What is The “Escape Method”?

What is the Escape Method? The Escape Method is the way we teach animation at Escape Studios. It has five main pillars: Intensive classroom teaching, online tutorials, constructive feedback, industry engagement, and group projects.

All our students at Escape Studios study intensively, with daily personal tuition from industry-trained tutors, combined with online tutorials, regular, intensive feedback, and engagement from industry.

Our BA and MA courses also have a strong focus on group work, known as “Studio Projects” in which students work together in teams, learning the “soft skills” of working in groups, mirroring the actual processes of a live studio project.

Michael Davies rigged “Smaug” for “The Hobbit”

1. Intensive Personal tuition from industry tutors
Classes at Escape Studios are intensive; we expect students to be in every day, studying and learning every day.  Our tutors come from industry, and we also have extensive industry contacts.

Block modules
At Escape Studios we teach animation as a craft; this means studying in “block modules”, running sequentially over the course of the year, allowing students to focus with energy and clarity on the task in hand.

Studio Assistants
We also have Studio Assistants (SAs) in the classroom whose job it is to help our students when they encounter problems – especially technical ones. Studio Assistants are always available, usually sitting or standing at the back of the class, ready to help out.

2. Online Tutorials at Vimeo
We also offer online feedback and support at our online classrooms, and we also have hundreds of animation tutorials available at our Vimeo channel, on everything from Maya basics to technical subjects like MoCap retargeting.

We have an ever-expanding range of tutorials hosted at Vimeo, which teach the art and craft of animation, as well as related areas such as modeling, texturing and lighting.  You can find the Vimeo channel here. Our students can learn a huge amount online, simply by watching our password-protected video tutorials. The videos are available for all our current students and Escapees.

3. Constructive feedback

Alex Williams gives feedback at Escape Studios

Students at Escape Studios learning by practicing their animation skills, and getting regular feedback.

To be ready for industry, students must learn how to give and receive criticism, and how to learn from feedback.  We all tend to be shy about our work (especially when we are learning something new), but positive critique is necessary to improve our work. Constructive feedback takes a two main forms: classroom feedback, and online feedback.

Classroom feedback
There are a number of ways in which students at Escape Studios can get feedback and critique. First and most obvious is in the classroom, from your tutor. If you’re stuck or falling behind, just stick up your hand and ask for help.

Our students should never forget that there are many animation tutors at Escape Studios.  Any one of them can be asked for feedback and critique.

Sometimes students are shy to ask for help, which is why all our tutors are encouraged to walk around the classroom to make sure everyone is in good shape. But don’t be shy – always stick your hand up if you need assistance. It’s what we’re here for.

You can also ask the studio assistants for help. They are usually at the back of the classroom, keeping an eye on how students are getting along.

Facebook Classroom
We also have a dedicated Facebook Classroom for each class. As an online classroom, it’s where students post their work to get feedback, and it’s also where we run animation dailies, simulating the experience of showing your work and getting feedback in a studio environment.

The importance of criticism
Being able to take criticism (“notes”, as they say in industry) is part of the process of creating great animation.  When you first show your work to a client, they will have comments, and they won’t always love your first efforts. So get used to making lists, and actioning client notes one by one.

Whether you’re working at a studio, or doing private client work, animators need to be flexible, and learn to incorporate criticism in order to make your work better. The bigger the budget, the more criticism you are likely to get.

Notes being given at our Facebook Group

Closed Group – members only
Because it’s a closed group, everyone can post their work, safe in the knowledge that the only people who can see it are other students, and tutors. It’s a place to make mistakes in a safe environment.

Wisdom of the crowds
We all start off feeling shy about our work, but as we grow in confidence it gets easier to post test animation and get constructive feedback. When you post your work in a forum, you open up the problems to a broad range of solutions – you never know who is going to come up with a great suggestion for how to make the shot better.

Learn to take criticism – and give it too
It is good practice for working in industry, not just to solicit comments, but also to learn to be able to give constructive criticism. Animators help each other out on production all the time by giving one another tips and suggestions, and your best resource at a new studio is often the person sitting next to you.

Oz Gani and Ross Burgess from Framestore act out some dino action

4. Industry engagement
Our central London location means that we are just a short walk from many of the UK’s leading animation and VFX houses, and this makes it easy for industry practitioners to drop in and give a talk, or mentor our students.

We also host regular industry feedback sessions, where students can get feedback from industry guests.  Oz Gani from Framestore is a regular industry guest, helping the second year animators to polish their skills and make their work better.

Industry feedback is important because it helps to keep us grounded in the real world of the animation industry, reminding us of what animators will be expected to do when they are facing actual clients.

5. Studio Projects
Our BA and MA courses have a strong focus on group projects, working together as teams, teaching students the “soft skills” of working together in groups, mirroring the actual processes of a live studio project.

Studio Projects also allow our students to achieve higher standards than they could attain by working alone. Many of our students films have gone on to win festival prizes, getting our students industry attention and also ensuring they have an IMDB profile, a useful first step for entering the industry.

Home Sweet Home: Best Student Animation

Home Sweet Home
Home Sweet Home, directed by Maria Robertson in early 2019, won the award for Best Student Animation at the 2019 British Animation Film Festival.  It was also shortlisted for a student BAFTA, and participated in the 63rd BFI London Film Festival, as part of the Family Short Film Programme.

Minuet, completed in the summer of 2019, is our most ambitious short film to date, at just under 5 minutes’ running time. Directed by Aaron Hopwood and Harry Pearson, Minuet, won awards for Best Animation in the 2019 Zero Budget Film Festival and Best Animation in the Golden Nugget International Film Festival.

Jericho, completed in early 2019, is a short film about a lonely robot searching for a friend. and was directed by Sarah Andrews and completed by our third year undergraduate animation studentsJericho won Best Animation at the Melrose Film Festival in Orlando, Florida, was shortlisted for a student BAFTA, and won Best Animation and Best VFX at the 2019 Nexus Film Festival. It also won an award in the 2019 Zero Budget Film Festival. 

Miguel Teixera, Maciej Osuch and Titi-Marion Giusca

Golden Acorn
The Golden Acorn, directed by Maciej Osuch, and completed by our second year animators in the Spring of 2019, won the Best Teaser/Trailer at the 2019 Golden Nugget International Film Festival.

Vivi Ossa
Vivi Ossa, completed by 3rd year undergraduate animation students in early 2019, was also an award winner in this year’s Zero Budget Film Festival.

The Escape Method is a unique blend of intensive personal tuition combined with regular, intensive feedback, online learning resources, and industry engagement.  For our undergraduate and post-graduate students, there is a strong focus on group projects, working together as teams, producing studio-ready talent.

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

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