Friday, 23 January 2015

Letter From Denmark - What Can We Learn From The Animation Workshop?

The Animation Workshop, Denmark
The Animation Workshop (TAW) in Viborg, Denmark has become one of the best places to study animation in Europe, with ten students competing for each spot on their character animation course.  I have taught classes there for many years and this year I acted as an external examiner, helping to grade the students on their final year "bachelor films", which were among the strongest student films I have ever seen. So what, exactly, is the secret of their success, and what can we learn from them here at Bucks?

Gateway to the Animation Workshop
Lesson Number One: Be open to fresh ideas. 
TAW is one of the most open and liberal schools in the world. New ideas are encouraged, new possibilities investigated. The school hates to say no. They welcome new guest lecturers and visiting tutors every week, bringing fresh ideas and methodologies. All classes are conducted in English, and international students are welcomed. 

Lesson Number Two: Encourage Group Projects
TAW recently added a CGA (computer graphics art) course with a strong emphasis on technical skills, and the CG artists work together with the animators in their third year to produce a "bachelor project" - a final year film which aims to combine excellent animation and story telling with a high level of technical skill.  Every year the films get better and better, and the recent results speak for themselves. Group projects are generally much harder to organise, and they tend to go wrong more often, but when properly managed the results can be stunning.

DreamWorks Animation wants students with team skills
Shelley Page, head of International Outreach at DreamWorks,  who also acted as an external examiner, argued the case for students who have learned to work together in groups. "All our projects at DreamWorks are collaborative. We hire students who know how to work together, how to take responsibility for their role within a group project, and how to work successfully with others".

Animation class at TAW

Lesson Number Three: Bring in lots of visiting lecturers
TAW is remarkable in that it has no permanent teaching staff. The only permanent staff are administrators, who bring in visiting tutors - largely from industry - to teach the students. This requires a lot of administrative effort, and it doesn't always work out, but the benefit is a steady flow of talent with cutting edge skills teaching the students the very latest techniques.

The Animation Workshop, Viborg, Denmark

Lesson Number Four: Give each student their own personal space
At TAW, each animation student has their own personal work space. This encourages a sense of ownership and pride in their work, and means that the classrooms and corridors are all filled with creative work, inspiring other students to do even better.

Below is a film made a couple of years ago by students from TAW - The Legend of Bjorn.

Lesson Number Five: Be patient.
Rome wasn't built in a day. TAW was founded in around 2001 and it took them many patient years of hard work to build the centre of excellence that it is today. Our Animation & VFX course at Bucks is just a year and a half old, and we're still ironing out the kinks.

Gateway building at Bucks.  Our state-of-the-art media hub

But the work done by our students in High Wycome is getting better all the time, our facilities are world-class, and our standards are steadily rising. We're excited to see what our students can do given a little time, patience --- and a lot of hard work and enthusiasm.


 For more on the experience of studying at Bucks New University, come and visit us at one of our Open Days,  take a virtual tour of one of our animation studios, check out what our students think of our course, and see why we're ranked in the top 12 creative universities in the UK. Find out why we're giving free laptops to all our students, and why we give all our students free access to videos at Also, see what financial assistance might be available to you. Learn which is better for animation, a PC or a Mac? Get hold of a copy of a map so you can find your way around campus, and learn about motion capture at Bucks.

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