Post Magazine

February 2010

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36 Post • February 2010 E mployers in our industry are looking for candidates that come out of 3D programs ready for production," says David Della-Rocca, Autodesk's education in- dustry and business development manager for media & entertainment. "As a technology provider with a heavy focus on grooming the next generation of 3D digital artists, we sit in between the education and production com- munities. We bring these parties together to identify challenges to the 'production-readi- ness' goal and come up with solutions." While the goal remains consistent, the challenges of achieving it morph at a rapid pace. Della-Rocca shares with Post some of the issues and trends that are top-of-mind for educators, studios and Autodesk. "With the fast growth of 3D, there's a need for professional development to build the instructor base," he says. "There is also a need to better equip instructors to address industry requirements quickly and to update programs more frequently as things change." Another challenge to turning out pro- duction-ready graduates is what "produc- tion ready" really means. "There is really no globally accepted baseline competency yet," says Della-Rocca, noting that Autodesk is working with educators and the industry to establish some measurable baseline guides. A change in students' learning styles is also driving new approaches to 3D educa- tion. "The current crop of students learns and interacts with material ver y differently than previous generations," says Della-Rocca. G E T R E A DY For its part, Autodesk invests in resources, tools and ongoing programs to help educa- tors deliver production-ready graduates to a hungry animation and VFX community. Pete Bandstra, director of the computer animation and game arts programs at Full Sail University ( in Winter Park, FL, shared his institution's approach to the "production ready" challenge. "We staff our team with production veterans. I don't accept the adage that 'those who can't do, teach.' My adage is,'those who can, teach here.'" Full Sail, like most 3D education institu- tions, has an active advisory board made up of industr y pros from studios like Blue Sky Studios,Turbine Games, Raven and ILM."That gives us a nice diversity across visual effects, gaming, broadcast and film, and helps us see a bit into the future. We're able to continually bring relevant production knowledge into the classroom, both on campus and online." Bandstra's staff also taps into Autodesk's Online Education Community and suppor t materials to aid in professional develop- ment. With programs that run in month- long sessions, Full Sail is able to quickly inte- grate curriculum changes. Greg Berridge, head instructor of Van- couver Film School's ( digital character animation program, offers some insights: "An animator needs to know a little bit about many things.We provide a founda- tion aspect that includes modeling and tex- turing as they relate to animation." Berridge has been teaching at Vancouver Film School for 10 years."I've seen a dramatic change in the student population. They're much more computer savvy, and many of them come in with some Maya experience." One of those students is Thiago Mar tins, an '09 graduate of Vancouver Film School's digital character animation program."About a month before I started at VFS I downloaded a Maya trial from Autodesk's Website. I had been using 3DS Max for years but I didn't know Maya. Having a chance to get to learn the interface beforehand was really useful." During the six-month program, Mar tins conceived, created and produced the ani- mated shor t Saloon. He's currently working at Sao Paulo-based VFX studio Magma. Vancouver Film School also taps into Autodesk's Subscription Ser vice, which of- fers no-cost DVDs, books, podcasts and other material for professional develop- ment. "A lot of that information seeps into my lessons," notes Berridge. Over at Vancouver Institute of Media Arts (,VP of faculty & business development Larry Bafia, gives his perspec- tive: "We treat classrooms like they're stu- dios. It's all about practice time and focus." In terms of industry changes impacting 3D education, Bafia notes, "Technology has al- lowed a broader range of animation — any- thing from chipmunks to Transformers to Gollum. There's nothing that can't be ap- proached. That calls for different animation skills. We're focused on making ar tists more marketable by training their eyes and learning to focus on solving problems in animation. "The toolsets available now empower ar tists to attack any look they want. Tools are also more accessible — not just in terms of cost, but in the availability of good tutorials. The time it takes for students to get over the learning curve has gone down." Belinda Fung, a recent graduate of Van- Arts' Visual Effects program, shares that phi- losophy, on the flip side. As a compositor freelancing at Vancouver's Anthem VFX, she found that having 3D skills made her an effi- cient employee. "All of the shots are done through teamwork. It's impor tant that I know 3D to be able to communicate with ar tists in other depar tments. It saves time for the studio, and it helps my creativity." To aid in pro development, Bafia taps into the knowledge base Autodesk provides. "I have a back-and-for th relationship with David [Della-Rocca] and his team. He sends me materials and ideas to vet, and I get his opinion when we're considering develop- ment in courses." Students at work in VanArts' Autodesk Maya lab. 3D programs get students ready for the real world. Preparing for production readiness Full Sail's Pete Bandstra on how they get students ready for real-world work: "We staff our team with production veterans."

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