VFS vs AIV vs VanArts (for VFX)

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  12 December 2010
Question Vancouver Schools: VFS vs AIV vs VanArts (for VFX)

I am applying to 3 schools in the Vancouver area for their Visual Effects programs:

  • Vancouver Film School (VFS)
  • Art Institite of Vancouver (AIV)
  • Vancouver Institute of Media Arts (VanArts)

VFS and VanArts look impressive, and AIV doesn't look too bad either (though not as strong as the other two). I have heard some good things about VFS on this forum, but I was wondering on how the three stack up against each other.

I'm from the Toronto area but it seems like the premier schools in Canada for VFX are in Vancouver (not including Sheridan, but I don't have the portfolio to get in there) so I'm taking a risk by going out there and I'd like to know (or at least have some confidence) that I'm making a good choice. Thanks.

Last edited by smd9 : 12 December 2010 at 09:40 PM.
  12 December 2010
And now there seems to be a new player coming into town by the name of Lost Boys, which also looks good (from the latest demo reel on their web site) and doesn't seem to make the choice any easier...

Last edited by smd9 : 12 December 2010 at 12:10 AM.
  12 December 2010
I haven't been inside VFS for a few years now, but they have always been pretty solid. Lost-boys is run by a guy Mark Benard. He ran the best boutique VFX shop in town before he closed the doors and opened up a school. He has a real knack for getting that final professional 'polish' to his students work that many other schools lack, and has more insight/connections to the Vancouver VFX industry than any other school owner I have met. It is certainly worth adding to your considerations anyway.
Mike Rhone
-VFX Artist-

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  12 December 2010
Thanks for the reply Mike.

I had heard good things about VFS and was impressed with their demo reels, but then I read this review by a former student who described how he basically killed himself trying to keep up with the program and was disappointed with it, and in the end still had a hard time finding a job. He didn't seem like someone who didn't have talent and/or ambition, and the comments from the review from class-mates indicate that and show how other students had similar frustrations.

Needless to say that tarnished the great impression I had of the school. The review is here .
  12 December 2010
The VFS makeup fx testimonials on the Artschool review site are interesting too. Someone was saying they made more money as a drugstore cosmetic counter salesperson in a month than they made in several months as a film fx makeup artist (someone even posted a thread on it).
There were a couple of scandals with VFS in the past--like they prominently advertised that Kevin Smith was a graduate when he actually dropped out of it.
VFS and schools like it tend to advertise as if they are doing vocational training(accounting, clerical, dental technician) and its not like that for art jobs--competitive and few. Personal initiative is important wherever you end up in school.

Last edited by kelgy : 12 December 2010 at 08:50 AM.
  12 December 2010
Thanks for your input kelgy.

Yeah I understand that personal initiative is definitely important and don't mind putting in a lot of hours on my own to make my work look great, and I also don't expect that just because I go to a school with a good reputation it guarantees my work will be awesome, but at the same time I'd want to know that the school cares about me as a student and isn't just after money (which I've heard some people say about VFS).
That's what attracts me to Lost Boys. It seems like Mark actually cares about the success of the students and takes the time to teach them what will be valuable for a career in VFX and what studios want to see, and is also proud of the students' work and success.
So for me it's now between VFS and LBL.

Now I just need to finish going through that huge thread about VFS to see what people are still saying about it and if it's worth the huge investment.
  12 December 2010
I have a friend who worked with LB and also spoke highly of the place/people.

If you do a search in the general discussion forum I *think* LB also were conducting tours of local digital fx shops and posted photos there as well as additional discussion of the program.

Last edited by kelgy : 12 December 2010 at 09:28 PM.
  12 December 2010
I'd forget about AIV, and bring to the table just VFS and lost boys, and since lost boys is a VFX specialized school, id go for that one, and their reels seem very impresive.
Imagination is more important than knowledge.

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  12 December 2010
In BC there's Lost Boys, The Art Institute of Vancouver, Vancouver Film School, VanArts, ThinkTank, and the Capilano University. It depends what you want to do in Visual Effects, as it could be anything from Roto/compositing, Lighting, Dynamics to Modeling, texturing, Matte Painting, Concept etc. That being said some of those jobs are rare as a first gig coming out of school, and some schools prepare you less for certain jobs. If you are at all interested in matte painting/concept art I'd suggest that schools like Sheridan, Toronto Academy of Realist Art or Capilano University would be the better options. For Animation it would be Sheridan or Capilano. If you want a mix of drawing/painting and 3d then AI/VanArts modeling programs likely have more to offer than VFS or especially Lost Boys. If you want a lot of 3D then check out ThinkTank. If you are mostly interested in 2D/3D VFX then Lost Boys and VFS.

If you are interested here is a vimeo reel of AI's more recent grads.
I'm not sure if VFS or VanArts have anything like this but I imagine their less amazing reels are somewhere on their websites.

Last edited by artbytravissmith : 12 December 2010 at 01:36 AM.
  12 December 2010
Originally Posted by kelgy: The VFS makeup fx testimonials on the Artschool review site are interesting too.

My wife is in that course at the moment. Its very expensive At -$30k for 1 year. She is only about 1/2 way but so far she is enjoying it. I wouldnt put too much value in one or two bad reviews from people online. Dont dismiss them completely, but dont let those reviews make up your mind for you either. From what I can tell, it seems like solid education with experienced and dedicated teachers.

But my wife does put a lot of extra work into it in her spair time. Hours and hours of practising at home.

With so many people looking for work and this being considered pretty fun work. You can imagine it attracts a ton of people and not everybody is going to find their dream job.

I think at VFS you will get your moneys worth in eeucation, but it by itself will not garantuee a good paying job.
  12 December 2010
Originally Posted by kees: My wife is in that course at the moment. Its very expensive At -$30k for 1 year.

*when I talked to a VFS makeup grad a few years back(2005) it was $10 000 for one year.
I think she ended up giving up and selling her makeup kit.

What I found revealing about the makeup testimonials was the realities of finding a job in a town where most of the work is through union controlled shoots and the sheer number of graduates coming out.
I have interviewed several local graduates of different local makeup fx schools and the surprising thing was the lack of instruction in foam latex fabrication--it was mainly either latex or gelatin.
Complexions in Ontario appeared to have the most extensive courses in country-supposedly offering detailed instruction in foam latex and animatronics(which isnt exactly in much demand thanks to digital animation but has its uses).

There is or was a local FX shop offering a specialty course in body suit and creature fx fabrication with more of a focus on foam (although silicon appliances are becoming more prominent).

I think the schools gloss over the realities of the job market to lure people-although the smart students do their research and in the case of special makeup fx, find the Effects Lab forums where professional makeup fx artists can be very open in providing information on materials and techniques.

I know of a local sculptor/mold maker trained in LA with an extensive film resume who was making $5000 per piece for maquette work at a CG animation company and he's now offering halloween mask and sculpting workshops through craigslist-I assume due to economic hardship.

I'd wager that makeup fx work is much more competitive than digital.
  12 December 2010

Originally Posted by jesse92: I'd forget about AIV, and bring to the table just VFS and lost boys, and since lost boys is a VFX specialized school, id go for that one, and their reels seem very impresive.

Yeah for me it's between Lost Boys and VFS for Visual Effects. These are my impressions of the two so far:

+Great demo reels
+Great reputation (though this may be more because they're good at marketing than the fact that they're a great school).
+Great networking opportunities
-They seem to want to get your money more than give you a great education
-Very expensive (some say too expensive for what you get since students learn a lot from each other)
-The great reels are a result of the large amount of hours the students spend on them (and also because they only show the few good reels out of the 30 or so) and not necessarily because the program there is so great.
-You don't get to own your demo reel
-Generalized at first so you don't get as much time on your particular stream as you'd like (though this could be a plus in case you change your mind about what stream you want to do).

+Run by a guy who knows the industry well and teaches you the skills you need in order to integrate well into it (in terms of VFX skills and managing workflow).
+Smaller class size so individual students get more attention
+Great demo reels of various types for each student
+Specialized in VFX so if that's what you want to do you get more time to concentrate on it.
+You get to own your demo reel
+Most of the reels are shown and not just weeding out the good ones, so that probably means that most of them are good
+Almost $8,000 cheaper than VFS
-Not as renowned as VFS
-May not get as many networking opportunities as you would at VFS
-Perhaps not as much art foundation instruction

Am I fairly accurate or way off on some points?

Last edited by smd9 : 12 December 2010 at 11:23 PM.
  12 December 2010
I attended lost boys from September 2009 to 2010, I loved the school and would recommend it to anyone who is wanting to get into VFX. Mark B. was a excellent teacher and mentor, not only do they teach the programs that are used in the field but also give you the advice regarding contracts you should take or how to know if its time to search for a new job. Its this advice that has help me to stay employed and further my currier. If you have any questions regarding my full experience at Lost Boys feel free to email me ,

Also i have never attended VFS but i would recommend talking to some students that have attended there is the past 2 years. From talking to students who attended VFS most of them had a very different experience from what is advertised.
  12 December 2010
Being someone who graduated out of Lost Boys and got a job straight out of school (actually got interviews before i even finished), I couldn't recommend them enough.

Both Mark and Gill are fantastic individuals and the one on one mentoring offered there can't be beaten by any other school i know.

As far as connections go, they know pretty much everyone in Vancouver and they will try their best to help you find a job but in the end, its your reel that counts.
If you fail the first time... So much for skydiving...

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  12 December 2010
I am another graduate of Lost Boys. I had a job interview before I graduated and started the job a week later. Mark and Gillian have created a great school that continues to evolve with the industry. You will benefit from their experience and hard work. Attending Lost Boys was worth every penny I spent.

I have no direct experience with VFS but they do appear to be very good at marketing.
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