The Computer Animation, Visual Effects and Game Design program at Think Tank Training Centre in North Vancouver, Canada is an intensive one-year course that specializes in the latest software, techniques and technologies, and caters to the needs of the film, television and gaming industries. It consists of respected industry professionals as instructors teaching a current curriculum, a mentorship program, and small class sizes with extensive hands-on training. The program is divided into three 15 week semesters, with course integration to allow assignments to overlap and support one another. A diploma in Computer Animation, Visual Effects and Game Design will be awarded upon successful completion of the program requirements and demo reel.
“Think Tank is a special school. I was hired by Bioware after they saw my demo reel, and I ended up beating out a few other senior guys for the position." Shawn Kassian, Bioware (Environment Artist)
“Being a student at Think Tank made me feel like I was in an exclusive school for artists seeking to achieve the highest of standards in CG creation.”
Adar Bronstein, ICON Creative Studio (Senior 3D Modeling & Texturing Artist)
“It was really more of a family than a school. Great, supportive people who were always there to help out if I was having trouble with anything, and were also dedicated to seeing me succeed.” Liam Jones, MPC (Technical Animator)
“The school not only cared about my success, but also did everything in their power to make sure I had the tools and skills required to succeed in the industry.”
Tanner Roberts, EA Popcap (Environment Artist)
“Think Tank surpassed my expectations of what I thought a good VFX school would be. Not only do they provide the academic foundations and resources for artists to learn and grow, Scott and Joe make it their priority to ensure a safe, comfortable and welcoming environment for students to work in.” Emily Luk, Image Engine (Junior Texture Artist)
The 12 Month Diploma Program: Course Outline
This course begins with a brief history of animation, and then exploration into the different methods of key-frame animating: keying pose to pose, straight ahead, path animation and how to edit the animation using the f-curve editor. Students will also explore simple walks and runs for biped and quadruped characters.
Modeling 100 will introduce the concepts and processes of creating three dimensional objects within a virtual environment. You will learn all aspects of polygon modeling and create a variety of objects, including environments and sets, vehicles and organic characters. Introduction to Brush based modeling using Mudbox will also be covered during the latter half of the course.
Classsical & Flash Animation
Students develop drawing skills while learning the principles of squash and stretch, follow-through and overlapping action, anticipation, timing, key frames and in-between-ing. Lessons in character animation and storyboarding explore the elements necessary to bring an animation to life. This course builds a foundation for 3D classes to follow.
Digital Imaging 100
This module provides an in-depth exploration of Adobe Photoshop, the industry standard for digital imaging. Students work on the basics of image editing, color correction, color management, preparing files for print and exporting images. Once the basics are covered, students will then begin to use these tools to texture a variety of objects, thus preparing them for more advanced 3D texturing software and a real-world production environment.
Students will be introduced to Autodesk Maya, an advanced 3D animation and content creation software package, with the focus on 3D principles and workflow. Everything from materials, UVs, shaders, rigging, overrides and passes is covered in detail and brings many different industry components together.
The introduction to the world of texturing. Tools such as Photoshop, NDO and Marmoset will be used to provide real-time feedback when texturing props, environments and characters.
3D Animation 200
From simple mechanical animations the students will now focus on the basics of character animation. Bringing a synthetic character to life is the goal. Using Maya, students will study acting to dialogue, facial animation, timing, editing animations with F-curves, and all the principles that make a great animation. Using Forward and Inverse Kinematics to pose and animate characters, students will tackle a variety of situations that they will face in the real world of production as a character animator. Students will also learn the significant impact rigging plays in successful animation, and what factors make a good or bad character rig. Video rotoscoping will be used as a visual aid to the animator.
3D Modeling 200
In this second and more advanced module, students will build upon their skills founded in Modeling 100. Attention to detail will be key as students learn to build an “animation- proficient” character with proper topology. Additional techniques will be introduced to add realistic detail to models and speed up modeling times. Efficient, yet impressive, sets and props will be incorporated with other production pipeline classes to achieve a realistic look. This class also includes learning supplementary tools and software to support a variety of modeling and creation pipelines.
Acting For Animation 200
This course introduces the fundamental principles of acting for the purpose of creating animation. The exercises will teach how to perform actions differently for various characters and personalities: how to properly do anticipations and reactions for each action, how to do verbal and non-verbal acting, acting between two characters, increasing imagination and creativity and how to act with body language first and facial acting second.
Advanced Lighting 200
This course focuses on lighting and shading in a way that will enable artists to better understand how to use any rendering application. Using Maya/Vray, students will have their minds blown when they learn how limited their perception of materials, light and shadow has been all of their lives. When they apply this new understanding to lighting and shading in CG, they will find themselves ahead of the pack in any software. The second half of this course is designed to get students up to speed with the 3D painting package from The Foundry. Emphases are on the integration of Mari into the student’s demo reel workflow and the development of photo-realistic textures.
Advanced Texturing 200
This course is an exploration of texture painting for VFX. Students will learn the ins-and-outs of the latest 3D painting packages, and utilize the programs to create photo-realistic textures using a combination of photo projections and hand painting techniques. The course will take an in-depth look at a variety of materials and surfaces such as metals, skin, glass and wet surfaces and how to use a combination of texturing and shading in V-ray for Maya to replicate these materials. Students in this course will take their models to the next level, and will be able to integrate them into live action footage and games seamlessly!
Compositing & Visual Effects 200
Students are introduced to the world of the visual effects artist, and the skills and techniques that are used in the field. We discuss how effects are created and how they are integrated into live-action and CG plates. Our goal is to give the students a good understanding of how movie magic is achieved. Particles, mattes, color keying, camera tracking, stabilization and using simple yet effective effects such as glows, flares, depth of field and color correction to achieve a photo-real look will be covered. This course is essential to the understanding of various methods of compositing in order to achieve esthetically beautiful and believable imagery.
Digital Sculpting 200
The purpose of Digital Sculpting 200 is to teach the necessary tools to be able to function effectively in a professional working pipeline. This course introduces the techniques and possibilities that Zbrush provides. Students will develop strong fundamentals of pose / proportion, and learn all the necessary techniques to effectively finish sculpting a model and prepare it for pipeline production. Students will also be taught how to work between Zbrush and other major 3D applications, such as Mudbox, for superior results.
Game Design 200
Students learn how to work with art assets in the CryEngine game engine and apply this to a class project. While working on this, students get to focus on what they want to pursue as a career. Topics covered include normal map generation and painting, advanced UV techniques, importing geometry, collision meshes, animation systems and more. Students will feel more than comfortable within the CryEngine, have the knowledge to adapt to any realtime/game work environment and know how to keep their digital assets efficient and of high quality.
In Maya 200, you will learn the basics of modeling, lighting, texturing and animating a scene using Maya. Students gain an understanding of the interface and workflow of Maya and how to interpret tools and principals learned in Softimage to this alternate platform. The emphasis is placed on the technical aspects of Maya with rigging being a major focus.
Mentored Lab 200
During a monitored lab you will be reviewing your progress on current running projects assigned in various classes throughout the week. Each class is structured to provide individual coaching in order to ensure goals and timelines are met on all assignments. A senior academic advisor or a TA is made available to coach, critique and troubleshoot as needed if any problems that arise. This ensures each student gets the necessary help needed in between their classes.
Production Pipeline 200
Production 200 allows students the time needed to develop and deploy their final demo reel concepts. The class will also focus on developing the relationship the student will need to get started in the industry after graduation. Outings to mainstream studios in Vancouver and visits from top industry professionals will serve to inspire and guide students to create viable demo reels that will get them hired by the employer of their choice.
Traditional Sculpting 200
Our sculpture class is a chance for students to get their hands dirty. Taught by Gideon Hay, an industry veteran for sculpts, maquettes, and props in Vancouver, this class will introduce the basics of building character maquettes, armatures and the use of scalpel as a modelling tool. Anatomy, texture, proportion and character design will be discussed, as well as how they are used in a real production situation. It's also a chance for students to change gears and enjoy making cool art without a computer.
Character Creation 200
In this seven week extended workshop, students will learn how to go from a sculpted model to a production ready and efficient game model. Emphasis will be on workflow and problem solving, so that when students are finished the course they will have a production ready model. Confidence is essential when entering the final demo reel semester, and this course will solidify the student's knowledge base on all things character creation.
Advanced Shading & Rendering 300
Advanced rendering and engines support students in their demo reel semester with regard to rendering and outputting their created content. Students will feel comfortable rendering in VRay and have the knowledge to create complex materials and lighting situations while keeping their renders efficient. Students will also learn how to utilize a render farm for maximum efficiency and pipeline experience.
Career Management 300
Once a student leaves the nest and lands that first job they are faced with a myriad of financial decisions. This course is designed to take the mystery out of topics like:
- Getting your foot in the door of the company of your choice
- Giving a great interview (or 'how to sell yourself')
- Managing your student loan
- RSPs and how they are a benefit
- Mortgages and why they are easier than you think
- How to invest in stocks, GICs and mutual funds and why they make good sense
- Freelancing and/or starting your own company.
Social Media & Self Promotion
This course is the last step to getting your demo reel into a format that properly showcases your work. Outputting to video as well as putting together your own online portfolio will be covered. Understanding Interface design, compression, formats, editing and sound engineering will enable students to make a knockout original presentation that sells your skills and talents. Packaging and overall presentation will also be a focus of this course.
During third semester, the students will be paired up with a personal mentor who is currently working in the industry. The mentor will coach the student one-on-one through the demo reel process and will provide feedback, advice and critiques. The students will meet with the mentor once a week, and will be given goals and timelines in order to properly structure their very intense final semester.
During a monitored lab, you will be reviewing your progress on current projects assigned in various classes throughout the week. Each class is structured to provide individual coaching for each student in order to ensure goals and timelines are met on all assignments. A senior academic advisor or TA is made available to coach, critique and troubleshoot as needed, if any problems that arise. This ensures that each student gets the necessary help needed in between their classes.
Production 300 is designed to monitor the progress of the students throughout their final (mentorship) semester. Students are interviewed every two weeks to ensure mentors are effective, time is managed well, and resources are accessed and utilized in an efficient manner. This is a good forum for students to discuss new concepts and technical hurdles.
Student Demo Reels
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Last updated February 20, 2017