Would doing a Masters in Computer Animation & Digital Special Effects be beneficial?

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  03 March 2010
Would doing a Masters in Computer Animation & Digital Special Effects be beneficial?

I'm currently studying Computer Animation & Digital Special Effects at undergraduate level. I've recently been looking for a placement year (which i have since decided not to take) and have found it very difficult to find any companies with employment opportunities for internships/graduate students and so began to think about a masters degree to further my study, knowledge and skills in my chosen area.
I really enjoy the Film editing/special effects side of my course as well as the 3D character modeling and animation and I was wondering if anyone knew of how worthwhile a Master's Degree in this area would be. I really dislike the programming aspects, i have found it very difficult to grasp any knowledge in computer programming, I am much more of an Art/Design person. Obviously i understand you can only get out what you put in, i am willing to do this, i am just concerned about the financial strain and if it is worth it to further my future career possibilities.

Would anyone also be able to advise me of the best Universities for this course, to look into. I've read a lot about Animation courses at Bournemouth which seem to have many fantastic reviews.

I am also very interested in studying in America, does anyone know if this would be more/less beneficial and which Universities there i should be looking into?

I would really appreciate any help/opinions that can be given. Many thanks.
  03 March 2010
Animation is a very specialized field. You don't really come across professional animators who are also professional modelers. The reason is that animation is just as deep a field as modeling. I've seen plenty of colleges here in the US that give out degrees for programs that teach animation, rigging, modeling, lighting, and scripting, all in one program. But you know what you get out of those courses? Nothing practical. Even medium sized studios won't hire jack of all trades just for the sake of it. My first piece of advice: pick one field and stick with it. Master it, learn everything about it. Remember that in the job market you'll be competing with the best modelers or animators in the world. You cannot go into your field of study half-assedly and expect a good job at the end of it. Do not fall into the trap of spreading yourself too thin based on the assumption that, the more generalized you are, the better your odds are at getting a job.

Second piece of advice: I don't know how it is with modeling, but animation studios couldn't care less about your degree. A degree only says that you can commit to a course of study. It says nothing at all about your talent, and the talent is what's important. Whether or not you have a degree is the last thing employers look at when hiring an animator. Now, with modeling, it might be slightly different. I've seen jobs at some studios that require degrees in things like architecture or mechanical engineering (depending upon the specific position, of course). Even so, I doubt that if you, without a degree, submit a demo reel that is spectacularly more amazing than someone else's who has a degree, that they will hire him over you. Unless it's something purely technical, like if you're actually going to be building models that will be used in real-world applications. But, in the entertainment or advertising fields, it's still raw creative talent that counts. So, second piece of advice: look into it some more if you're going to be a modeler, but for animators, it's worthless (and sometimes a detriment) which leads me to number 3.

You can find other threads in this forum about people complaining about the 3D education (at least in the US, but I think it also applies in general), but I'll try to sum it up here. It tends to be crap, plain and simple. The reason is that most places offering courses in 3D stuff are, at the end of the day, in it for the money. The complaints in the threads I mentioned range from the teachers not giving feedback, to the teachers promising students that all they need is a degree to get a job (which is absolutely untrue), etc. It goes on and on. If you're spending several thousand dollars to go to into a school's 3D program, you would expect that, by the end of it, you'll be a master of the craft, and have a kickass demo reel. Sadly, that's not true. This one might be the most important and kind of summarizes my other pieces of advice. Go to a school that is renowned for whatever program you're looking for. If you want to go into animation, look at schools like CalArts, VFS, Sheridan, or Animation Mentor (what I'm going into ). For modeling, check out Gnomon. Search around and do a lot of research. Don't pick a school because it's cheap, or even because it's expensive. As a great tip, see if you can find some of the students' demo reels from whatever school you're looking at. If the reels are generally bad, well, then what does that tell you about the school?

- Don't become a jack-of-all-trades expecting that to get you a job. It won't. Pick your favorite aspect of 3D and hone it, and become the best in the world at it.

- A degree, at least in character animation, is probably the thing an employer thinks about the least. It's talent, talent, talent. A degree doesn't give you talent. (Though, some studios still require you to have some sort of certification that you went through a program, but any animation school I can think of hands those out. And the ones that are considered the best are sometimes the ones that don't hand out degrees at all, only certificates.)

- Research your school in the same way you would shop around for a new house. Just because a school is really expensive doesn't make it good. The best teachers will criticize your work often, rather than just patting you on your head and saying "good job "
  03 March 2010
Thanks for your reply. Many interesting points i will be thinking about.

A lot of what you've said applies to me. I'm in my second year of my undergraduate degree and have barely enough work for a demo reel at all. I don't feel i have had the support from my tutors that i need and will come out of my course with a degree, but only basic knowledge and understanding of animation.

I have looked into VFS, they do a year long 3D Animation & Visual Effects Programme and a 6month Advanced Digital Character Animation, both look fantastic programmes. I think it may be a good idea for me to do something like this if i can, to further my knowledge and skills in a specific area. Both of these courses are so expensive, but the demo reels by students who have completed those courses, are fantastic. I want to go into the entertainment side of Animation for Film, TV, Advertisement etc. and these courses at VFS look directed towards that.

I'll continue my research baring in mind all the advice you have given, thanks again!
  03 March 2010
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