Animation Ramble - Making The Most Of Your Final Year Of Study

OK so I sat in on an interesting conversation between two of my favourite second year students the other day and they were talking about the way that they had many tasks to do right now and found it all a bit overwhelming.

So I wanted to talk about this, and try to make it clear how you can get the most out of your study time.


frank said...

Hey Ian

Liquid Animation have a job advertisement for Flash animators. Just came out yesterday.

I would like to work in a studio like Liquid, who do Film and TV production work in their mix. So I need to get in their door and make myself known.

I employed myself to produce some Flash animation work with Mark O earlier this year. That was a successful project for the client but limited in displaying animation skills. I have started on my essential animation principle scene #1.

With the liquid job advert in mind, as a carrot, I might build that EAP in Flash and put together a Flash show reel for an application.

Might as well get practice in applying for jobs.

Can you help me build a reel aimed at that job?

Ian said...

I can Frank. yes.

I don't want to squash your hopes, Buuuut. I think you will find the job is with the Liquid Multi Media dept, a separate company (although in the same studio space) to the one that dose TV stuff. From what I understand they mainy do banner ads and interactive CD roms for companies. Not that there is anything wrong with that. It might be worth giving them a call and asking for a bit more information about the role they have in mind for the animator.

Danielli said...

You know, when i read the title i thought, oh great another 10 or so reasons as to why we are going to fail. but having read it, i must say it is somewhat reasuring. dunno why, just doesn't seem as bad as i thought it would.
i know, i'm not making sense, oh well.
oh and Ian i have bad news. i have started seeing your shed behind your back......sorry!

Ian said...

I herd through the grape vine that the job isn't with the multi media dept, but is with the Liquid animation Dept. So thats good news for you Frank, more like the kind of work I know you want to be involved in :)

And now Im off to the back yard to give my shed a good beating. .. . .

Wait a minute its not there!!!?!?!

oh my god its left me!

Mr. Saeton said...

Ok, im confused! First off this great inspiring ramble about making the system your bitch (can I say that here or is it a PG rated site?) and next thing you know, IAN'S SHED IS CHEATING ON HIM!!! ZOMFGWTFBBQ!?

Seriously though, inspiring stuff full of animation student gold. So Ian, on behalf of me and my class mates, THANK YOU.

Just to prove im not sucking up, learn to spell hippy!

Ian said...


Bobby Beck said...

Nice rant. Ineresting read. If you want to do an Animation Mentor style course why don't you just go to Animation Mentor?

Ian said...

Hey Bobby.

Wow, thanks for dropping by.

I think Animation Mentor rocks and I would be totally supportive of any of our students who wanted to go on and do it.

I suppose in the ramble I didn't talk about the advantages of our course much, just wanted to focus on the hurdles and the best ways for our students to overcome them. The most amazing thing about our course is its access ability, we run through the Australian governments trades qualification system called TAFE, in return for putting up with the bureaucratic gear I've talked about we get heavily subsidised by the government. As a result our course runs at a quarter the cost of the university courses in town while delivering the same content (better content in my opinion). Its also much cheaper than Animation Mentor, although I would guess its obvious that you have the edge when it comes to content :).

I love that our course is accessed by students who in some cases couldn't afford to study animation elsewhere. So there are advantages, I just want to make sure we can make the most of where we are. Any of our students who want to and can afford to go to Animation Mentor have my fullest support, I would definitely recommend it over any of the university Animation courses in town.

Thanks again for dropping by, I bet your supper busy and I'm so happy you thought our little blog was worth a visit.

Angus said...

There is a reason for the ramble. cheers Ian this makes it a little clearer.

Terry said...

Late to the party, but better late than never and all that.

Wow, Ian... a strongly worded rant! And one that would never had occurred to me. I've never felt that "the system" was forcing students to spend huge chunks of time doing work that they had no interest in, at the expense of other types of work that they were enthusiastic about. But I'm perfectly happy to admit that I might be a bit out of touch, being a part-timer and all.

Do any of the students reading this want to step out and tell us what aspects of the course are giving you grief? We won't be offended. Unless you call us names, or diss Brad Bird.

Terry said...

Let me qualify that last post.

I know that obviously there will be classes that students like more than others, and some that students wish fervently weren't part of the course at all. Not everybody likes comic books, or experiental animation, or Flash, or Maya, or tax/copyright issues... but it's pretty much inarguable that we need to hit all of those marks over the 2 years.

The question is, do we linger on anything for too long at the expense of an aspect that interests you more?

Ian said...

I think it will be different for everyone Terry. Some will want to do more Flash, others more Maya. Some may want to focus on FX style animation in After FX and other more character based stuff.

My whole point is that if we are forced to adopt the “we need to hit all of those marks over the 2 years” approach (A philosophy I don't agree with, but as I covered we have no choice), then the course (like most) as it is on paper can't fit anyone's specific needs, only cover them in a general sense. There seems to be little point in taking a survey because the problem is that the course is spread out coving too many agendas already. Or is in fact trying to cover every possible agenda when industry wants students to focus on one particular thing. Our course is set up and marketed to attract students from a broad range of backgrounds and heading in many different directions.

If any students disagree then I'm happy to be put in my place, but I would be surprised if the students could agree on particular things they wanted more or less of. That's just a reflection on what the qualification is, the structure under which it exists, and how it is marketed (how it has to be marketed in order to exist in a small city like Brisbane)

What I want is for individual students to communicate to me (or us) what it is they want so that I (we) can do our best to help. It seems to me that its on this personal 1 on 1 level that the system or “qualification” can be diverted towards a student particular goals. I fear if we are trying to appease a group we will just end up chasing our tail.

On a side note, can I just say that I love the way we can have these kinds of conversations. In a way its a reflection of what I've been going on about. The course is up for grabs, within reason we can all pitch in to make it become something newer and better. So many other institutions have a “we all so terribly have out sh@#t together” on-line presence. At Southbank we are driven by our love of the craft and teaching to always be struggling towards a better way, and its here on display for all the world to see. HAHA! I love it :)

Terry said...

Fair enough Ian, I see your point.

I think that the SBIT course offers a good general overview of animation medium (process? artform? industry?) and then allows students to focus on their area of interest as they progress. But perhaps, the way it's set up, some students don't get to focus as much as they'd like to.

I guess I do believe that students should get at least a taste of a broad range of styles/forms/disciplines, like those mentioned above, and I wouldn't want to see that change in favour of a course where they choose an area to focus on right from the get-go. Like how doctors, whether they end up being GPs or brain surgeons, start off by learning a bit about everything.

God, looks at this... I'm rambling like Ian on crack! Must sleep now...

frank said...

Hi Terry

I think that the course is well rounded and very suitable for preparation for further study in the arts.

It's good for young students who are finding out what they want to do with a talent they think they have with drawing in a craft that captured their imagination when they were young.

It's good in instances of finding out they want a career in illustration, character design, costume design, or possible, with a bit of personalized direction from teachers: preparing a portfoloio for a Bachelor degree in animation, or applying to Animation Mentor, or maybe applying for a post diploma summer school in a European animation course.

In terms of getting a job in an animation studio, by observation of previous diplomates, it falls just before the finish line.

It stumbles on its own richness because it is so wonderfully diverse by giving us a taste for many aspects of art and craft related to animation compressed into 2 years.

It is really good to know that the basic animation principles we learn can be applied in such a diverse industry as compared to a software focussed course.

However, I have to agree with Ian that a focus in 2nd year is needed. Not on mastering a particular software program but on mastering our own excitement at having been let loose in the animation lolly shop. It should start with sorting out where a student wants to be at the end of the course. One should focus on the rum balls.

It would be great to have a third year, post diploma year, to focus solely on a specialist area where a student can find employment. And I guess, maybe, that's where going into the third year of a Bachelor degree can be tacked on the end?

If it is to find work in a studio, or work within a specific area within the animation arts industry, then there only seem to be a few graduates from the course that have been able to achieve employment. That's a bit disheartening from one point of view and challenging if looked at in another way.

As I would like to find employment in an animation studio as a planned step in an animated future, I'll have to allocate time resources in my second year to a show reel.

As interesting as the other aspects of the course are with studying the profession, working in groups to facilitate collaboration, using comic book design to help us understand framing/action/perspective and narrative, getting wonderful insights into film making, animation history, and the diversity of skills to be mastered by an all round animator, illustrator, artist, I find that completing every assessment to the highest possible standard is difficult even though I try and wring out as much as I can within class time and few late stays (to compensate for some tardiness).

It is probably even more difficult to complete an assessment to a minimum standard than to test oneself against a task and do the best possible job. Especially knowing that examples of our work will be shown to the students following us and at may be selected for the end of year screening.

But for those of us who want a job, it has been shown to us that we need a show reel that has top quality animation in it. That takes time at a student level.

So it's not anything in the course material that is giving grief, it's time management and the personal let down of completing some course aspects only to a minimum requirement that causes some discomfiture.

I feel a bit responsible for bringing this upon myself with suggesting to explore areas such as stop motion animation and further life drawing instead of having that studio time available to work on the show reel and EAPs that are now looming so large on the horizon.

Hope that helps you see into a second year's brain.

Ian said...

As I said in the article Terry, I long for the day when education didn't need to be justified as a step up into industry too. Our society is poorer when learning isn't worth doing for its own sake, especially with our young folk. When I studied animation under the great Tony Patterson the course (the predecessor to our course) was simply one year of wonderful anarchy, it didn't really take me any closer to a job (when I applied as an inbetweener at Disney some time later I only had the vaguest idea of what one was and absolutely no idea how to do one). I look back on it as one of the best times of my life, and when I really started to define myself as an adult.

But I'm determined to be a realist instead of an idealist here. The kids want jobs, I want to get them jobs. TAFE claims to be in the business of getting people into jobs ( although as stated I think they focus more on delivering qualifications). To achieve this the students need to be spending more time than they currently are on the one thing they want to do for a living. If they communicate to us (teachers) what they want, if they are consistent in what they want (some big ifs), we can shift the course content in that direction for them.

Ian said...

What a conundrum this all poses for a modern day educational institution. In a day and age of finite resources what do we put first? The long term development and broader world/artistic understanding of our students as people or the narrow view focus on a strategic outcome (i.e. a job).

I think this is why we need to deal with this on an individual level. We can provide more focus for those who want it, we just need to make sure we communicate clearly that it can be done if they ask (hence this post). Those who are after something broader are more likely to just go with the flow and enjoy the diversity within the course.

Dana said...

And now here's another conundrum(that is such a cool word)
I've been thinkin for the past couple of weeks as to why I came into animation and I remembered that it's because I wanted to become an illustrator but since there's no course for that I did animation so that I'll have more skills to find a job.
Now taht I've actually done some, I really do love it and that my dream would be to work at Disney, make a movie with my characters and have Darren Hayes sing all teh songs for the movie (yes I have thought about it!)

But I still love illustrating

So the question is, what path shall I take? I can't do both...well I could but taht could lead to both being a half-assed attempt and that ain't good.

Thoughts Mr. Teacher Ian...master of the weird noises.

Oh and I do still remember that there is no illustration jobs in brizzy.

Ian said...

Few illustration jobs in Brisi, I would say outright none, but far less than in animation.

In my opinion, animators make the best illustrators anyway, so the more you study and practice animation the better your illustration skills will get. Trust me, I know its hard to see when I'm telling you to draw rough and loosen up, but before long you will see how the process will start to feed your illustration skills too. I was saying in class on Monday that its a practice that can set your imagination free, liberate you. Sounds corney but its true.

The other thing I would say is that I think all the technology in animation these days can save illustrations as an alternative pass time for you. When I was working in traditional animation the thought of picking up a pencil at home and drawing just for the hell of it was quite repulsive. But when working in 3D I often still get the urge to draw in my own time.

Terry said...

What a wonderful conversation this has become!

Ian, I love your comment that the TAFE Animation course under Tony in the 90's consisted of a year or three of pure fun and anarchy. Back then, nobody expected to get a job as an animator because there were no jobs... it was just a fun way to spend a year! And we did it purely for the love of the medium. Obviously things have changed. I do miss the innocence of those good ol' days!

Frank, I take all your points to heart. I do question whether the course is "falling before the finish line" in terms of jobs (although you are certainly entitled to your opinion), because our graduates are very well represented in the local industry when compared with other courses. But it would be foolish of me to deny that studio jobs are hard to come by. It's a very cyclical industry and I am saddened that, in particular, last year's graduates haven't had much luck yet. Some have, but a few notable talents are still waiting for their time to shine. Still, these things can take time.

And Frank, thanks for making me more aware about the strain of the 2nd Year workload. I will ease off as much as I can so you guys can focus on what you want to focus on.

Dana, getting illustration work in Brisbane will take talent (which you have in abundance), perseverance and luck. As, to be honest, does a career in any kind of creative field, from animation to visual art to acting to digital design to dance to music. My friend Ben Redlich ( is one of the more successful local illustrators that I know, but it took him the better part of a decade to start making a decent living out of his tremendous talent.

Dana, have you checked out Illustration House at Southbank? It's a great sampler of the local illustration scene.

Anonymous said...

Illustration House closed down, oops!

Anonymous said...

Stick with animating.

L plates said...

I reckon it's good to try stuff like stop motion animation, 3D modelling and learning about film making. I'd go crazy just working on a few seconds of animation for a whole year. It's too intense.

Ian said...

Well Mr Plates, I think it all comes down to why your studying. If its just to experience things for the sake of it then that's cool, but if you want a job then I don't think dabbling in the shallows of a whole bunch of different disciplines is going to get you a foot in the door.

That's why I think we (teachers) have to deal with this on a case by case basis, and why its important for student to communicate to us what they want out of their study time. We don't want to (and couldn't afford to) exclude people who just want to experience animation for the hell of it at the expense of those who are career orientated or visa versa.