View Full Version : masters in animation

08 August 2009, 08:11 PM
Hey guys,

I need some advice on furthering my education. I read the forum a lot. I tried to find an answer to my situation, but I would appreciate any further advice.

I got a bachelors from my local state school, majored in digital art and minored in architecture. I've been working in architectural illustration and animation for the last two years, and I feel comfortable with 3d software and overall illustration, but still lack specific anatomy and other "character design" skills.

I want to be an animator for the film industry, but my animation skills are quite limited and very basic.

I want a masters degree because I want to teach sometime in my future.

I would also enjoy developing skills in character design and illustration, but I'm sure I can do this on my own.

Here are some things I've come up with.

I've looked into calarts experimental animation, but I feel this program assumes I know how to animate already.

I'm also considering getting my masters in something completely different, like industrial design or illustration, while simultaneously completing something like animation mentor.

I'd be willing to get another bachelors in animation at a school like sva, where I could develop those skills and finish the masters afterwards, but this puts me at 5 to 6 years of additional school.

I took a few classes at SVA last year during my spare time after work, and I really felt that the student body was very one sided, as we were all artists in an art school and a lot of us had very similar experiences and views. I feel my experience at the state school provided a bit more variety as there were influences from vastly different majors. What I'm getting at is that I would prefer a university like usc over an art school like sva.

That being said, I'll go to any school if thats what it takes. Sometimes you can't find everything all in one place. I'll post this over on cgtalk and see what those guys have to say.

Any advice you guys can cook up will help me a lot.
Thanks in advance.

08 August 2009, 08:58 PM
You will have a bit of a dilemma here as film industry animator doesn't quite come packaged with an master's degree anywhere.

Fortunately there is now animationmentor which is probably going to give you your best shot.

If your desire is to eventually become a professor at an accreditated public/private university then you're going to have to obtain a masters as you know. I don't think teaching at places like gnomon, am, or full sail type schools require a masters degree.

First off I would recommend you not spend too much or put yourself in a lot of debt obtaining your masters. If all you are interested is in obtaining a degree to teach, it doesn't matter too much where your degree is from. Although some schools can be notorious for hiring first from within their own graduates.

If you do want to obtain your masters from a top school that will also provide you excellent instruction in design and traditional art, (and money is no object) then take a look at SF Acad and Art Center.

CalArts experimental requires you have a strong voice and vision for your films. If you are interested in becoming an animated film maker and story aspects, this may be a good program. Just don't expect them to train your animation skills to be industry ready.

USC and other such 4 yr universities would be poor choices for animation, illustration and most things art related, although if you are interested in live action film making USC is a good choice to supplement your education.

I would not recommend obtaining another bachelors if your aim is to get a masters for teaching, unless you have both money and time to burn.

08 August 2009, 10:42 PM
Hey thanks for your knowledge.

I was on another forum, and someone suggested that academy of arts masters program could have those animation skills packed in as well. Any thoughts on this?

Basically I do need that piece of paper so I can teach in the future, but I also want to spend that time learning something that will complement my interests. Those are animation, concept art and design, and environmental art and design. So if I'm unlikely to find a masters program that can educate me in animation, is it a good idea to find a program in illustration or industrial design or something, then supplement with animation mentor?


08 August 2009, 11:02 PM
What about RITs mfa?

08 August 2009, 11:44 PM
Well, you would get some animation training at Acad, but probably not quite to the level where it would be easy to make the jump to the film industry.

Animation is different beast from concept design/art. One is more similar to fine art and industrial design requiring more finish to your pieces, while the other is about motion, emotion and acting which emphasizes movement and gesture.

I suggested Acad and Art Center because you seem more interested in traditional art and design skills and both schools are strong in those areas. RIT I believe puts more emphasis on the technical side of CG, and you may find the art training lacking.

The risk of tackling both concept art/environment training at the same time as animation training is that you may come out not quite as good as if you focused all your energies on one area. The benefit of course is you will have wider breadth which may open up more empoymen opportunities.

08 August 2009, 01:22 PM
I believe that when forsakendreams cited the SF Acad he meant Academy of Art University in San Francisco,. Maybe he can clarify this.

Foresakendreams also recommended Art Center. I looked at their site and, although they had some very interesting undergraduate programs related to animation, I didn't see any graduate program in animation. They had Art, Media Design ( which seems like web design) and Broadcast Media ( which is more akin to film making). You should check out their school's curriculum for yourself, Maybe I missed something.

You should also check out Savannah College of Art and Design ( SCAD), SVA, Pratt Institute and UCLA. Particularly check out NYU's CADA program. USC and UCLA does seem better than foresakendreams noted,but you would need a strong background in animation before you go to either place.

Frankly,unless someone attended a school, no one here knows how good a school is or isn't. We are all going by hearsay and reputation. For example, Academy of Art DOES give a lot of animation training with industry professionals when I looked at them several years ago.

The problem is that schools change over time There was some rumor that a number of professors,who also worked at Pixar, left AAU. Again, I don't know if this is true, which is why you need to visit the school. Likewise, when I visited RIT, I got the feeling that they offered much more than technical training,which is what Foresakendreams noted. However, I wasn't that interested in researching their animation program at the time, so I didn't investigate it enough.

08 August 2009, 02:44 PM
If you're interested in staying in NYC you should look into Pratt, NYU and SVA. They all have very good MFA programs. The MFA programs at these schools might not be called computer animation, but they all have programs that focus on 3D. At Pratt the program is in the Department of Digital Arts. At NYU there's CADA and ITP.

The good thing about these schools is they all employ some adjunct professors who work in the industry in the NYC area, so you learn techniques from people working in the field, but there's also a strong focus on concept and creativity. There's a lot of really great work coming out of all these schools.

If your goal is to eventually get an MFA so you can teach, then it makes no sense to get a second BFA. Just do the MFA.

Your thoughts on the difference in the experience you'll get at a university vs an art school makes more sense for a bachelors degree than a masters. To be honest, you'll be so focused on your work in an MFA program that you won't have time to interact with all those people from different majors. And usually in MFA programs you don't have time to take courses outside the major.

08 August 2009, 06:10 PM
Hey guys, thanks for the advice. I really do appreciate it. I think NYU Pratt and SVA are great options, but I'm worried about cost of living. I really pay quite a bit now to be in the city. I think I'm leaning towards applying for schools for next fall, so it should give me some time to brush up my animation skills. I'll keep you updated. Thanks again.

Thanks for following up Taxguy.

08 August 2009, 07:13 PM
I believe that when forsakendreams cited the SF Acad he meant Academy of Art University in San Francisco,. Maybe he can clarify this.

yes, acad = academy of art sf / AAC / AAU

I suggested both ACAD and AC for their strong traditional art classes and not for their animation programs since it seems nemotoad is interested in character design and illustration.
For animation, one would be hard pressed to find a better training program than animation mentor, especially for the connections it builds with film/vfx industry animators. Pixar animators haven't taught Acad classes for a while, they left to start AM instead.

Schools such as UCLA, USC, NYU and Pratt focus more on filmmaking rather than the art of animation. Depending on the institution, you may find yourself spread thin across many areas with passing knowledge in storyboarding, layout, animation, lighting, compositing, interactive web, game design, modeling, etc. With possibly one class covering each specific subject, such schools are generally hard-pressed to find qualified instructors in every discipline. You could end up with a texture artist teaching lighting, or a layout person teaching animation, and most commonly, recent graduate students teaching everything. That is the core of the problem with most graduate programs, particularly for students coming in expecting industry level training. What they receive instead is a shotgun approach to many areas, which ultimately cumulates as a thesis project.

Some programs will emphasize group projects and others focus on individual projects.

But the proof as they say is in the pudding, so be sure to check out the work of the students in the program to see if it is to the quality and style of work you are interested in producing.

some of the aforementioned pudding...

08 August 2009, 06:34 AM

Thanks a bunch for listing all these. Even knowing about them, I had a hard time finding their sites, as their parent sites are not the most user friendly. Many Thanks.

08 August 2009, 08:59 PM
One thing that should be kept in mind are the connections of those schools. Schools like Cal Arts, Art Center and USC all have pretty tight connections with their respective industries. Since you seem to want to go into film animation, its time to move to where film animation is done and get connected, if you can afford it.

08 August 2009, 02:37 AM
Do you think a school like SVA won't have similar connections to say USC? I honestly have no idea as they both say they place their students with the same companies, and both their student reels are quite good.

08 August 2009, 06:49 PM
I doubt that there is that much difference in the quality of education. But from what I've seen, proximity and connections count, even these days. For example, it's much easier to get a job or internship at Dreamworks if you already live in L.A. Your connections may be through the local Siggraph chapter, or school alumni or other ways.

As a project, you might do some searches on the internet, construct a list of the people who you consider as "giants" in the industry. Find out where they went, and go there.

08 August 2009, 07:43 PM
I'll do that,

Thanks a lot for the advice!

08 August 2009, 10:53 PM
I don't have anything against usc, but here's some threads in particular about usc animation I've found revealing:

As usual, take everything online with large lumps of salt!

Things are definitely easier if the close you move to your desired industry.

08 August 2009, 03:39 AM
I'm talking with a couple of USC and UCLA guys. To be frank I'm kind of leaning towards UCLA's program. They seem very keen on story telling and critical thinking. I think supplemented with animation mentor, it'll prove to be a great influence on me. Thank you again Forsaken, you've been very helpful.


08 August 2009, 06:13 PM
That sounds like a good plan. Do make sure to ask the students you talk to about the average time to obtain the degree, many Masters students often find this dragging out to twice as many years as advertised, and similar costs associated with the longer length to finishing. Also ask about the type of course requirements, the classes themselves, and what the most common alumni industry connection is (film, vfx, tv, web, etc). Usc and Ucla are reknowned for their live action departments in producing, directing, etc, check out that component also, but make sure you will be well fed art-wise too in terms of strong traditional training. Good luck.

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