What education did you have before you took the Visual Effects for Film and Television course?
Hailing from Melbourne Australia, I was working in a computer games company in Vietnam at the time as a 3D Art Director for console games on systems like XBox and Playstation. I had studied prior to this in Australia in 3D Animation and earlier had graduated from Industrial Design at RMIT in Melbourne.
Whilst working at GlassEgg Digital Media in Ho Chi Minh City I developed an interest more in visual FX and compositing rather that 3d which I had previously trained in. I quickly realized the complexities of the skills required to professionally work in this arena and embarked on a factfinding mission of teaching programs that would equip me with the necessary skills to pursue this vocation.
When I whittled down the opportunities I was left with two very respectable courses – one in the UK and the other in Canada. With time running short I weighed one against the other and Seneca, Toronto won out. Although I was most keen to train on Flame I was impressed by both the facility and its teaching method.
Tell us a bit about your experience at the college.
I was pleasantly surprised by the facility itself and both the hardware and software invested into the learning program. Four Flame suites and another workstation for every student providing a suite of tools including Combustion, Photoshop and all the other software’s that you would expect. (Coordinators note: “Since the time Tom took the course, we’ve changed the software that we teach in our curriculum”)
The course provided a structure and schedule that demanded the best from its participants. Individual courses were goal oriented with clear outcomes and rigid deadlines – so to prepare students for a ‘real world’ production environment. The course never tried to be anything other than that – and with hindsight I thank its organizers for that.
Having endured other study programs with lackluster instructors I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of its trainers. They included a myriad of lecturers with valuable industry experience that gave weighty relevance to the information they shared. Whilst a great source of technical knowledge they also provided a ‘foot in’ to the impending job market beyond the completion on the course.
All in all the course was no breeze. It isn’t for everybody as the commitment required is extreme and some did not complete or make the grade. It’s not the sort of thing that you should go into half-hearted……enough said!
How do you use the education you got at Seneca in your job today?
On completion of the course I found myself in kind of a unique position. Having entered Canada on a student Visa for the program I faced one of two options. Get a job in Canada or face deportment back to Australia (boo-hoo). In all fairness I was sending out reels to Australia as well as the UK and Canada.
As it happened I took a job in Canada and promptly uprooted to Frantic Films where I spent the next two years working on a number of feature film projects. The Seneca course had prided itself on teaching the fundamentals of compositing rather than the buttons to push in any given software. Having only worked in Combustion and Flame I was initially apprehensive about adapting to Digital Fusion, but the transition was smooth and I am again thankful to the course for its thorough and uncompromising pursuit of teaching in the fundamentals and concepts of compositing.
Currently I am working at Framestore in New York. It’s the US office of Europe’s juggernaut VFX house. I came down here over a year ago and work solely on Flame on commercials for the US and international markets. It’s a great environment with an overflow of talent, working on an abundance of really amazing budget and high profile commercial campaigns.
What advice would you give potential students who are thinking of taking the course?
Compositing and VFX is not for everyone. Pretty pictures and film credits are the icing but the reality is much more grounding. Expect long hours, sleepless nights and unquenchable expectations of magic and miracles. Expect to come out of the course with a solid understanding of compositing, but also concede that 90% of your job will be what you can pull together at any given moment. Time constraints often compromise your integrity but the key is managing the balance of all this. As the artist you must set realistic guidelines for what you can achieve in a specific amount of time and then stick to it. This is most applicable in a commercial environment.
(Written in 2007)