LOST BOYS STUDIOS, Vancouver, Canada; Montreal, Canada
Degrees: Five specialized, career-focused programs. Vancouver: Advanced Visual Effects Compositing (12 months), Effects Technical Director (12 months) and Digital Lighting Artist (four months). Montreal: Effects Artist (five months) and Compositing Artist (five months).
Number of students: Around 50 in the Vancouver location and 17 in the Montreal startup.
Select collaborations: “When a studio needs training in a specialized area, they come to us to collaborate on designing a program to meet their needs,” says co-owner and co-director Ria Bénard. “When Sony was in need of Katana Lighters, they approached us knowing we are the specialized preeminent focused training center. This is how our Digital Lighting Artist certificate program was born.”
Keeping up with technology: “We constantly tweak our systems to reflect current industry standards. We meet with leads and supervisors as well as working alumni to ensure we are always relevant,” says founder and co-director Mark Bénard. “We consult with studios who collaborate to keep our programs [up-to-date]. The input they provide during reel reviews, screening, tours and presentations allows our programs to be in a state of continual evolution,” adds Ria Bénard.
Connecting: “We are fortunate to have been teaching students since 2006, with experienced graduates still actively working in the industry and happy to help new Lost Boys graduates,” says Compositing Instructor Andrew Zeller. “Lost Boys attends events and career fairs with students such as SIGGRAPH, Spark FX Conferences, the Vancouver Digital Entertainment Career Fairs, and more. Lost Boys also runs a public online job board (vfxvancouver.com) used by major studios throughout Vancouver, Canada.”
Further comments: “We keep our class size small (around 8 to 12 students per class) so our instructors can get to know every student and help them individually improve,” says Ria Bénard.
NEXTGEN SKILLS ACADEMY, London, England, and nine other U.K. locations
Degrees: NextGen is an academy consisting of member institutions. Its network of Further Education (FE) colleges offer pre-university courses (“Level 3”). Students study for the AIM Awards Level 3 Extended Diploma in Games, Animation and VFX Skills. Courses are full-time and last two years.
Number of students: 500 registered this year across 10 FE Colleges, with locations around the U.K. More colleges are coming on board for the 2019-2020 academic year.
VR/AR: Its FE colleges are offering VR/AR options as part of the Higher National courses and NextGen facilitates industry briefs and links to ensure the courses are relevant.
Keeping up with technology: “We meet with our Employer Steering Group quarterly. The group includes Sony Interactive Entertainment, Ubisoft Reflections, Blue Zoo, Framestore, DNEG, The Imaginarium, Centroid 3D, Jagex, The Mill and Playground Games. We work closely with them to ensure our course is always teaching the latest skills and industry,” says Phil Attfield, VFX and Animation Partnership Director.
Connecting: “Students work to real industry briefs with feedback and regularly visit studios. We also facilitate industry placements, host industry pop-up labs at colleges and organize the Graduate Showcase where students present their work to leading employers from the industry,” says Attfield.
Challenges: “Adapting course content to the shifting needs of employers as their pipelines and procedures adjust to take advantage of new technology.”
New in 2019: “We have been building and promoting the progression route from Level 3 to VFX Apprenticeships, opening up opportunities at more studios for apprenticeship placements. We have also been offering support for the introduction of Higher National courses at our network of FE colleges.”