Peter Fiala is an instructor in the School of Creative Arts. He teaches Animation Arts in the Bachelor of Applied Arts in Animation and Visual Effects in the new Animation Lab, located by the CTL.
The Goal of this Program
The aims of the Bachelor of Applied Arts in Animation and Visual Effects are twofold: to train capable graduates who can fit into their chosen area of focus in a large studio pipeline and to create a group that will band together as graduates with complementary skill sets to start their own company to service the ever growing animation and visual effects (VFX) here in Alberta. The end goal is to grow what is a badly needed proper animation ecosystem here in Alberta.
Using a backwards design approach, the visuals on a graduate’s demo reel are the most important asset they have to use to find work. Every decision about the course offerings, as well the overlap and laddering of each assignment in each and every course, was carefully made with this in mind. The order of delivery of the subject matter across the four years of the applied degree mirrors that of a typical animation studio production pipeline, our first 3 years mirroring pre-production in year 01, production in year 02, and then post production in year 03. The fourth year is all about the student working on their demo reels while being mentored by the appropriate subject matter experts pertinent to the area(s) on which they have chosen to focus.
If a student arrives at the start of the program with some animation experience, that is fantastic, but it is not required. Our curriculum is structured in such a way that we start everyone from the very basics. Our first year focuses on art and animation fundamentals. Although we are a 3D computer animation program, within the confines of being that 3D animation program, we also endeavor to teach traditional fundamentals first. There are many drawing courses throughout the program, as well as a strong focus on anatomy, and a bit of figurative sculpture using clay. This training informs and enhances their 3D computer animation work.
I should also add that our animation labs are built with an animation studio vibe in mind. We have installed artwork on the door to the lab that helps the student both feel special on campus, and help them to change into an animation mindset as they pass through the physical portal. Our goal is that at the end of their four years, upon finding work, our students feel as though they are simply stepping out of one familiar studio environment and right into their next one. It’s more than just having their favorite action figures surrounding their workstations, they are taught how to produce work where files are structured in a way that another AVFX artist could open their files, be able to quickly orient themselves to that work and then continue on with the work. They will be taught render farm etiquette with the intention to help each student realize that they will never ever be working in a vacuum. They need to be artists who can create beautiful work, but technical software experts at the same time, who can create work that is actually usable in a 3D animation studio pipeline.
The application of the Backward Design process, from the first planning and development meeting to the last, has brought to fruition a program that is strongly rooted in learner-centred principles and offers students both depth of learning in the field and breadth of skills and knowledge to be successful.