View Full Version : USC Animation __ or__ Academy of Art University

12 December 2011, 03:33 PM
I have bachelor degree in computer (software).Im working as a 3D architectural Simulator By 3Ds max.

I am good at:

3D (Modeling, texturing,Iighting, Rendering)
Drawing and Paintin(watercolor,sketch,...)

I`ve experience with these softwareس:
3Ds max , Vray
Adobe Phosothop
Adobe Premiere
Adobe After Effects

I am interested specificly in :

Drawing for storyboard and 3D animation
Character Design
3D modeling

I plan to attend to an Animation college .I have done research I think these are the best two possibilities:

!_USC Animation and Digital Arts LA, CA

2_Academy of Art University San Fran, CA

Now I am Woundering wich one can provide my Interesting Field !!?? :rolleyes:

12 December 2011, 10:18 PM
We actually visited both with my daughter. Here is my take:

First, I think that both are good schools for animation. Moreover, if you work REALLY hard and diligently, I think you can get some good skills from either school.

Second: AAU has a much greater "for profit" feel to it. This is hard to quantify.I just felt that they weren't as student oriented as they are profit oriented. In fact, they are a "for-profit" school. You might ask, "why does this matter?"

The reason is that non profits have advanages over for profit schools. First, non-profits get a deduction for donations to it. Thus, they tend to have higher endowments for facilities, scholarships etc. Secondly non-profits don't pay any income taxes. This is a BIG deal. Finally, they get much lower postal rates. For profit schools don't get these advantages. They are usually for profit because the owner wants to skim as much money as possible through salaries and bonuses.

As a result of their for-profit status, don't count on any scholarships from them. However, they are a LOT cheaper than that of USC. USC is about 40K per year for tuition and required fees. AAU would cost about 60-70% of this amount.

Third: AAU has almost no admission standards. If you have a pulse and the cash, you are accepted. It may not be easy to stay in there and get good grades, but you are accepted. I really wondered a lot about the other students who were smoking , usually pot, right in front of school buildings. Students just didn't seem that sharp. Admittedly, I didn't see every kid , so I can't comment on their ability. In fact, I did see some student work and was very impressed.

Fourth: USC is very hard to get into. You definitely have a smarter, more driven kid on the average. It is also a lot more expensive. I also felt that, although USC has a sterling reputation in almost every area of endeavor, I found that their animation offerings were a bit "fluffy" compared to that of AAU, which has specific courses for each skill area such as rigging, modeling, texturing, animation, lighting etc. Maybe this isn't a fair evaluation since USC does have a great reputation among the industry in addition to their general world-wide reputation. Let's face it: having a school of Cinematic Arts endowed by Lucus and Spielberg doesn't hurt. In fact, the Cinematic Arts complex has probably some of the nicest, newest facilities around.

Also, if you want to be a good animator, you need solid skills in drawing and need to develop a solid understanding of MAYA, Zbrush and other software that either school should be able to teach you.
Bottom line: You need to check out the school for yourself. Check out the culture. Meet with animation students. Get a good feel for placement and the facilities and the firms who come there to meet students. Don't just base your decision on what is said here.

I hope that I was of help.

12 December 2011, 10:54 PM
What exactly is it that you want to do? That ultimately should dictate what course you do.

12 December 2011, 12:36 AM
Also, if you want to be a good animator, you need solid skills in drawing and need to develop a solid understanding of MAYA, Zbrush and other software that either school should be able to teach you.

An animator does not need to know ZBrush.

To the original poster - what exactly is it that you want to do? That ultimately should dictate what course you do.

12 December 2011, 01:12 AM
I was just mentioning various software that is used by my daughter for some part of the animation pipeline. She uses MAYA almost exclusively for her work.

Also Leigh, I would bet that the original poster doesn't have the experience to know exactly what he wants to do or even what type of firm to work for.

12 December 2011, 05:40 AM
taxguy posted a good comparison. They are different kinds of places, USC seems to be more about education, AAU is a training business. One thing I could add is that if you start at USC, and then transfer after the first year or two, the course credits from USC seem more likely to give you course credit at other universities. And USC is a real university with more different departments, so you can study more things, not just an art school. But then, AAU may have more courses in specific programs and more specific training in some software skills, so if you really want practical training in different parts of the craft, you might find more of that in the trade-school type environment of AAU.

Based on your computer science background, and interest in modeling, I'd say you should explore all aspects, including modeling, sculpting in Z-brush (or mudbox), and rigging (good rigging is really difficult, and riggers are really needed in the industry...)

No matter which school you go to, focus on perfecting your language and communication skills. If you want to draw concept art or storyboards, the main skill you need to have is excellent communication with the director and art director. If you get a job at an English-speaking company, you need to speak and understand English really well, especially for positions where the director is describing subtle aspects of an image to you. No matter what other courses you take, make sure you choose a school with good programs in English, and invest as much effort in mastering verbal communication as you do on art and computer skills.

12 December 2011, 09:24 AM
Thank Guys.
your posts are very Helpful.
What about UCLA animation . Do you have any information about it؟

12 December 2011, 02:38 PM
First of all welcome to CGS I will give you my insight since I am juggling the same contemplations for the 2013 year. For starters I will share how I approached choosing a school, I suggest making your own personal list of schools that you are interested in. Don't worry about outside input when you make it because ultimately it comes down to how dedicated and determined you are. Incredible artists have come out of each and every school whether they are massive and elite or small community colleges. I compared the outcome of the schools (degree? certificate? etc. ) along with a total tuition estimate. After that I started digging into student reels. Just go onto vimeo or youtube and search for the school name and reels and you will usually find many results. Reels aren't a clear guarantee that a school is great but a good clue of the results overall.

You will notice some schools have students product individual shorts/reels while others are collaborative which ultimately comes to your preference. After I had collected plenty reels of student work I moved my attention to the instructors and course descriptions. Check to see their credentials, some schools have teachers that are just graduates with a degree in fine arts. This can be fine but they won't have that useful networking though they may be great at instructing. Personally I prefer more with industry links and experience because it will be far more useful. Most of those you should be able to find by looking their name up on IMDB or finding their personal reels/sites. The other way to find information on schools for me was looking for personal thoughts on them via review websites and student blogs/vlogs. Always keep in mind that people have personal bias but look for overall trends for your reference.

The common things I saw for nearly every school was individuals complaining about lack of party life, challenging workloads, and schools cutting people out of programs for low grades or weak work. I would ignore most of that considering it is college and the industry is far more challenging than a college. The numerous people I have met already actively working on projects say that their college experience was a vacation compared to how short their deadlines are.

I have tried to stay generic and not drift to schools in particular because I feel it is an individual decision and every school can be best for the right individual, it depends on your financial situation, goals and dedication. When I had finished sweeping through schools I had a list of about 11 or so, chose a top 3 that I will initially apply to and see if any let me in and then I have plenty of fall backs. I hope I have been able to help somewhat.

12 December 2011, 11:34 AM
Thank Guys.
your posts are very Helpful.
What about UCLA animation . Do you have any information about it؟

We also checked out UCLA too. Here is our take.

Pros: Great reputation. In fact, they have a killer list of successful alumni.
Moreover, I liked their course offerings. Moreover, they are located in or near Beverly Hills. It is a GREAT area and seemingly a lot safer area that what is found around USC. Also, admission is akin to that of USC. Thus, it is hard to get into, and you get some very smart, driven people into their program.If you are from California, you can't beat their instate tuition.
Cons: State cutbacks are starting to show. The building and facilities seemed old and dingy. I found places on walls and bathrooms that needed painting. Facilities and equipment aren't as new or polished as what you would find in USC or even AAU. We definitely liked the look of the USC or even AAU animation facilities much more than what we found at UCLA. Finally, Out of state tuition is very high and rivals that of USC,which is a private school.

I should note that we looked at USC, UCLA and AAU from a graduate student's perspective since that is what my daughter would be applying for. The perspective for an undergrad might be very different.

I completely agree with Jeremy Brin's posting. I think developing strong communication and writing skills will help you significantly for the rest of your life. I would bet that both USC and UCLA will hone these skills a lot more than that of AAU,. Moreover, you can get a much broader base of non 3d graphic course offerings at USC/UCLA over what is offered by AAU.

Moreover, USC and UCLA both have a strong emphasis on both 2d and 3d training. If you want solely 3d training, which could be a mistake, both schools won't be right for you. I know that for grad school, most of the first year curriculum is devoted to 2d training and traditional animation techniques. This is NOT true for AAU.

One major benefit of AAU besides pricing is that you can take the courses that you need online. This isn't true for either USC or UCLA.

If I were looking at undergrad programs for my child ( for those who are looking at that) I probably would recommend either USC or UCLA over that of AAU UNLESS
You had very strong 2d drawing skills already and had very strong communication and writing skills and were absolutely sure about your desire for animation.

For grad school, you have to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses in determining the best grad school for you. If you really know what you want to do, as Leigh suggested, this would be important in evaluating grad programs. In my daughter's case, she has developed some strong 3d training as a result of taking courses at both Gnomon and Boston University's Center For Digital Arts. Thus, she needs more of the 2d training and training in story telling, story boarding etc that would probably be stronger at USC/UCLA over that of AAU.

Finally, if you research college forums and reviews for all the schools mentioned, you will see mixed reviews about AAU. I have rarely seen negative reviews for either UCLA or especially USC. This was echoed by the students that we interviewed at each school. My only complaint about both USC and UCLA is that I didn't love a lot of the student work as much as I liked AAU's student work. I don't know why this was case. Maybe the stronger 3d emphasis of AAU produces more compelling reels.

By the way, since you already have a bachelors degree, have you looked at Gnomon? It is very strong for 3d graphics and modeling. It also has an online program. Also, Ringling has arguably the strongest undergrad program in animation in the US. They will also waive all gen eds for those with a bachelor's degree. I know that you didn't ask about these options,but I just wanted to mention these schools.

One final point about USC vs. AAU vs. UCLA. If you are from California, UCLA is hands down the least expensive school unless you get some big scholarship from the other schools. If no scholarship and you are not a California Resident, AAU is the least expensive alternative. It is about 30% less expensive than USC or than UCLA ( considering their whopping out of state tuition).

As you can see, we did a LOT of research on these programs.

12 December 2011, 01:35 PM
When comparing USC, UCLA and AAU, here is my overall evaluation. Let me note that these are solely based on my opinions gleaned from my research and school visits and interviews with students. It is NOT based on some objective criteria such as US News and World Reports or Digital Age magazine etc. Your take might be different than mine.

A.. As to quality of faclilities, which includes look of buildings, computer power , number of computers, lastest software, and miscellaneous stuff such as green screens and video rooms:

1. USC hands down
2. AAU

B. As to quality of students as measured solely by the toughness of admission and percentage of acceptance/applications

2. AAU as a distant third too.

C. As to pricing

California resident
2. AAU
3. USC

D. Cost for Non- California resident

1. AAU hands down
3. USC

E. Overall reputation of school
1. USC
2. UCLA but close to USC in reputation
3. AAU

F. As to course offerings for digital animation offerings
1. AAU
3. USC, although hard to evaluate courses from course titles.

G. As for traditional work, such as 2d offerings, fine art offerings etc
1. USC *( if combined with Roski school of art)
2. AAU

H. As for posted student work that I have seen:
1. AAU
3. followed closely by USC

I can't evauate the quality of faculty, many of whom have had industry experience in all school.

Miscellaneous: AAU is for profit and thus have a less educational feel and more business/trade school feel. AAU has a lot more negative comments found in online forums than either UCLA or USC. Also, AAU is only one of three schools that allow for online class offerings. In fact, you can get your whole degree online.

Also, I didn't not rank or discuss some other major players in the industry such as Gnomon, Ringling or Sheridan Institute since you didn't ask about them and because I am not as familiar with them, although my daughter did take some Gnomon courses and loved them.

01 January 2012, 05:04 AM
I can tell you I agree with Taxmans analysis. I have been an AAU student since 2008 as an Animation & VFX MFA. I am graduating this spring as a Matte Painter/Concept Artist.
I have found that there are many great programs here, most of the teachers are phenomenal, Most of the ones I had where at ILM for the past 20+years. There have been a few bumps along the road, like loosing my thesis adviser and the poor support they have for the budding Matte Painting department. I have had many friend who are in the animation dept. and they have quite the strong teachers and impressive work. Usually the students work get better as they climb the educational ladder. They have fast and powerful computers, along with a killer render farm that can be used with most software (But not Vue). I do recommend strongly that whoever attends this school to do it physically! There is no substitution for collaboration. Online students do not receive the same support and interaction. I tried both, so I know.
Was is worth all the money I have spent? It was a slim but positive yes.
Good luck on your choice, I hope this helps :) you can pm me if you need to know anything else.

01 January 2012, 08:10 AM
Hi Shallon

thank you for helpful oreintations and suggestions.
I have searched more about AAU and I have found it a great case to achieving my goals.But I wanna Know more About Fees and Tuition .
Im not Califorinia Resident. Im international student.

After searching some great Artist suggest me these 2 univercities as the best ones :

Cal Arts Valencia, CA (

SCAD Savannah, GA (

And now I am more confused! :(

01 January 2012, 08:33 AM
Hi Taxguy

Thank you for Comprehensive information about these 3 Universities.
You have posted informations with many useful details that are very important
comparative items to select an University.

Do you have any information about Sheridan college . as I've searched, I've found it good in 2d animation.

I've asked some greate artist if they have could help me to choose a suitable University.
They've suggested :

Cal Arts Valencia, CA (

SCAD Savannah, GA (

It makes me more Confused.

01 January 2012, 07:26 PM
Sorry, I haven't visited Sheridan. Thus, I don't know much about them. They do, however, have a great reputation for their animation training.

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