Education/career advice needed

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  02 February 2013
Education/career advice needed


I've recently got into CG and hope to make it my full time profession in the near future. However, I'm stuck in terms of knowing what's best for me education wise. I don't have any qualifications in any CG related subjects. I saw a tutor today about applying for a masters in visual effects. He said some of my 3D work was better than some of the students' work on the BA course for animation, but that I should also look to build up a portfolio of traditional drawing and painting.

There's various options besides universities. For example, Escape Studios in London which does seem like a really benificial option.

I've come to realise that what the employer looks for is a really great showreel that showcases your best abilities. Ideally I'd like to be part of asset/environment creation in a studio such as Double Negative, The Mill, or Framestore in the UK (seems like a long shot, I know!).

If you have any experience regarding educational difficulties please contact me! Also, if you have any advice as to what I should/could do next, that would be great too.

  02 February 2013
Ultimately, it comes down to how you prefer to learn. Some people thrive in fast-paced, intensive courses while others benefit more from longer courses, like degrees. Bearing in mind that studios are not generally fussed about qualifications (although if you ever plan to work abroad they come in useful for work permits), the most important thing is your reel - if you feel that the best way to get your reel up to scratch is through formal studies, then that's what you'll have to do.

I don't personally know anyone (as far as I am aware) who went to Escape Studios but my understanding is that their courses are suitable for people who already have a basic skillset but want to ramp it up quickly. Considering you've said that you only recently got into CG, this may mean that they're not the most ideal option for you yet. On the flip side, you mentioned that you were looking at a master's degree - a master's is probably overkill; you could easily learn enough over in a bachelor's program, if indeed you opt for the university route.

Having worked at DNeg and Framestore myself, I can tell you that their standards are pretty high and you'll need to demonstrate a very thorough mastery of at least one specialisation, with DNeg tending to hire people who have a broad skillset in addition to a particular specialisation (so for example, if you want to do modelling, it'd help if you can also do texturing and lookdev). You didn't mention MPC, the other big Soho studio, who have also been increasingly hiring people who do both modelling and texturing in their asset departments, although they do still employ a number of people who do only one thing in their job role in the asset department too.
  02 February 2013
Originally Posted by leigh: Ultimately, it comes down to how you prefer to learn.

Hi, Leigh

Thanks for the informative response. I think you're right in saying a masters is probably going to be overkill. However, I should've mentioned that I'm about to complete a BA in music and I'm not really into the idea of doing another 3 years at university. I will phone a guy who works with Escape this week to see if he thinks I'd be ready for one of their courses.

What position did you have at DNeg/Framestore? I'm guessing your showreel was pretty hot stuff?

Again, thanks for the reply.
  02 February 2013
I'm currently attending Vancouver Film School and I'm having a blast. I'm currently doing there Entertainment Business Management course and sure, nothing is perfect, but I really enjoy it. It's great instructors who are from the industry them self and are also great in teaching to the students. The school is all about business, but they want to keep there reputation, which means they are listening to there students, if a instructors comes in and he is no good, he disappears within 2-4months time.

I have a lot of friends who are attending there 3D animation and visual effects course, same thing there, the instructors are from the industry and/or they know people from the industry and have high standards.

A warning! The 3D course is VFS popularity course and is one of the most expensive one as well. But! the school is a business, use the school, talk to people and start building connections, that's how you get your connections and that's how you make your intuition worth the time to pay it back. And god damn it, it's only one year, if you have someone giving you a hard time, family or friends, tell them to back of, since you paid A LOT of money to create your future and you don't want someone pushing you down.

AND you are paying for VFS reputation, what I hear at some places here in Vancouver that all the people from VFS ends on top of the pile of people searching for a job.

and if you are interesting in 3D, not specific Visual Effects, then consider Think Tank

Small classes, great location, good instructors, they work more as an family and really take care of there students. Even had an instructor from VFS telling that Think Tank is a good school. It cost less then VFS, specially for me who is from Sweden. They are not as good in the special effect area as VFS 3D animation and visual effect course.

if you have any questions, feel free to ask =)
  02 February 2013
It depends on what you want

It depends on what you want
Honestly there are a LOT of strongVFX programs,;however, they have a different emphases.
For example, Gnoman, which is quite good, specialized in modeling; however, this is a trade school. You don't get a degree.

SCAD has a two strong interconnected program in sequential art and 2d or 3d, VFX and even sound design that is given in both BS and MFA programs.

School of Visual Arts have strong 2d and 3d offerings given in both BS and MFA

Ringling has a very strong 3d program as a BS only

CalArts is very well known for its BS in animation , which is primarily 2d, although they are offering more 3d offerings. CalArts offers undergrad in character animation and experimental animation. They have a MFA in experimental only

USC and UCLA has both a BS and MFA in animation and is modeled after that of CalArts

Leguna College of Art and Design has only an undergraduate program in animation,but they have strong liberal arts too.

MICA has purportedly a strong undergrad animation program ,which is primarily 2d.
RISD has a strong 2d animation undergraduate only program.

RIT has both undergrad and grad programs in both 2d and 3d animation.

Acadamy of Art University in Sanfrancisco,which has both undergrad and grad programs in 2d and 3d animation.
Moreover, this isn't a complete list. You have Rowan university, Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY, Columbus College of Art and Design, California College of Art (CCA), DePaul University, Rennsselaer Polytachnic Institute ( which is very technical), Emerson College,which has an undergrad program only, Ohio State ( don't know much about their program), Parson, The New School of Design, FIT ( even though known for fashion, they have a good animation program as an undergrad), NYU Tisch School for undergrad only, Minneapolis College of Art and Design undergrad only, Carnegie Melon grad program in entertrainment design, Digipen in Seattle, etc

Also, the geography of the school determines their emphases. Generally west coast schools have making movies in mind. East coast schools, especially those in Manhattan, have commercials and advertising agency work as their emphasis

If you want to emphasize concept art, you might want to look at majoring in illustrat

Last edited by taxguy : 02 February 2013 at 02:05 PM.
  02 February 2013
Taxguy, I don't think you noticed that the OP is from Britain, not the US ;-)
  02 February 2013
Woops, you are right

Sorry, I didn't realize the OP was from Britain. In that case, I would have made other suggestions such as Bournemouth University, Royal College of Art. Here is a list of UK schools that have animation programs:

  • Kingston University
  • University of Bournemouth
  • University of Derby
  • London Metropolitan University
  • West London College
  • University of Sunderland
  • University of Ulster
  • Sheffield Hallam University
  • University of Glamorgan
  • University of Abertay Dundee
  • Leeds Metropolitan University
  • University of Northumbia
  • University of Huddersfield
  • Thames Valley University
  • University of the West of England, Bristol
  • University of East London
  • University of Salford
  • University of Dundee
  • University of Portsmouth
  • Royal College of Art
  • National Film and Television School, London, England

    Some other schools that do have animation programs are:
  • Leeds Metropolitan University : MSc in computer animation tech
  • De Montfort University in Leicester , UK has a BA in Animation Design
  • University of Salford, Salford , UK has a MSc in Animation and Virtual Environments
  • Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen , UK has a BSc ( Hons) in Computer Graphics and Animation
  • Swansea Metropolitan University, Swansea, UK has a BA (Hons) in 3d Computer Animation
  • Bangor University has a MRes Advanced Visualization, Virtual Environments and Computer Animation.
  • University of East London has a BA (Hons) Animation
  • University of Glasgow has a one year program in Animation
  • University of Greenwich has a 3 year program leading to a BA (Hons) in 3d-Digital Design and Animation.
  • Sheffield Hallam University has a MA animation for Computer Games grad program.
  • University of the West of Scotland, in Paisley, UK has a BA/BSc in computer animation with options in Digital Art
  • Staffordshire University has a BA (Hons) in stop motion Animation and Puppet-making
  • University of Teesside, Tees Valley, UK has a BSc (Hons) in Animation and Visual Effects Programming.
This should give you a good idea of what is available. Since I don't know about most of the programs , you need to check them out.

Last edited by taxguy : 02 February 2013 at 07:59 PM.
  02 February 2013
Originally Posted by BlueInGreen: Hi, Leigh

Thanks for the informative response. I think you're right in saying a masters is probably going to be overkill. However, I should've mentioned that I'm about to complete a BA in music and I'm not really into the idea of doing another 3 years at university. I will phone a guy who works with Escape this week to see if he thinks I'd be ready for one of their courses.

What position did you have at DNeg/Framestore? I'm guessing your showreel was pretty hot stuff?

Again, thanks for the reply.

Aah I can see why another few years at uni isn't something you're keen on. Just be careful with speaking to folks at schools, as they might try a hard sell on you. Like I said, Escape's courses, to the best of my knowledge, are relatively advanced. You might want to investigate online courses or even just getting a subscription with a tutorial site to learn on your own for a while.

I'm a senior level texture painter, and that was my job at both DNeg and Framestore. I've been in the industry a long time so my reel is pretty much standard feature VFX fare. Not really "hot stuff" as such, just a demonstration of my experience, which is pretty normal at my level.
  02 February 2013
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