What’s In the First Year of VFX at Escape Studios?

What’s in the first Year of our undergraduate VFX course at Escape Studios?

Our first year at Escape Studios is the same for all our undergraduate students, whether they are studying vfx, animation or games.

That means that in the first year of studies (“Level 4”), all our students study a broad, flexible curriculum, enabling them to understand the whole VFX, animation and games pipeline before committing to one specialism in their second year.

Three Courses – One Curriculum
Whether you are studying the art of games, animation of VFX, the first year is the same for everyone. This enables our students to switch from one discipline to another in their second year of studies, should they want to change courses. It also makes sure that everyone gets a broad grounding in the overall digital pipeline, which is important if you want a full understanding of how our industry works.

First Year – Level 4The first year of study is known as “Level 4”. At Escape Studios, this involves six consecutive modules, running one after another.

First year artwork by Ronnie Kaye

CR4002 – Creative Foundations Craft  (30 Credits)
Creative Foundations is, as the name suggests, a foundation course in creativity and creative thinking. Some software, such as Photoshop, is taught in this module; and students are encouraged to explore creative ideas and creative ways of thinking.  This module includes a number of “mini-modules”:

PR4001 – Creative Foundations Project (2 week group project) (30 Credits)
In Creative Foundations – Project, students take the skills they have learned in Creative Foundations – Craft, and complete a team project. In the case of our undergraduate animators, their task is to create an animatic for a proposed animated TV series. For many of our students, this will be their first experience of a team project, working together in groups – just like in industry. You can see an example below:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deubwKA_KCs]

“Alpha Lighthouse at Whale’s End” Credits: Paloma Zhu: Director, story, concept art. Morgan Mda: Storyboards and concept art. Konrad Peczkowicz: Editor, sound design. Callum Wylie: Producer, post-production.

Christmas and New Year Holidays
Following PR4001 students have a roughly 2-3 week break over the Christmas and New Year holidays, and then return to Escape Studios in the second week of January.

Maya fundamentals in Directed Study Week

Directed Study Week – January
During their first week back at Escape, students have a “directed study week”, which involves some online training to get students up to speed with the basics of Maya. The idea is to get used to the Maya interface before formal teaching begins. To see what exactly is in Directed Study Week, follow this link.

AN4001 – Animation 1 (15 Credits)
AN4001 is a four week animation module in which students explore the basics of animation, from a bouncing ball through to sophisticated motion. Assignments include walks, runs, jumps and the use of live action reference to animate complex action. You can read more about AN4001 here.  The principal software we teach is Maya, and the animation tutor is animator and industry veteran Marc Stevenson. To see more detail about what’s inside AN4001, take a look at this blog post.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qXp4ZKN-Q_M]

GA4001 – Games (15 Credits)
This 4 week games module introduces students to the basics of creating 3D assets for games (using Maya), and integrating them into the game engine – Unreal Engine.  Core skills include modelling, texturing and lighting, skills which are also transferable to other disciplines, such as animation and also VFX. The module builds up to an industry brief – creating a “health pickup” for a game.

Animation by Paloma Zhu

VX4002 – 3D for VFX (15 Credits)
This four week module introduces students to the basics of the 3D pipeline. Students learn 3D modelling, texturing and lighting in Maya for the 3D VFX pipeline, aiming at the kind of photorealistic style which dominates work in the visual effects industry.  

VX4001 – Compositing for VFX (15 Credits)
This four week module introduces students to the basics of compositing, using Nuke to combine elements in a visual effects environment.  Students learn a variety of skills including colour correction, 2D Nuke camera tracking and 3D projections to create a composited environment. This module is taught by Nuke and camera expert Clement Gharini.

Grand total: 120 Credits
The first year is worth 120 credits. However, though students must pass all the modules to progress to the second year, the first year grades do not count towards students’ final degree classification.

Golden Acorn – directed by Maciej Osuch

The first year at Escape Studios is very varied and diverse, and offers our students many opportunities to practice their creativity and pick up new skills. By the end of the year, students will be ready to move into their specialist area, and dig deeper into their specialist skillset.

1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th year at Escape Studios
To see what’s in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th year at Escape Studios, follow these links:

The Escape Studios VFX Blog offers a personal view on the art of visual effects. 

120 Credits

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