What education did you have before you took the Visual Effects for Film and Television course?
Before coming to Seneca, I had been a storyboard artist in the Indian film and television industry for roughly 7 years. I had a very strong foundation in 2D animation, as my core education had been a diploma in classical animation from the Vancouver Film School (VFS) in 2004. I chanced upon VFS after years of struggling and not having any fun doing my bachelors in business administration.
Because my core education had been only 2D, and right after the program I started working, it became very difficult to pause in life and update my skills. The urge for updating my skills was becoming more and more in the years that followed. Each day I would feel the need to know more, and be more informed of the various processes and techniques involved in a production. I felt being on the pre-production side for so long was making me go nowhere in life. Growth as an artist was almost none and in 2009 when I lost my job at a visual effects studio in India due to the recession, I knew it was time to seriously consider going back to school.
My search for quality education wasn't easy. There were so many colleges and institutes out there, advertising this and promising that. At the same time, I was constantly questioning whether to go towards more advanced training in pre-production (i.e matte painting, pre-viz, etc.) or jump into something which was completely new for me (which was 3D). I had no prior knowledge of any 3D software and after traveling to Singapore and checking out the schools there, my next stop was Toronto where I chanced upon a college called Seneca.
Tell us a bit about your experience at the college.
Although I had done very extensive research on what the different schools in Canada were offering in terms of VFX and 3D training. It was difficult to make a decision. Finances weren't allowing me to go back to my alma-mater in Vancouver, and with the overall experience I had, I really didn't feel like going back there. My choices were either Sheridan or Seneca. I took it upon myself to get in touch with people at both these places, and get as much information as I could.
I met up with Joe Raasch, the coordinator of the Visual Effects Program at Seneca. He not only answered all the queries I had, but very patiently took the time to understand where exactly I was coming from and what i really wanted from the program. He took the time to see my portfolio, something which the representatives of the other colleges didn't want to, as they had a red-tape procedure of submitting a portfolio and then waiting a week for its evaluation. Joe also allowed me to interact with the current students and assured me I could ask them anything I wanted to.
The first day at Seneca was something i wouldn't forget. I was constantly thinking that I don't know any 3D and I had no knowledge of what visual effects were. There I was, right in the mosh pit.
It was after the first week that I knew I had made the right decision coming to Seneca. Not only where the instructors helpful and extremely patient with all of us, the best part was the willingness to motivate us night and day. We could approach them and bog them down with as many questions as we wanted to. The vast industry experience with which they taught us made the whole learning experience so enriching and beneficial that at times it was too good to be true.
What also benefitted me was the fact that I was in the classroom with 14 people who came from diverse backgrounds. Between all of them they had immense knowledge and skills, and so it was a very good opportunity for me to be in this melting pot. In addition to the instructors, it was this constant interaction with the classmates, problem solving, learning and sharing knowledge, which made every day at Seneca seem like a sound investment in my future. There was a very healthy competition in the lab, and it was this factor which motivated me to learn and become better at what I was doing everyday.
How do you use the education you got at Seneca in your job today?
I cannot imagine a life without the training imparted to us at Seneca. The training we got in the classroom was so apt and precise, that the transition from working in the classroom to working in a real studio environment was seamless. The correct way of tackling problems, the eye for precision, working in a neat and organized manner, and other such things were so drilled into us every day, that it became almost a habit for all of us in the classroom to drive our work towards perfection.
Because we had instructors who are actively involved in working in big feature films and projects, it made a huge difference to learn from them the practical ways of working. They would share with us the problems they had faced while working, or how they would go about solving something, and this knowledge is very vital when I work in the studio.
What advice would you give potential students who are thinking of taking the course?
The only advice I can give to prospective students thinking about taking this program is this: If i had the opportunity to go back 8 months in time and do this program, I would still do it. This is a no-nonsense training lab, it doesn't laud itself by the means of expensive advertisements and false promises. As an institute, the facilities and resources it offers are very good. The entourage of instructors is a very fine blend of some of the best artists who bring with them varied knowledge and skills, tips and tricks that they have learnt over the years, and this they share selflessly with the students.
Do as much homework as you can before applying for the program. Make sure you know what you want from it. Already having a knowledge of VFX and/or 3D will be most beneficial, but even if you're like me,w ho didn't know what Maya was, learning it will not be impossible. In the end,there are no short cuts to success. You get from the program as much as you put into it.
(Written in 2012)
Karan's profile on IMDB
Below is Karan’s reel when he was finished the program.