One education system to rule them all

In my continued Googling for stuff about Animation Mentor (even though I’m already set to begin the first course this June), I found this interesting blog post: The Downfall of traditional education.

The blogger writes:

The UK animation industry is being taken over by Animation Mentor. I don’t have exact figures but I have the feeling that 3 out of 5 animation graduates hired in UK come from Animation Mentor. In few years, 50% of the animator in the industry will probably come from the online animation school.

Why is that?

Animation Mentor has been offering the industry, the exact kind of profile it was looking for. In 18 month, they create more job opportunities to graduates than what traditional education would provide in 4/5 years.

Of course, this mostly further excites me about doing Animation Mentor.

But I guess I also found this post interesting because of a very long and detailed discussion I’m having on Facebook about the college education system. I think I posted this opinion before, but I kinda wish most professions were taught like animation is taught at Animation Mentor: get working professionals to give personal attention to a group of students’ work, and stop teaching other stuff (general education requirements and required electives). Animation Mentor makes it quite clear that they don’t teach character rigging or special effects animation or lighting or rendering, etc. You get 1.5 years of just character animation. I think that’s awesome. (And from what I’ve heard, that’s what the big studios look for anyway: people who are great in just one area, not jacks-of-all-trades.) But I also think you could have an AM-like program for any of those other areas as well. You’re not working for grades or a degree, you’re working for a skill. You’ll never be a valedictorian, but you won’t care, because that never meant anything to you anyway.

That said, I haven’t even started Animation Mentor yet, so maybe I shouldn’t be talking.

I also thought the comments were interesting. One guy says:

at my university we’re told that after graduating we should go to AnimationMentor, Bournemouth or EscapeStudios.

Ha! “After graduating”? Why not… instead of graduating? (Really, if I’d known about Animation Mentor while I was still in college, I probably would’ve done my best to get my parents to let me drop out. (I still need their support!))

Another guy says:

My tutor told me to rate a short which had very limited animation technique but had a very anti Disney/Bluth agenda, and was thus seen as artistically superior over the Lion King and the Nightmare before Xmas(wow, I’m old!). I rated Disney last and I got the interview, which came to a real bad end when I was asked where I would like to be in a 5 years time. I said ‘well I would be happy if I was working for a big studio, working in commercials’….the interviewer pretty much convulsed and replied ‘Happy? Working for a big studio? You’re evidently not interested in making important artistic films. You’d be best having a rethink at the next university you interview at’.

This is why you have working professionals teaching. I think it tends to be hard to lure them into teaching positions (and some pros may not be very good at teaching anyway) because of the time and dedication it takes, maybe for not so much pay. But the Internet may help to change that. Having professors who are professors for a living teaching students who do not plan to be professors for a living just doesn’t seem quite right does it? (At George Mason, they did have some working professionals teach some of my night classes, and I think they were better, since they could impart some knowledge on what working in the industry is actually like. Unfortunately they were from professions I was not really interested in, like requirements analysis for military contractors.)

Anyway, I also find this academic artistic snobbery to be somewhat typical, annoying, and yet funny. I hear it in the music area a lot. You want to orchestrate like John Williams? Tonal melody stuff? Ugh! Write crappy atonal minimalist music like this instead! And then when we both stink at writing music, we can both be professors who compliment each other all the time! Good work! Fortunately it’s not like that everywhere, but it’s there. Mostly in the art categories. Writing, drawing, music, theater, etc. Professors who couldn’t make it professionally decide they have what it takes to teach.

Really: teaching should not be something you do because you can’t do anything else. Which is too often what it is. And I’m not sure adults should be doing it full-time anyway, at least not on the high school and college level. (Though a lot of college professors are also involved in research.)

OK, enough rambling about that.

I usually find that my deep interests in things last about 2 weeks, and then get taken over by something else, and may or may not come back. But with Animation Mentor looming on the horizon, I’m as excited as I’ve ever been about anything, and it hasn’t faded, so I’m really hoping that I my interest stays this high and that I do actually become good enough to animate professionally. Woohoo! Woooooo! Wooowaaaawoooowaaaaahh! Etc. etc.

Oh, someone I know also said that he concluded that Animation Mentor was a scam. A bias I can sort of understand, because most online schools are pretty scammish, and, as someone else pointed out, I’m not sure the name “Animation Mentor” sounds very prestigious.

But enough about me, what about you?

Stuff I done gone and did terday

Hey, it’s my 300th blog post to this blog! In celebration, I will do nothing, because I do not want to seem arrogant towards those who don’t blog as much.

I finally finished reading Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination, a biography of Walt Disney. ‘Twas quite educational, since I really didn’t know very much about him or the history of his company. I might dedicate a future blog post to some thoughts on his life and work, but not tonight. I will say he must be a goldmine for biographers. He had a lot of influence, there are a lot of different opinions about him, and he got his hands into a lot of things. There’s a lot to write about.

I also bought The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation from Amazon earlier this week, and have started reading through that. I read bits and pieces of it in college from the library, and I know I browsed through it at some other point in my youth. I am wondering if we have an older family copy somewhere (though I don’t think so) or if one of our grandparents or relatives had a copy. But I just know I browsed through it years ago before college. Anyway, it’s full of wonderful pictures and art. I really wish it came with a DVD or something so I could watch the examples, but I guess that would only double the price. Anyway, as I’m trying to learn computer animation, this book seems like one of the must-reads.

And speakin’ of animation, next Wednesday night I’ve got my first Animation Mentor thing. Classes don’t officially start until near the end of June, but the thing on Wednesday is I guess a bit like an orientation. It will allow someone to give an overview of the structure of the course and the site, and will allow us future students to ask questions. Not sure I’ll have any questions, but I do want to test out the technology and the experience of doing one of these Animation Mentor meetings. So I’m looking forward to that.

Music wise, I’m almost finished writing the music for a documentary. I’ve got one cut left, and it will be a fun one to write. I’ll share more info (and maybe some music clips) from that when the project is actually finished.

I’m participating in a long Facebook conversation about the problems of college and high school education. I was going to post the conversation here, but it is still going on, and it is very long. Our plan now is to, at some point, organize our points and disagreements and write a book on the topic. Probably won’t get professionally published or anything, but I think would make an interesting book.

Finally, movie wise, I just finished watching The Men Who Stare At Goats. It was … uh … interesting I guess. Had some funny parts, but by the end I didn’t really get the point of any of it. It was like a very long joke. If there had been just a bit more humor, it might’ve been OK.

I also watched Where the Wild Things Are a couple night ago, which was actually better than I thought it would be (I had low expectations), but it was weird (and I imagine one could really psycho-analyze the heck out of it if they wanted). The director’s soundtrack choices did kinda make me think the Wild Things were a bit like hippies at some points, which made it weirder. But there some other very hilarious parts (Bob and Terry are my favorite). Overall, though, it was a bit soap-opera like, because all the Wild Things want to talk about their emotions and feelings rather than do anything particularly adventurous. Which isn’t necessarily bad, I still found it engaging, but I can understand why some mind find it boring. (What I don’t get is all the debate about whether it’s too scary or adultish for kids, which perhaps was played out for publicity. Or perhaps because it was based on such a famous picture book. But the movie itself didn’t push any thematic boundaries.)

And that’s what I’ve been up to lately.

I’ll officially study animation soon!

Today I got accepted to Animation Mentor! (Not sure how often anyone ever really gets rejected.)

Anyway, I’m really excited and I can’t wait to start, though I’ll have to wait about 2 months, since the next session doesn’t start until the end of June. But, in that time, I can learn more about Maya, the 3D software the classes use.

So, for better or for worse, I’ll probably blather about animation a bit more for at least the next year and a half.

I don’t know how apparent it is from this blog, but I’ve always been interested in animation; it’s one of the reasons I’ve been wanting to learn to draw. And, of course, I’ve always been interested in the art of film making. But I always thought I’d have to learn drawing skills slowly over time to get ever find a way into the industry, so it was just one of my many pipe dreams. Then I suddenly came across Animation Mentor, and … ooohh! … looks like it could very well be a way in! If not a direct path to working on feature films at a studio, it could at least lead me to full time job doing something I actually like the idea of doing (and being able to do): animating. Gah, it just feels so good to be able to type it: I’m going to study animation. Ha ha ha!

After spending 4 years in college majoring in Computer Science, the prospects looked grim. I was interested in Computer Science because I wanted to design video games. Well, Computer Science actually has nothing to do with video game design, at least not around here. When I started looking at available jobs, it was mostly boring looking programming jobs (I once told someone that I wanted to help design the games, not merely program what someone else told me to, and the guy went off on how wrong my attitude was) or IT tech support. Now having discovered Animation Mentor, I’m a bit glad I didn’t get any of those jobs. (Though, of course, I’m glad somebody out there is interested in them and will take them! I met a guy in college who was immensely interested in the inner workings of RAM. I found the topic to be the epitome of mundane, but I’m glad some people out there are worrying about it or I wouldn’t have all the things RAM makes possible.)

I did a few job interviews, but I’m sure they could tell how uninterested I truly was. I once interviewed for a military contractor programmer position, and they asked “So what interests you about radar?” and I almost burst laughing… “Um… it kind of looks like a little TV screen?” The job description didn’t say anything about radar. Which, by the way, is another huge complaint: some programming jobs out there have the worst, most vague job descriptions I can imagine. They say things like: “You will implement and analyze systems for integration with current modules. Will work closely with supervisors and coworkers to provide up-to-date support for vital systems.” What the–?

I once asked some people what was more important in job searching: a good portfolio, or good grades? They answered that both were important. Lazy and wrong answer. If you’re looking for the kind of job in which you can send a portfolio, a portfolio is always more important; it shows what you can actually do. I guess people are afraid to admit (or just can’t understand) that the entire structure of college (and high school for that matter) is pointless for many career paths. But I’ll spare this blog yet another rant on that topic… (and actually you’ll want to ask the employer what’s more important, though I can’t imagine an employer being impressed with a portfolio, then dismissing it because of a bad grade)

Anyway, the structure of Animation Mentor looks very much like the way I think almost all education should be. Almost like an apprenticeship with a direct line of communication between the student and the pros working in the field the student wants to enter. (Rather than a student doing worksheets and writing essays for full time professors in a hodge podge of study areas.)

So… hopefully Animation Mentor won’t go bankrupt or a list of other bad things that could go wrong won’t.

The only thing that worries me now is the natural fear that I won’t be good enough. I do have the advantage of having only a part time job at the moment, so I should be able to dedicate a lot of time to this, but I don’t have a big drawing background, and just about no experience at all in this field, save for some little fooling around I’ve done now and then on my own. But this is definitely worth a try, and I’ve got plenty of interest. If I have to go back to trying to get a programming job, I guess I’ll have to delete this post, or edit it.

Applied to Animation Mentor

Last night, after convincing my parents to continue letting me live with them for the next year and a half while I go completely broke, I applied to Animation Mentor. I don’t know how long it will take to find out if I get accepted or not. I guess there’s always a chance they could say “no, this isn’t really for you, go away” (that would stink) or “you’re accepted, but we’re too full right now, come back in the fall.” Guess I’ll wait and see… it looks like a wonderful opportunity, though, so I really hope I get to do this…

Can I learn character animation?

I guess this is a taste of how uneventful my blog will be whenever I get a full time job. Besides going to work (and constantly tweeting how many hours I have left), I’ve been spending the rest of my time working on composing the underscoring for a documentary, which I mentioned last week, which I think is going well, though I wish I could do it a bit faster (while not sacrificing quality, of course). And, of course, I wish I could do it full time!

I did post a new YouTube video the other day. That’s one of the cues I wrote for the documentary.

Um… yeah… not really much else…

Oh, I have been looking into this online animation school: Animation Mentor. I came across it exploring animations on YouTube. (I was researching stop motion animation with the ambition of buying a camera and filming some shorts.) It looks extremely tempting; I would LOVE to learn to do the kind of character animation they teach. The thing is… it costs quite a bit (like, $18,000). It would basically be like going back to college. But still… gah, does it look tempting. It’s a definite maybe. I mean, I’d apply right away if it cost less, so it’s mostly a matter of financial support… and even if I applied, I might not get in… though I think I meet all the requirements (there aren’t many), I don’t know how selective they are, or if they might have a preference for people who have studied art, animation, and drawing longer than I have… after all, I majored in Computer Science! But of course, I never had an opportunity like this… anyway, it’s feeding my daydreams for the week.

Things that look good about it:

  • Taught by pros from the big studios, like ILM, Pixar, Blue Sky, etc. with actual online interaction with them.
  • Very focused on just character animation, not diluted with software specifics, or how to model things, or do lighting, etc.  Just character animation!
  • Few requirements.  I don’t have to submit a portfolio, like many art schools require.
  • Very nice looking showcase reels from previous students.  (Though some students’ reels don’t look as good as others (some on YouTube look pretty awful), the ones that make it to the showcase are pretty spiffy.)
  • Very good reviews online found by Googling around about it.
The things that make me hesitate:
  • Price… $18,000 *gulp*