VFX artists are often looking for an upgrade. Palmer explains, “Sometimes it’s just to get a fresh skill set to enhance their career. We also have people that want to change direction and need some guidance in that.”
At SVA, a lot of students “are working professionals,” Adam Meyers, Producer at New York City’s School of Visual Arts (SVA), says. “When you have that allotted time after work hours each week, it seems easier than fitting it in at work. Most of them are looking to get training that is more focused.” Meyers adds that “my current continuing education classes are online since COVID.” Asked if he often sees visual artists leaving the industry and going to school for an upgrade to get a “next level” job or to change their career path, Meyers responds, “Every semester. Education is about growth. Artists evolve just like the software.”
At the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia, students in the visual effects department take on assignments that reflect the most current working studio practices, such as in virtual production. Dan Bartlett, SCAD Dean of the School of Animation and Motion, notes, “The LED volumes in Atlanta and in Savannah are industry standard, so what we’re able to do in these spaces are create learning experiences that are absolute mirrors of what they would be doing if they were working for a major studio on features or on long-form television. Students work on everything from negotiating the production design components to developing both the digital and the physical assets that go into a shoot, to working in-engine – in our case Unreal Engine – to build the virtual cameras and the virtual lighting setups in order to bring those on-set shoots to life.”
At some VFX studios, like Framestore, visual effects artists do extensive in-house training and also benefit from some specialized classes. “Framestore has a real ‘melting pot’ of learning styles and preferences,” Simon Devereux, Framestore Director, Global Talent Development, says. “Historically, their studios have always offered their employees everything from life drawing and clay sculpting masterclasses to software mastery and behavioral skills training.”
Framestore recently hired a new Global Head of Content & Curriculum, Chris Williams, “who now leads the development of technical and software training, building new learning pathways, and he will ultimately develop the teaching capabilities of all our employees in order to support our global network of offices,” Devereux says. “That, along with a dedicated Unreal and 3D trainer and two production trainers, means we’re in a unique position to build on what is already an incredible investment in the personal and professional growth of our colleagues. In addition to this, we invest in a range of technical tutorial-based training platforms that are accessible across all of our studios.”
Aikat adds, “Constant in-house upskilling with customized training programs and keeping a close eye on the new trends in the market is the key to success.” DNEG also supplements its training curriculum with talks from experts on a range of topics that cover technical tools, product technologies and creative pursuits.
Rodeo FX helps broaden its employees’ horizons with evening classes (paid for by Rodeo) at official partner schools and a few technical colleges. But the greatest learning may come from the other artists. “Fifty percent of what we learn comes from others – whether it is new talent arriving from other companies or Rodeo employees sharing their knowledge with other studios,” Sylvain Nouveau, Rodeo FX Head of FX, comments. He adds, “In many ways, it’s all of these exchanges that keep the industry moving forward. With an average of about two years in a studio, there’s a lot of information flowing.” Marie-Denise Prud’homme, Rodeo FX Manager of Learning and Development, remarks, “Formally, artists share information with each other [tutorials, videos how-tos] through an information-sharing platform we use called Confluence. But shared learning can even be as simple as arranging meetings and calls on the fly.”