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'VFXWorld’s' F/X & 3D Animation School Survey — Part 2

Bill Desowitz presented six questions to a host of schools and has compiled the second collection of the answers.

Schools are becoming more focused on turning out animators and not robots. © iStockPhoto.

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 second 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.

The School of Communication Arts has roots in digital animation with more than 10 years of placing graduates at the leading studios. The program is based on immersion in foundation training followed by content-based developmental studies in both digital 2D and digital 3D animation. A separate and special component of the program is the fact that the School has just constructed a Higher Digital Education campus totally unique to animation and media studies.

A feature set of the new campus is the Monolithic domes of Digital Circus... the name for the white-topped domes at the campus in Raleigh, North Carolina. The campus is the setting for high definition production studies in animation, filmmaking and audio. HD is on display in the one of a kind Stars HD 200-seat theater occupying one dome. The theater features not only HD projection, but it is a test site for the just emerging JBL Cinema Array B-Chain sound conceptthe theater also acts as a mix down facility for animation and film productions.School of Communication ArtsRaleigh, North Carolina

The phrase "entertainment technology" refers to a very real world of entertainment experiences made possible by the advent of primarily computer-mediated digital technologies. The term requires an elastic and fluid definition, required in large part by advances in technology that are making ever-new entertainment experiences and venues possibleIn general, though, the term entertainment technology refers to: * Networked and free-standing interactive computer games* Avatar creation and utilization* Massive multi-player online games* Digital entertainment* Specialty venues such theme parks, themed retail, specialty restaurants and other location-based entertainment venues* Motion-base rides* Console and PC interactive game design* The creation of unique input devices* Virtual reality utilizing head-mounted displays or other technologies such as CAVES* Wearable computing for entertainment purposes* Massive immersive display environments such as planetaria and Omnimax* Interactive robot animatronics* Synthetic interview technology* Speech recognition* Augmented reality* Telepresence for entertainment and education purposes* Digital production and post-production* Sound synthesis, surround sound, 3D sound and streaming audio* The development of haptic devices (i.e. force feedback)* Entertainment robotics

The ETC considers this all to be within its investigative domain, especially those aspects of entertainment technology our very own students and colleagues in the field will create in the near future!Entertainment Technology Center Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

It is not just our philosophy but our experience that a balanced education is essential to finding work in the CG/vfx industry. An academic education will do you absolutely no good without practical, hands-on experience that only vocational training can provide. But it is also just as true that vocational training does you no good without understanding the principles of art, composition, animation and other classical academic subjects.

Studio Arts focuses on a training paradigm whose curriculum is developed and delivered by professional artists from the motion picture and game industries. The incorporation of teaching the principles of art and animation as they apply to visual media is always at the core of planning for each class. Studio ArtsGlendale, California

Filmakademie hopes to teach students the art of filmmaking as a whole not just animation.

Studying animation at Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg means to study in the heart of a film school, where not only animation and visual effects are taught, but all areas of filmmaking (script writing, cinematography, editing, film music & sound design, directing film & TV design, set decoration). The main principle is "learning by doing." Under the guidance of renowned guest teachers from various professional backgrounds and in close collaboration of the different departments, students realize their own film projects. Right from the start, the philosophy has been that teaching should be given by highly motivated lecturers who hold positions of responsibility in the film and media industry and who pass on their knowledge and experience directly to the students. Within the Institute, students can focus on character animation and visual effects as well as on content creation and R&D. The Institute also provides digital postproduction facilities to all Filmakademie students.Institute of Animation, Visual Effects and Digital Post-ProductionBaden-Württemberg, Germany

At NYU's School of Continuing and Professional Studies, we have built a community and network of digital artists, filmmakers, programmers - a mixture of faculty and students --who have the space to come together to create stunning work. Where other schools struggle to create relevant academic programs due to strict departmental boundaries, NYU has given us a freedom to match the needs of the students by filling the needs of the industry. Our subjects cover everything from: animation, performance, cinematography, editing, film production, visual effects, screenwriting, to Motion Graphics, game design, programming, networking and systems and Web development. Our philosophy is to create skills-based learning and to use technology as a continually changing palette.

We combine technical foundation with conceptualization, so that students realize the importance of exercising their creative voice. Offering different programs allows us to match the needs of changing audiences. Our Master's degree program allows for intensive study with a focus on production and creative ideation.Our professional studies classes are built for non-traditional students -- those already in the industry who are looking to advance, those who are interested in intensive study and not in traditional degree formats and those who have yet to make a decision about going back to school. School of Continuing and Professional StudiesNew York UniversityNew York, New York

What recent changes have you implemented in your coursework and faculty to emphasize creative or technical trends and advancements?

We have changed up the program and faculty; three of the faculty have moved to Oklahoma City to work full-time on the Digital-Tutors site. Instead of training 50 people a year, Digital-Tutors has a following of over 22,000 online studentsWe are getting all new workstations and focusing on animation, broadcast design and digital cinema. Our students will be immersed into creativity individually as well as in group projects. Northern Oklahoma CollegeMMDC Advanced Animation LabTonkawa, Oklahoma

A typical class at Virtual Partners.

Enhanced focus on gaming industry folks: As a Discreet dealership/training facility that started with gaming companies at the inception of the industry, we've always helped create good animators; however, the gaming industry has become a bit of a challenge of late due to the fact so many "training" institutions have now jumped on that bandwagon. Truthfully, with other schools, these aren't the sort of courses that are usually "training" classes; rather they tend to be semester-long education type sessions. However, the thing to know is what specifics gamers find most critical and work from there. Our game classes work from the assumption they already know the fundamentals and what game design and production workflow is all about. Remember, many six-week courses don't even use computers until the fourth week to cover all that.

Seriously, I think a lot of gamers are hot-shot kids that can get stuff done by working 12-hour days, but they never have taken the time to learn the fundamentals, so they waste a lot of timeIf/when we finally do get them into our classes, they are shocked to find out how much they don't really know.Virtual Partners Training CenterJMC Inc.Green Bay, Wisconsin

We are currently designing new course study to reflect real audience case problems. We see producing and directing to todays audiences as the solution to our graduates being more competitive in the industry. Add to this the unique technology within the new Digital Circus campus. A feature set of the new campus is the Monolithic domes of Digital Circus...the name for the white-topped domes at the campus in Raleigh, North Carolina. The campus is the setting for High Definition production studies in animation, filmmaking and audio.School of Communication ArtsRaleigh, North Carolina

We are implementing major changes to our program to begin in the fall of 2004. We are allowing more electives outside of the major and have increased the academic course load. We have developed a series of "program option" courses that allow students to choose from a broader range of animation techniques in their third year. The program options will enable students to either focus their studies in a particular direction, or to diversify them. Students can choose to focus on Character Animation or Special Effects through these program option courses, and will have room in their schedule to combine both if they wish. Our modular approach will enable us to add game-specific courses in the near future.Emily Carr Institute of Art + DesignVancouver, BC, Canada

Schools have the daunting task of keeping up with the lightning fast changes in the industry. © iStockPhoto.

Who do you perceive as your market and how are you addressing the ever-changing industry needs of your region?

We have two target groups in Mexico, since the production industry is not fully developed. First, is the high school and college students, who have few options for professional training in digital, audiovisual production. And second, there are some professionals who look forward to sharpening their skills and stay updated with the technology.Fiction Lab Animation SchoolMexico

Our market are verticalized into two different areas: people who started to get interested in the industry, and professionals who keep on developing their skills. In our region, as we are living in a developing country, our company is not afraid of losing competition if we keep on updating ourselves with the changes that are happening to the global industry. It's just a matter of time, when our country adopt the changes. It's our advantage that we have been familiar with it in advance.Sentra Grafika Kompumedia, PTJakarta, Indonesia

The animation graduates of Filmakademie work in the film and media business in the region of Baden-Württemberg or other parts of Germany, but also in other places in Europe, the U.S and Asia. So far, almost all the graduates of the Institute of Animation have found jobs in the industry. We do not only teach character animation, but also visual effects, content creation (concepts for animated TV series, interactive applications and games or other platforms) and research and development (further training to become a technical director). There is also a research project at the Institute of Animation that looks into the opportunities of automation and sophistication of facial animation and skin rendering of "artificial actors."Institute of Animation, Visual Effects and Digital Post-ProductionBaden-Württemberg, Germany

Our graduates split down the middle -- half are teaching in colleges and half are animators in game or film companies. We are exploring adding a gaming track.Florida Atlantic UniversityFort Lauderdale, Florida

Deals with companies give students a chance to work with the industry standard software like Alias' Maya.

Please describe recent initiatives with hardware/software companies aimed at making new technology more accessible to students.

Savannah College of Art and Design has initiatives with Alias, Apple, Avid, Hewlett Packard, Macromedia, RealViz and SideFX, to name a few. Savannah College of Art and DesignSavannah, Georgia

Maya PLE. However, in SE Asia, pirated software is so rampant that up-to-date versions of almost everything are available if you know where.Intense Animation StudioSingapore, Singapore

We have moved toward a Softimage Accredited Training center that will have Softimage integrated into our existing course and the purchase of the digital LunchBox -- but these aren't initiatives, really, more purchases.CityVarsity Film & TV and Multimedia SchoolCape Town, South Africa

Desktop tools such as editing, compositing and 3D animation applications have become much more accessible to students and institutions. Such software and the associated computing hardware enable courses such as our Graduate Diploma of Visual Effects to exist in a manner that allows equity of access to the students within the course.

There is, however, a tendency for the misinformed to associate the latest hardware and/or software with being equivalent to best practice.

Our approach to best practice is that of realizing the idea through the use of available tools to do the job in a professional manner.Victorian College of the ArtsSouthbank, Australia

Holmesglen believes that software knowledge does not make one an animator.

What do you think about industry concerns that schools need to stress more technique than technology?

We totally agree that students need more background in the fundamental skills that for a time became unfashionable. Anybody can teach themselves how to operate a piece of software, but this does not make them an animator; attending a school like Holmesglen will develop exactly the kind of skills that the industry is asking for.Design, Multimedia & ArtHolmesglen Institute of TAFEGlen Waverley, Victoria, Australia

The industry needs animation professionals at the production side, not animation designers who directs a show. The ratio of requirements between them is like 1:200 for a major show. You need only one designer to 200 production artists. Due to this, the stress should be on the creative production techniques than just teaching the tools and functions of software.Toonz AnimationIndia

That's dead-on reasoning. Since we employ only studio pros, technique is ALL that we teach at Studio Arts. Trouble is, most employers ask, "Do you know Maya?" and questions like that. For that, all schools must be prepared. It only makes sense to teach the most in-demand software that industry uses.Studio ArtsGlendale, California

While technology is changing, good storytelling is at the heart of animation. Technique develops within the studios along with the educational institutions. Its all balance. Technique is hard without technology and technology is hollow without good storytelling and technique.Kalamazoo Valley Community CollegeKalamazoo, Michican

Please describe recent outreach training programs with industries inside or outside your country.

Instead of outreach programs, we have an internal policy toward development of previously disadvantaged talent. Due to our past, we are starved of black animators -- new talent that will take the art form in a different direction. This course has therefore a policy to give young talent a chance that might have previously not had this opportunity.CityVarsity Film & TV and Multimedia SchoolCape Town, South Africa

A beauty shot of Emily Carr Institute.

We have formed a partnership with a school in Korea, which brings their students to ECI in the summer for an intensive in Canadian fine art animation. We are currently developing similar partnerships with industry and educational institutions in India.Emily Carr Institute of Art + DesignVancouver, British Columbia, Canada

The SFSU animation program collaborates with the local chapter of the International Animation Film Assn. (ASIFA-SF) every spring in hosting a careers workshop on campus. We invite representatives from ILM, PDI, Pixar, Tippett Studio, Wild Brain, Mondo Media, game companies and others to talk about their studio's productions, internship possibilities, demo reel requirements and prospective jobs. We continue to seek advice from local studios in the Bay Area and work on an ongoing basis to expand our relationship with each of them.San Francisco State UniversitySan Francisco, California

We are in touch with Chinese schools and studios to establish a partnership.Cegep du Vieux MontrealQuebec, Canada

Bill Desowitz is the editor of VFXWorld.

Bill Desowitz's picture

Bill Desowitz, former editor of VFXWorld, is currently the Crafts Editor of IndieWire.