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September 2018

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Page 37 of 43 36 POST SEPTEMBER 2018 EDUCATION tudent enrolled at education insti- tutions offering instruction in the digital arts, particularly art, animation and modeling, graduate with the expectation of being prepared for the next step in their life: The start of a career in the in- dustry. The unspoken arrangement is that students work hard, and schools provide the necessary instruction and guidance to prepare them for that journey. Schools teach students how to capital- ize on their creativity. They learn the nuts and bolts of their craft, whether that's modeling, texturing, lighting, compositing, animation, rigging or a related skill. They are taught storytelling principles. And, they are shown how to combine those skills into a final product. Nevertheless, there are areas — some tangible, some not so much — in which students often are lacking when it comes to a solid, well-rounded educa tion that will lead to future suc cess. These are issues that seem to touch many students at many schools, and are not confined to a particular institution. NEW TO ACADEMIC RIGOR Marilynn "Max" Almy, dean of Savannah College of Art and Design's (SCAD's) School of Digital Media, observes that, in general, students are new to academic rigor. "Their lack of experience about what it takes to succeed in the industry and in their careers may be evident. However, they make up for that in time, with prepa- ration and experience, to launch their careers," she says. SCAD tries to remedy this problem by providing real-world experiences for its students. "The students work on real proj- ects with the demands and timetables of working with real clients. They often work in teams, where they learn to communi cate effectively and collaborate collectively," Almy points out Moreover, SCAD has many career advisors who make sure that stu- dents are fully prepared with career training, great port folios, Websites and resumes, and then help usher them into exciting intern- ships and jobs at major companies. Derek Flood, associate direc tor of visual effects for Academy of Art University's Animation and Visual Effects Education, agrees that real-world experi- ence is a necessity. He believes that students coming straight out of school often lack the practical real-world experi- ence to handle demands of a produc tion, including the ability to work on a team and under a deadline. "For this reason, we have developed what we call 'StudioX,' which are a series of advanced-level classes that em ulate a production environment, but are facul- ty-mentored," Flood says. In these classes, students work on actual shows, with real deadlines, and encoun ter real problems and challenges that surface during the course of making a film. Here, the stu- dents learn how to work together as a team, how to work well under pressure and how to creatively solve problems. "The work that comes out of these class- es speaks for itself. But beyond that," Flood says, "the experience the students gain in these StudioX classes (where the X stands for experi ence) has been tremendously important in preparing them to be ready to transition from school into a studio job." Pete Bandstra, program director of 3D Arts at Full Sail University, says there are three main factors all students need in order to be successful: the abil ity to work with others, a strong portfolio and a strong work eth ic. The latter, he says, can carry an individual a long way in life and make them a valuable asset to any production house. IMAGINATION AND PROCESS While all the schools inter viewed here ac- knowledge the importance of teamwork and real-world structure, others main tain that process is of utmost importance, too. Jazno Francoeur, program director, Bachelor of Fine Arts in Digital Art and Animation at DigiPen, is one of them. When asked what students today seem to be lacking in terms of their education at any given school, Francoeur responds, "That is a difficult question, as the answer will vary greatly depending on the type of student and institution. For instance, many vocational/tech schools will only instruct a student in the nuts and bolts of a craft, but will not provide a varied curriculum with general education classes germane to their passion, nor will there be continuity between courses." Any art/animation program worth its salt, according to Francoeur, will have a serious foundation that addresses skills such as perspective and anatomy, as every traditional discipline can be extrapolated to the digital world. "For instance, if we note that our students are struggling with 3D lighting, the initial remedy is not to double up on the technical issues with the soft- ware, but to look further upstream in the foundation year and address the problem as it relates to hand skills and theory." As Francoeur points out, the hardest thing to teach is pro cess, since technical knowledge is readily accessible online — many companies, such as Autodesk, have granular tutorials available for free, which means that anyone who is self-moti vated can learn the interface and functionality of a program. "This is why we are software agnostic at DigiPen and do not put faith in the tool insomuch as using the tool." Process, as DigiPen sees it, entails a few specific areas: investigation (relevant and actionable research), inspiration (how to iterate thumb-nailing and sketching based on that research), execution (how those designs evolve into polished, professional assets) and innovation (the added value that makes the work uniquely appealing or technologically groundbreaking). "It's not uncommon for new artists to underestimate the importance of the first two categories, as they are eager to jump straight into the software," Francoeur says. Also vital is the ability to take risks. "I always push the impor tance of a posi- tive attitude and a fearless confidence in taking on the unknown. Most students like to stay with known quantities, but that's the opposite of inno vation," says Mark Henne, pro gram director of DigiPen's MFA program in Digital Arts. "Students need to learn that there is no wasted knowledge. It all adds up toward creating as whole. And the question of 'Why do I have to learn this?' is reflective of not understand- ing how subjects are interrelated. Having this attitude [of risk taking] is import- ant because that's what will keep them interested and creating new things. In the working world, those with this quality are the ones who find opportunity." Bobby Beck, CEO and co founder of the online animation school Animation Mentor, be lieves that imagination is often missing in most student work. "When you give an assignment like [animating] a heavy lift, you tend to see the same heave lift of a box over and over. What we try to teach our students is there are a PREPARING FOR A CAREER BY KAREN MOLTENBREY SCHOOLS WEIGH IN ON WHAT IT TAKES TO FIND SUCCESS AFTER GRADUATION S

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