Vancouver Film School animation & VFX head Colin Giles shares the importance of training the young minds

Canada’s premier post-secondary entertainment arts institution, Vancouver Film School boasts of veteran academicians. While giving a sneak-peak of their curriculum, the School of Animation & Visual Effects head Colin Giles opines that getting exposure to the full spectrum of animation or VFX is important before choosing a specific topic. The master trainer reveals how they believe in starting the training program at an early age.

Giles, who has over 17 years of experience as a character animator, animation director, and designer, with credits in traditional and computer animation, throws light on certain basic queries that an aspiring animator or VFX artist can have.

To keep up with industry demand as the need for professional animators and VFX artists explodes, Vancouver Film School’s (VFS) 3D Animation and Visual Effects Program (one of the top in the world) is getting even better this May with a new advanced industry program open only to experienced and advanced 3D animators and VFX artists. The school has also announced that its 3D Animation and VFX Program is now officially ‘Certified Partners’ with Houdini/ SideFX.

In an email interview with Animation Xpress, Giles explained how their institute’s courses can pave a smooth path for the future artists.

1.Being the VFS head of Animation and industry veteran, do you think that a student should specialize in a specific vertical of animation/VFX or train as a generalist?

We believe students are best served understanding the full spectrum of the animation/VFX pipeline and then choosing a specific track in their final projects. This way they have the full context and communication skills for today’s industry.

To reflect the nature of the 3D industry, 3D animation and VFX students have the opportunity to focus on 3D animation, modelling, or visual effects in their third year.

2.How do you all ensure that the students are industry-ready by the end of the programs?

Unlike traditional post-secondary institutions, our students are able to enter the industry while at school. Through one year of concentrated work balancing industry-led theory and hands-on production, we are able to give our students the necessary skills to craft a professional-level portfolio or reel and start working. Our students could be graduating and in the industry in a year or two, and by the time their high school classmates that attend universities graduate, VFS grads could be the one hiring them.

We also partner with a number of high schools to begin prepping students before enrollment, as some schools have started to mold their art programs to match VFS curriculum, fast-tracking enrollment.

3.With different sets of students joining and completing the courses every year, how do you feel about the future of animation in Vancouver?

The industry has grown consistently and new studios, such as Walt Disney Animation, continue to open up in Vancouver. Vancouver is the leading animation hub in the world. This, couples with the fact that there is currently a great demand for VFX artists.

4.What percentages of international students join VFS’s 3D animation & VFX training? From which country do you get the maximum number of students?

About 60 per cent of our students are international. South America continues to be our major growth market.

5.In your 25+ years of experience in animation, what do you have to say about the evolution of animation as a discipline?

I have seen the evolution of animation grow by leaps during my career. The changes in new tech and streaming services have been the spark for these.

6.While the students are being taught about the creative processes, are there any courses or sessions being held to give them an understanding of the business/managerial side of the industry?

Yes, we have a full Career Prep track to prepare students in many aspects of the industry that are non artistic or technical. We are also constantly evolving our curriculum to emulate the real-world industry.

7.When the pandemic broke out initially, how did your department manage to continue the training of such skill-based courses? Was the e-learning method already in place or you had to chalk out an immediate plan?

We transitioned to full online in six days and then spent many months improving our online delivery. We continue to offer some classes online that work best in that format.

8.With the growing gaming, Metaverse and NFT space, will we see courses on that being offered at VFS?

VFS is always at the forefront of new developments across the industry and will continue to be so. We are currently offering a part time course in machine learning as an example.

9.VFS partnered with Pixelloid Studios India. What is your opinion about Indian talents?

Students and Alumni from India consistently rank among our best students!