Thursday, June 14, 2007

Visual Effects Schools

[For anyone considering visual effects school please check out this article:
VFX in Los Angeles – 100 hour weeks & homeless  Puts things in perspective. ]

For those with questions about possible schools for visual effects I've had no direct experience with visual effects classes but thought I'd list a few here.
I know there are quite a few others world-wide so don't look at this list as the only available source of training.
(Note that I'm not making any endorsements - good or bad)

As I note in my VFX Career posting/podcast you don't necessarily have to go to an official school to work in visual effects.

[Update: I urge you to first check out the VFX Career posting if you haven't already. Is Visual Effects truly what you want to do and are you willing to do the work and accept the risk? Getting a job and keeping employed in VFX is not easy. Many schools (including for profit vfx schools) continue to pump out many more graduates than the vfx industry can hire. And a lot depends on timing and where you are located.

Important: Do not go into massive debt to get schooling for visual effects. School itself is a good thing but these days many people are racking up huge debts of $60,000 or more and not finding a job afterward. There are no guarantees of jobs from any school. The competition is stiff. If you just wish to be educated regarding just visual effects there are alternatives. Books, DVDs, online, etc.]

Update 6/26/2013 Don't go to art school

[Update: 7-21-12 NBC recently did an investigation into For Profit Schools, among those was Art Institute.  Here's the video.  Many For Profit Schools focus on signing up as many students as possible without regard to how suitable those students are. They're push the students to get government loans to pay for the schools at at very high cost. End result is the students go greatly into debt and may not be able to get the jobs as expected. The interest rates can be very high so they end yup paying the rest of their lie and ruining their lives. And NBC has an article how student loans mimic the housing collapse in this article here.  The key issue here is to know what you're getting into.  Visual Effects companies do not require degrees for most positions. They require people who know what they are doing and can do it well. As mentioned consider lower cost alternatives if you don't plan to go to a full college (or have finished college) and certainly if you can't afford to pay $100,000 or more for school. There are qualified online classes much cheaper.

Here's photo of a poster at a high school:

Another article on for profit schools

[Update: 12-21-13 


It's important to check the range and detail of classes they offer.
How much hands on experience do the teachers have?
How much hands on experience do the student get?
Do you want a full college experience (along with a degree) or do you want more of a technical school?
Do they have internships at companies or any placement services?

Make sure to do a search for reviews and opinions of others.

Of course there are universities and colleges expanding their film classes
to include some visual effects and animation classes.
The range and depth of classes at these film schools may not be as great as some of the others.
Chapman University
Sheridan Institue

I do know people who teach or run some of the programs at the following schools:
Savannah College of Art and Design
School of Visual Arts
Academy of Art
Gnomon 3D
Expression College

Others I've seen advertised:

Vancouver Film School

[Update 8/24/2012 based on info from some recruiters regarding current full schools.
These are some of the key physical schools they find good potential employees.
Please note that these aren't the only schools with good programs but tend to produce more students suitable to different areas.
In no particular order:

Technical Directors, R&D and pipeline development:
University of PA, Carnegie MellonTexas A&MOhio State, Univ of Toronto

Character animation, visual development, story, modeling:
San Jose State (very good), RinglingCal ArtsArt Center Pasadena, Goeblins (for non-US companies )

Schools that aren't as specialized
SVA, SCAD, Art Academy SF, Sheridan, Filmakademie (for non-US companies )

Companies also tend to cover local colleges if they provide reasonable education.

For online classes: - Inexpensive. Good for started class on a wide range of things -Photoshop, Nuke, Photography, Editing, etc. (Lynda worked for me at Dream Quest heading up the animation department. For $25 a month you get a lot of value for your money.)

Gnomon - They have both a physical school and online school

fxphd  - Nuke, Mari, Fusion, Silhouette, Maya, DSLR storytelling, Supervising, etc.  Very in-depth classes specializing in visual effects.  I recently was involved in a class they did on practical effects and visual effects.

Digital Tutors is a another site that does online Vfx training. Here's their post about demo reels.

New one:  Technical Director U. Lighting, compositing, rigging. Future matte ptg, storyboards, cloth, etc.

Stan Winston School - Focuses on character and creature design. Includes CG and practical markup class.

Video Copilot - After Effects online tutorials

From Readers:
Another school to add to your list is, an online character animation school where all the teachers a working studio animators. Check it out on the web. The school has had great success placing students--more then 50% graduate to studio animation jobs.

For online VFX learning (or in site if you are in San Francisco) i´d also add , run by ex-ILM-er Alex Lindsay.

Another great site for online VFX learning is PixelboxAcademy.Net. I am enrolled on their 'VFX Compositing' online course and it's being really cool.

An excellent online VFX training school/community i highly recommend is fxphd.
They offer excellent courses and acces to high quality footage for a low price.

And there are a wealth of DVDs and Books available. Do an internet search or check the Effects Corner Store.

Another view on VFX schools from vfxhack VFX School Confidential.

Update 8/3/2010
Some other schools have been added to comments since this was first posted so I'm adding those along with a few other notes.

Just a reminder that these days VFX can be a difficult area to find work, especially consistent work.  Much also depends where you live.  Do a reality check by checking the various vfx company websites and vfx recruiting sites to see what types of jobs are available, where they are and what the requirements are.

The National Film & Television School in the UK ( runs an MA programme for both SFX/VFX and Digital Post Production, both of which are tutored by current industry practitioners and have an excellent employment record for graduates.

There’s a new VFX school in UK set up by a leading VFX company. They have produced visual effects for films like Da Vinci Code and Batman and they are currently working on Shahrukh Khan’s Ra. One, so you can’t get more qualified then that. Best of all, they are based in Pinewood Studios, home of James Bond and so many other big screen movies. Check out the website,

There's also Escape Studios in the UK that offers VFX classes (including online).

From 10-14-2011

I was wanting to know if you could add Lost Boys Learning. They are a superior VFX School in Vancouver Canada.

Also look at some of the Almuni reels at

From 3-12-2012 - General film production


From 11-07-12
CG Masters  Vancouver Canada visual effects school


If you're a member of VES they have an arrangement with so check the VES website.

Please note I haven't dealt with any of these directly as a student so PLEASE do a full search yourself on the internet for reviews and be sure to do a full check of any company offering training.  I know that someone posted a complaint on one of my YouTube videos about a school or two that specifically focuses on VFX saying they were now greatly in debt.  Some of these places are very expensive, especially if you're focusing on one aspect and not a full college degree.  

Is it worth it?  Can you learn more on your own with books and other training materials? Is online training as good?  All of this depends on your current level and how you personally learn the best.
Sometimes it's best to have someone leading you by the hand at least to start so you can interact and ask questions as you proceed.  Other times if you're already know the basics you may find it just easy to follow another source of information.

My first suggestion would be to pickup a basic book on the subject you're interested in.  Assuming it's a reasonable book it should be useful as a reference even if you decide to take classes.  Most software companies offer free trail versions or possibly a personal version.  There are also a great number of online tutorials, including at the software company site and other places to get you started.  That should allow you to get at least a handle of what you're dealing with.  If it's way too over your head then you may need to back up to more fundamental things or you should probably consider some type of class - in person or online.  One of the other problems with learning on your own is you may develop gaps in your knowledge and you don't get the feedback.  It's also not a structured learning process so some students may have issues if they're not in a traditional class format.

Some people learn best by actually seeing the steps being taken as opposed to just reading about them.  This probably applies to most visual artists.

In person classes have the advantage that you have an instructor who you can ask questions and critique your work. Classes also have other students who you can work and network. Possibly handy in the future.  These classes can be expensive, especially if you have to travel.

Online classes - If it's an online interactive class then you can ask questions and get feedback.

If the online class is prerecorded then it's similar to a DVD class.  The advantage is you can do it on your own schedule - home from work, compressing the time, expanding the time, etc.  The disadvantage is no interaction with the instructor.  

Other things to look for in schools-
What type of real world experience do the instructors have?  The flip side is that not all professionals are not good teachers.

Is there a forum you can interact with other students, even if it's for a prerecorded online class or DVD. 
Does the instructor visit these forums.

Does the school offer a real placement program? 
Do vfx companies actively recruit from the school?
It can be difficult to get honest answers at times to even these basic questions.

Be realistic about what you plan to get out of any education.
A 3 day bootcamp is unlikely to provide as much information and feedback as a 12 week seminar.

As noted earlier in this posting be sure to check out another view on VFX schools from vfxhack VFX School Confidential.

Tom Cruise list of schools, companies and other info

Believe me,  you don't want to see most vfx artists stripping.

Related post:  Price of a VFX Education 

Update 3/22/2011
VFX School on Facebook (I know nothing about it but thought I'd add the link here)

[Update: 5/3/2012  Be aware of schools that charge you to learn and require you to work for free such as Digital Domain Media is proposing.  Also be aware some internships are simply non-paid jobs whcih are illegal. More on internships. ]

And please read VFX Career posting if you haven't already. It will prepare you for the real world of visual effects.

Also please check the comments below for more feedback and responses.

Also related: Getting  A Visual Effects Job
Visual Effects Positions
What makes a good visual effects artist?

Update 6-11-2013 new post
Sad State of Visual Effects Industry


  1. AnonymousJune 15, 2007

    For online VFX learning (or in site if you are in San Francisco) i´d also add, run by ex-ILM-er Alex Lindsay.

  2. AnonymousJune 15, 2007

    I have been a member of Pixel Corps since it went online in 2004. So I can vouch for that as a great online resource.

    But Scott, do you have any feelings about the Art Institutes?

    I recently started Art Institute Online to earn a Bachelor's degree. I have an A.A. in Computer Graphics (1996) from the International Fine Arts College in Miami, which is coincidentally now part of the Art Institutes as well.

  3. Art Institues - I've never personally dealt with them or had it mentioned by anyone I know. They seem to have mixed reviews but much will depend on the specific teacher in addition to the curriculum.

    For those checking out schools be sure to Google the name of the schoool with the word review or opinion. As with anything on the internet take all thoughts with a grain of salt (or block of salt for that matter)

  4. Another great site for online VFX learning is I am enrolled on their 'VFX Compositing' online course and it's being really cool.

  5. Hi Scott!
    Many thanks for your work on Effects Corner!

    An excellent online VFX training school/community i highly recommend is fxphd.
    They offer excellent courses and acces to high quality footage for a low price.

  6. Fantastic that you're back on the air! (as it were...)

    btw, along with the pixelcorps and fxguide/fxphd, I'm a student at the DAVE School in Orlando, another very good locale for effects production.

  7. The National Film & Television School in the UK ( runs an MA programme for both SFX/VFX and Digital Post Production, both of which are tutored by current industry practitioners and have an excellent employment record for graduates.

  8. Do you have any opinion on Gnomon? I am very interested in getting into vfx and animation. I have always been an artist and I have a degree in film and have been making idies but am looking to expand my horizons a bit. Gnomon looks really cool but I'm a little scared of the $45k price tag and I can't find any reviews online. Any thoughts on this place? Thanks!

  9. Gnomon seems to be pretty good. I spoke there a week or two ago and know some of the teachers who are working vfx people (or previously working vfx people)
    But the best thing to do is to see if you can find reviews of people who have attended or see how successful people have been getting jobs after going there.

  10. Love this Post!! Thanks for Posting!!

  11. There’s a new VFX school in UK set up by a leading VFX company. They have produced visual effects for films like Da Vinci Code and Batman and they are currently working on Shahrukh Khan’s Ra. One, so you can’t get more qualified then that. Best of all, they are based in Pinewood Studios, home of James Bond and so many other big screen movies. Check out the website,

  12. Sir would be very glad if please mentin any gd institute in INDIA!!!

  13. Ya shashank you can check the ICE institute in India.I found another website working on the online training program for post production professionals in Delhi, India. Also the have some free Tutorials on the website

  14. ya you can go to the ICE institute. I also find the website for online post production professionals in delhi, india. They also have free Tutorials to watch, so don't miss this out

  15. Hello there Scott :) I've been looking everyone for someone with first hand experience with visual and special effects. I am currently in college for graphic design and am taking a stage make-up course this fall. I am planning on going to a school for visual effects. I have loved them since i was a little girl and the passion has never died out. I am an avid user of deviantart but not many people have much incite to take from. I was wondering what would be the best path for me to take if i was going to work with Weta down in New Zealand. I've always wanted to work with either computer effects or actual physical make-up. It's very neat. I just don't know where to start out.

    Thanks For you time,
    Alex :)

  16. Hi Alex,

    Actually getting some training in both physical and CG makeup would be good. It's unusual these days because most people go to a specific one, such as CG. That's why I suggest CG modelers also get experience in theater set building and physical models. This expands your thinking about how ot do the work much more than someone who's only done it one way.

    A few things to note however:
    To learn CG makeup you'll actually need to learn about CG modeling, texture pairings and related skills. It might be worth picking up a basic book on Computer Graphics modeling or checking out some of the 3D magazines available on the news stands. There are also plenty of internet sites with tutorials and info.

    Some students don't do any true learning and investigating until they go to a vfx school, figuring they'll do their learnign there. My view is if it interest you jump right in with a book, article, and free trial software. This will help students to discover if something is for them and this provides them a method to get further faster.

    Some people liek the idea of vfx and like watching them but then discover that the type of work it involves is just not right for them. Better to find that out before investing in a full school.

    At some point you'll likely have to pick if you wish to do physical or CG makeup work. Getting experience and training in both is good but most places only do one or the other, especially these days.

    If you're interested in a specific area check the various want ads for those types of people. Check the web sites of the companies you may be interred in and check their job listings. This will help give you an idea about what it takes to be hired for a specific type of job. What software is currently being used, how many years experience, etc.

    Good luck.

  17. Hello Scott,

    This's my first time visiting here and I'm really glad I found this blog! I googled this question, "What should i major in if i want to do visual effects" and your blog was the first one showing up! Most of the time when I ask people(even some of my art professors) about working in this field, they wouldn't know what to say and some of them even have no idea what VFX was. You provide a lot of helpful information I've never heard of. It's great having a chance to listen to the real people who work in the field (:

    I have a dream of being a visual effect designer since I was 14years old and since then I've been trying to work my way to the career. Right now I am a newly Graphic Design major student in CalState Long Beach. I really wanted to go to the specific VFX school but all of them were private and so expensive that I could not afford going there.

    Sometimes I doubt myself if I am on the right track to be a Visual Effect Designer. Some people told me I should major in Animation instead. I know that we don't really need to major in what exactly we want to be but I wish that at least I have a chance to take classes that could be helpful and close to my desire career.

    Do you have any suggestion?

    Thank you so much
    I'll be back here as often as I can
    , Tracey (:

  18. Hi Tracey,

    I'm getting a lot of questions these days and hopefully will be posting the other emails and my responses.

    Regarding your email:
    I have seen the title Visual Effects Designer on a few projects but I've never worked on a project with someone using that designation. Part of the issue is how the business actually works and part of it is what the title implies. The title implies that one person designs the vfx look and that others simply do the technical execution of it.

    The reality is the director ideally meets with the vfx supervisor and some artists (and likely the production designer and DP) to talk about the shots. There are storyboard artists who are given guidance by the director and this team. Then there may be previs artists working on creating moving images. At this same time there are concept artists , creature designer/artists, weapons designer/artists, etc. Some of these may be hired directly by the production as independents, some may be under the production designer and some may be with the vfx company. The vfx supervisor and animation supervisor (if there is one) will certainly be involved as well since they provide as much creative thought and will ultimately be the ones who have to create it.

    Many of the vfx companies had art directors who would work in conjunction with the vfx supervisor and director to explore the visuals. Not too many places do this now. Once again they would work in conjunction with other artists and the other keys to provide some creative input.

    So the question you need to look at is where do you fit in? Is it pure artwork type of artist? (storyboards, concepts, etc) Is it motion and staging artists? (previs). Do you wish to be an artists that actually works hands on with the shots that appear in the movie? (animator, compositor, lighter, etc)

    Take a look at your real interests because each of those is a different thing. You may not want to be an animator because that may not be your interest. Always go for what your interest and passion is whenever possible. Gauge your abilities realistically. What do you have to do to achieve what you want?

    Take a look at the various vfx company websites and the vfx job postings to get a sense of what's being asked for. Do you need more art instruction? Do you need to take film classes? Do you need to take an animation or compositing class? Push more for the photo-realistic look if you wish to be a concept designer.

    Also consider the broad range of art in films, tv and commercials. Production design, prop design, etc. There's more than vfx. Many concept designers know Photoshop and Painter. Many weapons or transport designers (think Avatar) know Maya or things like SketchUp so they can actually build a 3D representation.

    Since you're in school take a look at any and all related classes. (art, theater, film, etc) This will help round you out and provide more insight to the specifics you want.

    There's a wealth of information and tutorials on the internet to explore, especially if your time or money is limited. There are a number of places also listed in the post. There's also magazines and books covering much of this.

    In the end you'll need to pick a direction, learn as much has you can related to that and put together a portfolio of the type of work you wish to do. Storyboards, previs, concept art, animation, etc.

    Good luck.

  19. daniel ngobiSeptember 30, 2011

    hi iam augandan who likes to be avisual effects fixer but you know its very hard here b'cause we don't have even good ordinary film schools.i have read alot by you and other web references,behind the scenes but still i feeel im not can i work it out.

  20. If you wish to get into visual effects then you'll need to learn many of the basics and determine where you want to start and what type of vfx work you would like to do. It's not easy or fast. You'll have to put time and effort into learning.

    You can start in rotoscoping, compositing, animation or other areas.
    These days a lot of people start in rotoscoping because there is a demand in non-US countries and it's probably the easiest and fastest to learn the basics.

    I have 2 rotoscope videos here. (Check links on right)
    There are also a number of tutorials on line.
    Many applications have demos available. After Effects, Nuke, possible Mocha or other roto tools.
    Download a demo app (do not use cracked or stolen copies) and download a short shot. Many of these same places have demo material to download for free. I also have a post that links to greenscreen you could use.

    Watch the basic tutorials, ideally for the app you chose to download. Then try to do it yourself. Practice on the same shot multiple times to see how to be better. (faster, smoother action, matching edges, etc)

    If you decide that's what you wish to do then check whatever visual effects or film/video companies are near you. See if they have jobs available and what their requirements are.

    Download other apps and get familiar with them doing the same type of work.

    Evidently in India and some other places they look for some type of education or certification. I don't know the details but if you have access to a computer and put in time and effort gaining information from the web and doing the work yourself, that will be the first big step.

    Also look for other vfx forums where you can read and ask questions.

  21. I was wanting to know if you could add Lost Boys Learning. They are a superior VFX School in Vancouver Canada.

    Also look at some of the Almuni reels at

  22. I would have to say the best Visual Effects school that I have seen is Lost Boys Studios - School of Visual Effects. They are a boutique, focused school that have the results. The student are some of the best I have seen. Check them out and see for yourself.

  23. Aiyewa. TughuMay 13, 2012

    Hey Scott Squires.

    The thing is, I have a passion for Vfx, and would really love to study it at an institution. But most of them require a portfolio which I do not have cause I'm new it(Don't even know how to use 3D software and all that).

    So what would you recommend I should so to get me started on this track?

  24. Hey Scott Squires.

    The thing is, I have a passion for Vfx, and would really love to study it at an institution. But most of them require a portfolio which I do not have cause I'm new it(Don't even know how to use 3D software and all that).

    So what would you recommend I should so to get me started on this track?

  25. Not all schools require a portfolio. Best thing to do is download trial versions of the software (maya, after effects, nuke, etc) not cracked or stolen copies. Read the instructon manual and search the net for tutorials. Consider purchasing a book. That will allow you to get a sense for it and to try your hand.

  26. AnonymousJune 08, 2012

    Really Knowledgeable post. All the details about vfx course is very interesting. I Really enjoyed reading this. Also thank you for the extra resources that you have included with this blog.

    vfx training

  27. Hi guys what is the best school in order go learn Houdini ? Is vfx learning good for that ? Any advice could be great.

    Also, I'm considering to attent to DeVry university, they teach Game and simulation programming. Is that program going to increase my skills in order to became a TD FX Artist using Houdini, Mata and RealFlow ?

  28. Make sure you learn more than Houdini. Specialty apps like Houdini means those artists are in demand but usually there's not too many opens per company. So my suggesting is to have at least have a good understanding of maya or other animation and/or compositing software to try to round out nd become a little more valuable.

    There may be online classes or other speciality training available. has a houdini clas or two listed. There are probably other similar online classes that provide specific training. I'd make sure to do a search and you could also contact the Houdini company to see if they have a list of schools or learning resources.

    Regarding any schools- Ask them. Get their syllabus and be clear with them what they cover, how much depth they cover and what specific apps they cover. Try to speak to an actual instructor. The sales people typically don't know the details and are focused on making the sale.

  29. One oustanding school which has not been mentioned is Supinfocom.
    Another promising school is Feng Zhu School of Design:

  30. Hi scott,
    i've done Diploma in 3D Animation and Visual effects in India..i am willing to pursue specialization in Dynamics(FX) in canada...can u suggest me which college is good for my specialization

  31. Obviously moving to another country for education and possibly job is a daunting task and one not to be taken lightly. Moving and traveling are expensive and getting employment in another country can be very difficult due to visa restrictions.

    Key issues:
    1. Check the various companies and job postings to see how many jobs are actually available and if you would qualify with training. If so what are their requirements (which software packages, etc)

    2. Is specializing in dynamics for you the best job opportunity? If you already know visual effects could you get a job where you want without it and train later? Are there a lot more opportunities with this specialization? Availability of jobs in locations tend to fluctuate so I couldn't tell you.

    3. Consider all the different ways you can get training.
    Online schools, specialized schools near you or in Canada, etc. An online school such as fxphd would allow you to learn without traveling halfway around the world.

    4. Check the various school listings and web sites to see if they teach what you need and what the costs and requirements are. Some schools are listed in the article. There are a limited number of vfx schools in Canada and I would suggest you consider a school in the city you hope to work in (if you decide to go to an actual school). Try a google search for visual effects schools in Canada.

  32. Very interesting discussion. I have been a CG VFX artist and VFX sup for 15 years, and I've been teaching at various institutions for many years. I have had to recruit hundreds of artists over the years and found it difficult, if not impossible to hire graduates from local schools unless I was desperate. Training levels just don't match the needs of VFX which is the highest form of the digital arts (technically, at least). My specialty is lighting/shading and it is literally usually impossible to find a lighting shading artist who really knows how to light and shade. Mostly hacky, terrible renders that need days of sweetening in comp. Now, I have trained many, many young artists on the job to create feature-quality visual effects shots in just a few months. Having done this for many years, I developed a system. Then one day I got the hairbrained idea to go out on my own and teach that system so that a)young artists wouldn't have to invest $40K and be unable to get a job at the end, b)I could get some decent local artists and take advantage of the DAVE tax credit, c)I could help reduce the cost of hiring for VFX houses that are all pretty hard-pressed for money these days. After all, an artist that has to be trained for 3 months is EXPENSIVE. So many local studios are just hiring international artists and flying them in. That's expensive too, but not as expensive as on the job training. The irony is that a local studio, all things being equal, would prefer to hire a local artist. They get 35 to 50 cents on the dollar as a tax credit on the labour of bc residents. But there just aren't any local artists available. They're all working, of course, unless they don't have the skills (which covers nearly all local graduates). This is very, very annoying for someone trying to run a VFX company in Vancouver. Wouldn't it be great if graduates could just be ready to work in production with a skill level high enough for feature VFX? We know it's possible to teach them, if you know how. So this fall I built my own school in New Westminster dedicated to teaching young artists interested in a career in film or tv VFX the skills they really need to break into that industry. We start our first semester in January. We would LOVE to fill up with locals because the job market is wide open for them, but so far most of our applicants are international. We really want to help fix some of the broken bits in local vfx and vfx training. One of the things we've done is significantly reduced the cost of tuition. So if anyone out there is thinking seriously about vfx training, sure I know this might sound like a sales pitch, but at least come out and chat with us. I'm pretty sure you'll see what we mean pretty quickly. We can be found at

    Nick Boughen

  33. Hi nick, sounds like you've done well with a school.

    I certainly appreciate local talent. The flip side though is that much of this work is coming from elsewhere. Same thing happens in the US states with film incentives. It's not that there's even work to now support 100s or 1000s of people in a given location. A large part of it is simply moving jobs around. For every opening in another country or state, it's likely that's one less job where the work originated. Those people who come to fill the jobs from other areas may be the ones who would have been working locally if incentives hadn't moved the work.

    For all the local areas that push to train a lot of people, what happens when the film incentives in those areas go away? Now there are hundreds of additional people who have been trained in a specific industry which no longer exists there. Those additional people are now required to become the international travelers themselves.

    And that's why I like to caution those interested in getting into Vfx. It's not easy, there is a lot of competition and they should plan on moving yearly to keep working.
    Think of all the people going to film schools who will never really work in film. There's a lot of people selling the dream but the dreamers are likely to be disappointed.

  34. Scott, your concerns are very well stated. The industry is indeed mobile. What our school is about is something outside of that mobility. An artist who trains here certainly doesn't have to stay here, and in fact most of our applicants are international.

    The issue we are attempting to mobility, but simply to the quality of training worldwide. You are right that so very many people spend $40-$50K on training and then never work in the industry, which is appalling. We believe this is largely due to the quality and level of training. We believe this because we have interviewed hundreds of graduates from all over the world, and we have taught at many institutions over the last decade or so. Students CAN be trained to a professional VFX level, and that is what we are about. If they're local, so much the better for local companies. But even traveling abroad, which many young artists love to do, they will be more skilled and therefore more likely to find those jobs. Either way they will be less expensive to hire as the orientation period will be much, much shorter. Here in Vancouver, it is an employee's market at the moment. Studios are scrambling to fill crews. But competition does still exist among those artists not quite up to the task either due to insufficient training or because they simply lack that spark of talent that puts them in the elite vfx community...those who will inevitably be hired into PA or render-wrangler jobs hoping to get an opportunity in matchmove or roto so they can show off their attitude and skills and move up the ladder. Again, we think students can be trained to a much higher level enabling them access straight into the artist positions. We think this because we have done it so many times in production; taken basically unskilled artists and coaching them into creating feature quality work in just a few short months. So that's is where we are going. We hope that the rest of the industry will follow suit. This would be very good for the industry world wide as it would help improve margins and maybe prevent some studios from shutting down. Our plan is pretty long term. We intend to be responsible members of the worldwide vfx community, not merely a cash grab like so many others.


  35. Jus tto make that link from Nick active:

    CG Masters

  36. I continue to get emails from people wanting specific recommendations. As in the post, people get their education for visual effects in a number of ways. Online, books and DVDs is likely the least expensive and allows you to work at your own pace at your current location. A specialized school is an option but you need to research it (look for reviews, complaints, etc) online. Don't take the school's word for it. Many are focused entirely on their profit and little education for the students.

    Those who want to travel from one area or country to another for education -
    This is even more critical to review the school since you'll have a lot of expenses beyond just tuition. Be careful about going into major debt to try to get a visual effects job.

    If you are going to travel to go to a school consider the location. Are there a number of visual effects companies in the area? Are they hiring? By selecting a school potentially near companies it's possible you may have guest speakers from the company, have a student internship program with a company and the advantage of living and having some network connections in the same area as the company.
    This would avoid having to move yet again and makes it more reasonable for a company to hire you (since you're local to them).

    Please remember to check on work visas and expenses of the location. If you can't get a work visa or the living and tuition costs are too much you'll have problems.

    People are also writing how to become a visual effects supervisor in school. You don't. A few schools touch on vfx supervision (fxphd, Gnonom and others) but you won't be able to truly learn it in a school.

    Take a variety of visual effects classes to get a broad scope education in this area. From that determine the specific area you're interested in (animation, modeling, compositing, lighting, particles, etc) and focus on that. Once you have worked on a number of projects and spend a number of years in various positions then you can consider being a visual effects supervisor.

  37. Scott, its an wonderful article; a must read for students in the same line. I personally think that VFX jobs for film/movies have been risky and very choosy, some times gets mechanical right? I'm aiming for Ad companies which involves Fluids,Dynamics and VFX; I believe its more stable and has room for creativity for every employee. Any good Ad (video) making companies which you suggest to try?

  38. ' I personally think that VFX jobs for film/movies have been risky ..' Most of the arts, especially film making in general is risky.
    'very choosy' They will choose the best people available for the money they have to spend. The only difference from other jobs is they have a new project every few months and so people who aren't good aren't hired back.

    ' some times gets mechanical right? ' No, not necessarily. one of the perks of projects is that each project has different needs and challenges. Much depends on the exact job you're doing.

    'I'm aiming for Ad companies which involves Fluids,Dynamics and VFX; ' Most Ad companies don't do vfx. They tend to go to boutique vfx companies that do or to video post production companies that do the work.
    And while there is some fluid and dynamic work in commercials it's not enough to keep a lot people working full time doing nothing but commercials with those skills alone.

    ' I believe its more stable' Commercial projects also so go in cycles. Some years there's very little work and other years there's a lot.
    'and has room for creativity for every employee. ' All depends on what the employee is doing.

    'Any good Ad (video) making companies which you suggest to try?' Always best to see what exists around you to get a job. Google for companies where you currently live to get experience. Look for video production companies, video post production companies, commercial production companies and of course vfx companies that specialize in commercials. You can check ad agencies but most of the time the shoot (at least here in the US) is handled by a commercial production company and the visual effects is done at a vfx company.

  39. Hey Scott
    Really don't know how you manage all of this and still have a day and night job. I have a question. I am a working editor in LA. My credits include many Oscar nominated films. I am trying to learn more about VFX in order, well, I guess for obvious reasons. Big VFX movies are the mainstay of the business now. My background is primarily in drama. I have a beginners knowledge of VFX learned primarily on my last job on a large VFX film. I want to know more. I would like to be able to do as much I can in the Avid on my own. Anywhere you can point me to get me started. I have done a few courses with, but sometimes they are just too basic. Any guidance would be appreciated. Or if you don't have time, I totally understand. thanks hughes

  40. Much depends on what you actually want to do.

    Aany VFX you're going to do on the Avid will primarily be for mockups or postvis type of work since the Avid and most editing apps are designed specifically for editing and much less about doing vfx. The vfx for the final results are almost always done by a vfx artists on in a vfx app. The Avid of course doesn't do any 3D rendering and provides very rudimentary rotoscope and compositing tools. It's not unusually for editors to do mockups on the Avid for feature films and other projects. Those are then turned over to the vfx company or a vfx artists on staff to do.

    If that's the idea you have then I would suggest understanding all the vfx tools available in the Avid and then considering the final results. Many times editors mockup something that while it may look ok on a small screen will not work for the real project. An example is taking a person and compositing them over another background. And while you can get that to sorta work if the angle, lens and lighting are very different it will never work as a convincing shot. The flip side is if elements were shot specifically for composting (green screen and a background to match) then it's usually a fairly simple task to composite those in an Avid as a starting pint. This allows the editor and director something to look at until the final vfx are complete.

    The other aspect of editing is vfx editing. In this case the person does the mockups but also works as an intermediate between the edit and the vfx company. This is done by keeping track of the different elements used in the Avid composites and mockups. Shot numbers, time codes, etc and knowing if there are clean plates or other references. This information is laid out clearly by the vfx editor and passed on to the vfx artists. And when the vfx shots come in it's the vfx editors responsibility to cut them in to match and to track all the different versions of the vfx shots.

    So in that view the best thing for editors is to take the initial storyboards and/or previs and edit them into a form of the movie when possible. As the live action is shot those segments are replaced. Ask for the previs elements to be rendered separately as well for specific shots. Example: UFO flies down. If you have the UFO element you can do an Avid composite of it over the actual background plate that was shot. This will be a good stand in until the real shot is completed. Same with any 3D previs. Alternative is to shoot video of action figure or model in front of a green poster board just to get some quick and dirty elements for mocking up.

    Since the Avid does have limited vfx capabilities some editors also learn a compositing program such as After Effects that allows them to have more control over the composites and allows them to do much more than the Avid. So you might want to consider learning After Effects. does have After Effects classes you might check out to see if that makes sense for you.

    Good luck.

  41. Thanks for your share! I think this information is helpful for everyone. Possible schools for visual effects have list as the only available source of training. Thanks for sharing.

  42. Article was really helpful. I want to persue 2 years's diploma in visual effects in capilano university. Can you tell me is this school better option and does it have a reputation, like do company's visit this school for seminar's etc.
    Can you also suggest some other schools in canada which offer 2 years of education in visual effects.

    1. To anyone checking out a school, a few suggestions since I can't monitor all schools or properly evaluate myself:
      1. Check vfx company websites to see if they list any specific schools or tie ins.
      2. Check the school teachers. Have they had hands on experience in vfx or are they simply going over material?
      3. Check the school ranking from government or independent sources.
      4. Check the schools placement process, % of placements in the actual vfx business, where have others gotten a job directly out of school, etc.
      5. Check to see if recruiters come to the school (if so, which companies) or if there is a student intern program with a worthwhile vfx company.
      6. Ask on some of the various cg and vfx forums around to see which schools people went to or if they attended the one you're considering. If you have access to a forum area where alumni of a particular school hangout check there.

      Sheridan was known for animators for years (at least a decade ago, not sure of it's current status)
      I have a list of some schools looked at by ILM and others in the post above (2012)

      Schools aren't an end all to be all but of course a school that does have a reputation for a higher % of truly qualified graduates does provide some leverage to your resume and just as importantly means they probably do a better job teaching.

    2. You could also consider contacting the HR dept at a vfx company via phone or email.
      (HR dept may or may not respond) But they may be able to provide some basic off the record guidance regarding schools. The school you're talking about is in Vancouver and since there are a number of vfx companies in that area they probably have a clear idea of schools based on experience of any graduates they've hired.

      Worth spending a little bit of time now rather than finding out 2 years and lots of $ wasted.
      And of course avoid any for profit schools (which have no real evaluation process and whose only focus is profiting off of students)

  43. Vickie BoughenAugust 26, 2015

    Hey Scott, I am just following up on a post from a few years back by Nick Boughen. He has since written a blog about tips for how to choose a school. There are lots of different schools that will appeal to different people. Our school may not be right for everyone, but we try :) This blog is not specifically about our school/program. We always recommend people do their research!.


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