Tuesday, 22 October 2013

All You Need to Know about Animation at Bucks

UCAS - still the principal hub for University applications
Thinking of applying to Bucks to study Animation & VFX? Well, now is a good time to make a decision. All across the country, students are starting to fill out their UCAS forms - still the primary gateway to accessing higher education here in the UK. So, given that there are around 80 courses across the country which offer animation, why choose Bucks? Here are some good reasons why we think we offer the best animation course in the country.

Q: Why should I choose Bucks over the many other schools which offer a BA in animation?

A: Because we are very good at what we do. Co-course leader and animation tutor Alex Williams (that's me) has worked on over 25 animated feature films from Who Framed Roger Rabbit? to the last three Harry Potter pictures.  Dave Creighton, our other course leader, is an excellent 3D generalist with a wealth of experience - you can read an interview with him here.  Nick Brown is also a very experienced digital artist, and Rob Kelly has a fantastic record as a director of motion graphics and commercials. Check out Rob's awesome demo reel here.

Q: What about visiting tutors? Will there be experts from industry?

A: Definitely. We just had a visit from Karen Halliwell, a leading expert in rigging (That's a Technical Director in movie-speak) who came to talk to our students in a panel discussion. We'll be seeing a lot more of her and other visiting tutors in the future.

Q: Is there a video which explains all about the course?

A: Yes! Watch our official course video here. It's only a few minutes long, and it explains what we're trying to do here at Bucks. Basically, we want to be the best course in the country for animation & vfx.

The Gateway building is packed with modern kit

Q: What kind of equipment do you have at Bucks?

A: We have world-class equipment for our students. Our new Gateway building is stuffed with state-of-the-art kit. We have facilities for green screen, audio recording, sound mixing, sound design, virtual sets, film & TV, live action - in short all the equipment needed to make almost any kind of modern media production. We don't have Motion Capture facilities (yet) but we do have a great relationship with Centroid, a leading MoCap company - read about our trip to their Pinewood Studios facility last year.

Q: But aren't those separate courses?

A: Yes, but we strongly encourage collaborations between departments. For example, the sound design students are especially keen on collaborations with  animation. We have amazing sound design equipment and super-talented students - you can read more about what they do here. Animators are film-makers and we want the animators to benefit from the expertise that other departments can bring to collaborating on making great movies.

One of London's leading VFX houses

Q: What about partnerships with Industry?

A: We are forging partnerships with industry, especially the with the visual effects industry in Soho, London. Kevin Spruce, head of animation at Framestore, one of the UK's leading VFX houses, was the external assessor on our course, helping to make sure that we train animators who are up to the job of doing the kind of high-end animal and creature work that Framestore specialises in.

We also have informal connections to Cinesite, MPC and other visual effects houses in London and many studios overseas.

Free laptops for all our freshmen!

Q: I heard you give away free laptops? Can this be true?

A: Yes! We give away free laptops to all out freshmen students. We want our students to become well rounded 3D artists, capable of working from home and making their own films. That way you are prepared to work in a studio or even set up your own mini studio, working from home and taking on freelance work. You can read all about why we give away free laptops here.

Q: What's all this about "flipping the classroom?"

A: One of the ways in which we are making things better at Bucks is by putting hundreds of videos online, for student use. What this means is that much of your learning will be done online, watching bespoke tutorials step-by-step. This frees up precious classroom time for workshops and reviews (the system is called blended learning).

Hence, we "flip the classroom". You watch the lectures at home, then come in to class for tutorials and extra help. In the meantime, you can post questions at our Facebook classroom, and we'll get you instant feedback.

In fact, we think learning online works better, partly because everyone gets to learn at their own pace. If you get stuck or don't understand, you just rewind and play it again. Eventually, given enough effort, you will get it. You can read more about it about how it works here.

Q: What if I need a bit of extra help?

A: Help is available! The Learning Development Unit helps students who have difficulty writing essays and taking notes. In addition, Bucks runs a mentoring program so that freshmen students can find someone to help them and out and keep an eye on them during their time at University. It's free, and anyone can sign up. So don't worry...you're not alone and there is always help available.

Check out our students work at our YouTube channel
Q: Where can I see the past work done by Bucks students?

A: Our students have done plenty of excellent work. Take a look at past blog posts showcasing some of the work done by students such as Monika Dzikowicz, Krzysztof Michalski, Lydon Fleisig, Jens Kopke, Mike Swan and Clare Hunt.

Also, take a look at our page at YouTube and have a look at some of the videos. Check out our showcase of last year's work. Your job at Bucks will be to study hard, learn your craft and do even better!

Q: Will I have to come for interview and if so do I have to bring a portfolio?

A: Yes, and yes. We interview all our candidates, largely because we want to make sure that you are a good fit for our course, and vice versa - we don't want anyone to sign up at Bucks and be disappointed. And yes, you will need a portfolio - check out our post here on the kind of material we are looking for.

Commercial work like this helps our students to develop their skills

Q: Do you help your graduates find work?

A: We do! We make strenuous efforts to help our students find work.  One way we are doing this is to do short film projects for commercial clients. Check out the most recent one we did here. There are others in the works, bringing in professional experience and paid work for our recent graduates.

Education is expensive - be prepared!
Q: How much does it all cost and are there loans available?

A: Right now a degree at Bucks costs around £9,000 a year. There is a well-funded system of government loans in place, and in addition some scholarships and bursaries are available here at Bucks. You can read our handy guide to the system here. 

Q: How should I get ready for the course?

A: Start reading the right books! Here is a list of useful books to get you started. Number one is The Animator's Survival Kit - every student should have a copy. Also, check out the week 1 videos at Animation Apprentice, which are a great introduction to the art of animation. They are all free.

If you want to know more about what we do, feel free to browse the blog, and don't hesitate to email me at alexander.williams@bucks.ac.uk.

Better yet, come and visit us at one of our Open Days - and see for yourself. Our next Open Day is scheduled for Wednesday 20th November. Don't be shy! We're glad to talk, and we even offer free coffee and muffins.


PS The deadline for UCAS applications is January 15th 2014.

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