Monday, July 16, 2007

About Animation Mentor

A lot of people have been asking me about Animation Mentor, so I figured I'd make a plug for it here. It's a bit lengthy, I know, but it's just how I feel about AM. ;)

I have nothing but positive comments about Animation Mentor as a school. When I left Purdue, I had decent beginners level skills in Maya and Max, and if you asked me then, I had a decent animation reel.. But I learned very quickly that I had definitely picked up more on the technology than the art and principles of animation while I was there. My reel obviously could not compete at studio level, so I went around looking at animation schools for a masters degree. I traveled to Vancouver Film School, Van Arts, The Art Institute, USC, Cal Arts, Academy of Art University, Savannah College of Art and Design, and Full Sail Real World Education. I studied others on the internet. However, none of those seemed as attentive to the detailed art of animation than Animation Mentor (AM).

First of all, it's hugely important that it's an online school. It's fantastic to be able to live and work wherever you want and still get amazing training. As far as the quality of the classes, you get video lectures each week, star-studded with animators who have worked in all kinds of studios (Pixar, ILM, Dreamworks, Sony, Tippett.. the list goes on). Each informative lecture addresses animation principles, studio work environments, theories, applications of the skill, etc. Along with the video lecture (roughly an hour long, sometimes 2), there are video assignment instructions, as well as written out key points and lecture notes, and at least once a week you participate in a live online Q&A session with a mentor (animator currently working in industry - you get a new one for each 3-month class; my current mentor has worked pretty much everywhere, the last one worked at Pixar and Blue Sky, the one prior to that worked on Ratatouille and Finding Nemo, etc.. so we're talking big experience). In your live session you use a webcam and meet with your mentor and classmates face to face and discuss the lecture, assignment, studio life, work the mentor has done, pretty much anything that comes up. Then of course the mentor makes a private video critique of your animation assignment every week which you can revisit at any time throughout the class (each class is 12 weeks long, there are 6 total so the whole program is a year and a half in duration).

It is intensive and requires a lot of determination - honestly I think it's a great way to get ready for the industry. Not only does it keep you on task and inevitably makes you a better animator, but it also keeps your finger on the pulse of the animation industry so that you're ready for the attitudes, the skill level, the dedication, the expectations, etc.

If it's in your budget, and if you are set on this career path, I think this is one of the best (if not the best) program out there. Actually, it's also a great way to see if animation really is the thing you want to do - you can pay by the class (that is, 3 month session), and even just class one should be a pretty good indication of what you can expect to learn, and the work ethic you must have. Other masters programs are great in their own way because of research, location, full contact to other human beings in the same room, etc... but short of the physical location, I think Animation Mentor keeps you all the more focused on the principles of the art, and pushes you to increase your skill level on a weekly basis.

I don't know if you've been to their website or seen their online animation showcase reels, but if you haven't, you should take a look. The work that comes out of AM is amazing. The biggest reason, in my opinion, is because I think you get more regular feedback at AM than anywhere else - comments from peers who are just as determined as you are, and critiques from the leading animation experts out there. These people know their stuff!

As far as applying there, for those who have asked - don't worry so much about it. I don't think it's changed much since I got in, and as long as you put your heart into the application and answer topics with your genuine intentions, it should not be difficult to get in. I don't know if there are waitlists or anything like that, now that it's getting so popular, so it might be to your advantage to do it sooner rather than later, but it'll still be there later too. ;) This program isn't going away any time soon - it just keeps getting better.

So hopefully that helps those of you who have asked. Definitely post about your school experiences, especially those who have gone on to places like SCAD, AAU, USC, etc - I'd love to hear how your experience has been!!!


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