 (I knew what their animation program was like so I knew what I was getting in to).

I went back for my MFA at RIT. The company was wrong. I picked up Maya very quickly and I've been using it in VFX since I graduated in 2003.

Basically, if you have an art background you'll be far ahead of at least half of the other Grad students. Many of my fellow grads came from as differing backgrounds as computer programming and sales. They all worked extremely hard and all improved dramatically. Some did very well at it.

If you have a previous degree, I'd definitely recommend the grad program, otherwise you'll be taking alot of courses that have little to nothing to do with film/animation as part of the degree requirements. You take the same film/animation classes as the grads, but you'll spend alot of time in liberal arts classes.

RIT is an odd school of sorts. You won't get much out of it if you don't put the work in on it beyond what's assigned. But that goes for pretty much every school. Some people love that sort of atmosphere (I did), while others find it frustrating (I know many who did).

I'd be happy to answer any specific questions you have on the program.

Producing solidily ok animation since 2001.

Now with more doodling!

I read it all :) thanks for sharing it

So how do people with various degrees like computer programming etc. get into a program like RIT's MFA without any previous background? i did my damndest to have both art and computer programming background and i didnt get in and i'm still a little confused as to why.

But if the class i'm looking at at RIT (3D Computer Animation I) doesnt fill up by September 1st, RIT is letting me take it so I guess I'll see what the classes are like then, but I still don't know how to get in exactly. What did you have for your portfolio going in, and do you know what others like you had? That would really help me out a great deal.

Luckily, I did have some broadcast animation stuff I did for a WGBH program, and I also had my film reel. I had some other green screen/motion graphic stuff I had done for industrial clients. I'd like to show it to you, but I don't have it online and the tape it's on is several thousand miles away at the moment.

As for the others in my class? I don't know. There were a number of designers/illustrators/film majors in my program, they weren't all non-artists. I didn't see most of their reels. And after my class with non-artists went through, they were talking very seriously about upping the requirements for entrants' portfolios. You may be seeing that result. On the other hand, they may just have had alot of applicants and the program filled up early. It's hard to say. From what I gathered while attending, they fill up pretty quickly and there's usually a waiting list.

Hang in there. I hope that you can get in. I had a good time there.

Producing solidily ok animation since 2001.

Now with more doodling!

Thanks for the encouragement, I think from what i've been told and what you've said here, they still dont technically require applicants to be artists by profession or degree but they have to show artistic ability in their portfolio.

Last year my portfolio contained a few flash animations, one hand drawn animation, and some drawings. My goal for this year is to complete an animation in Maya and do some storyboarding and extensive gesture drawing studies, I'm hoping that will display the skills they're looking for...

My online portfolio is located at if you are bored and want to take a look, but thanks again.

That sounds like a good plan. I took a look at your portfolio. A lot of it is good and shows good promise (especially your figure drawing stuff). However, I'd take out all of the pencil drawings (the 5th and 6th columns on yellow paper). There's a couple others I'd consider taking out. They bring down the overall quality of your portfolio.

Have as many people as you can go through your portfolio and ask their opinions on what they think you should take out. If they won't do that, have them choose their top 10 pieces. You'll probably see the same things chosen over and over again (and the same things not choosen). Be hard on yourself for your portfolio, quality definitely trumps quantity in the case of a portfolio.

Producing solidily ok animation since 2001.

Now with more doodling!

Thanks! You're probably right about the "yellow" drawings, i did those more to experiment with narrative but the drawing quality fell short. A lot of my undergraduate work was concentrating on the concept over quality and also I rushed to finish my degree in like a year so I didnt get a lot of extra time to produce additional work.

I think my main problem is i need to produce more so i can be more picky about what I include. Any commentary on the Flash animation? I think that severely brought down my portfolio but I'm not sure.

Also, do you have any professors at RIT that you made personal connections with who you found to be good to go to for advice like this?

Thanks again.

Yeah, I'd agree with the assestment of the flash stuff. Cute, but not good for your portfolio. And if you feel like if someone asked about your portfolio and you had to make excuses for things then you probably should take it out.

I'm a little hesitant to go to any of my former professors with your work as I don't really know you and can't really vouche for you other than you seem nice online (sorry...). I'd be more than happy continuing to discuss your portfolio, though.

Producing solidily ok animation since 2001.

Now with more doodling!

Yeah that's cool, I didnt really need a connection like to drop your name ( as i dont know what it really is :P ) just as much as advice on who to steer clear of and who is a good professor to talk to, because I know each school has their ups and downs as far as professors go. No problem.

You're right about the flash, I had to really rush to put my portfolio together last January so excuses were made but those cant stick around if i ever expect to get into school and be successful.

Coincidentally, I went to the Toronto Expo today for anime/gaming/etc and I met a guy who went to Sheridan for animation and now is workng for Nelvana. He was working so I didnt really get a chance to discuss it with him but I was wondering what kind of placement schools have. I know you had previous experience in the industry before the MFA, KDiddy, but what was placement/assistance like at RIT after/during the MFA?

At the time I left, there was little to no placement help. There are currently a group of students trying to pool resources for graduates, but it's slow going. It's a common complaint amongst students at RIT. I got work through a friend I had from undergrad who was working out in the Bay Area (there really is a strong element of "who you know" in this business).

I'm not sure what assistance other schools give by comparison. I've heard varying accounts. It's a good question though. Also, keep asking the students (as many different ones as possible), They'll tend to give you a more accurate answer.

Producing solidily ok animation since 2001.

Now with more doodling!

ack, thats disappointing. I heard all these statistics like an 85% placement rate in the industry for graduates. -_-

I'll have to start asking other students and see if thats pretty normal amongst graduate animation schools..

Sorry, that's not to say that graduates don't go out and find jobs, it's just while I was there they didn't give much assistance in finding them. That may have changed, but, yes, I definitely would try and find other students and ask them as well.

Try to find a variety, too. Many of the most vocal posters I've come across from RIT have an ax to grind because the skills involved in animation weren't just "handed" to them (ie. they didn't put the work in and complain anyway). RIT isn't without it's problems but I got a good education. That's my 2 cents though. Ask around to get a better perspective.

That pretty much goes for any school. The brochures are often a mixture of fact and hyperbole. Keep in mind that evey school, no matter how good (or bad) is trying to sell itself to you.

Producing solidily ok animation since 2001.

Now with more doodling!