Well it's that time again! Time for me to come up with another excuse as to why I have nothing to show you all.
This week, it is simply that I have been too busy with work (as in trying to make money while unemployed), and research. The research here is actually more important than that of simply drawing and animating, which is why I have not finished anything this week. I have paid the DAVE school (that's "Digital Animation & Visual Effects School" for those who haven't heard) down in Orlando Florida, a little visit.
Upon checking into our hotel room, we called one of the DAVE school representatives, who happens to also be a 3rd block student, I'll go into blocks a little more later. He was kind enough to pick us up, drive us around town a little, give us a tour of the school, and answer some of our questions.
DAVE school is located on the back side of Universal Studios Orlando, on the premises. It is not inside the gate to the back of the park, but it is on their back lot. While they are on Universal's property, they are not owned by Universal but have a good relationship with them. Students get employee-like passes to let them into the back side of the park, where they can go on rides, enjoy the shows, or even eat in the staff cafeteria, which I am told has VERY reasonable prices. Fun aside, the school is currently in a sound stage which they converted for teaching classes. Despite this, it is decently equipped, with a mocap (motion capture) studio, green screen, small theater, and dozens of work stations. The front room is the entry where their receptionist can help with anything you need. Next to this is the guest lounge, where they show off all the movies, posters, toys, et al that they have made. They also have an impressive collection of student awards on display.
Upon entering the actual classrooms, we are confronted by an array of computer work stations, each one with 3 or 4 computers on it. They assign all 3rd and 4th block students a computer in each station, and they have to work together to complete their assignment. Again, I'll go into blocks shortly. Next to this, is a small theater where they show movies and such to students, and also give lectures. While it is nice to have it there, in their current location, it looks more like a temporary set up. I assume this will change in the near future. After the theater, there is a long hallway that is filled with past works they have done, including story boards, screen shots, character designs, etc. At the end of the hallway is the 1st and 2nd block classroom, where each student is assigned a computer, which all face a screen at the front of the class. This lets them see what the teacher is doing, so they can copy it on their own computer. All of the computers in this school are PCs, and while they recognize that both Macs and workstations are prevalent in the industry, they find it is more affordable and standardized to just use PCs in the classroom. They will even help a student build a PC, if they want one in their home.
Next door to this, is the mocap studio, which doubles as a green screen. Here, they have a full sized green screen room, where half the room is a green screen, complete with props and computers and monitors. They also have a series of mocap cameras in the room, about 20 I believe, to track movements of anyone wearing the mocap suit. This is the same mocap system that was used in Monster House and Polar Express.
Other than these main areas, they also have a small reference storage area, full of varous reference materials, props and toys all over the place, offices for faculty and staff, a small sound room, and a meeting room I could not see, cause there was a meeting in it at the time.
Now, the entire school lasts for only 1 year for each student (assuming they don't fail). Each year is split into 4 blocks, which are 3 months apiece. A student is assigned wither night or day classes, which stays that way for the entire year. Meaning the faculty have to change which times they teach classes every 3 months to accommodate the new recruits. In the first block, you are bombarded with information, most of which is 3D modeling. I understand that while the first few days might be typical for a class, it shortly becomes their hardest and most grueling block with the pure mass of data they require you to learn. This weeds out anyone that can't handle the workload right off, and anyone who is not serious about animation. It also gives student a good strong base to start with the 2nd block, which I understand to be mostly animation and mocap. I think 3rd block covers the more advanced features, like visual effects and green screen. And finally, 4th block is one big long class project. Students have very limited creativity in the class assignments. While they are encouraged to come in before or after class, and on weekends, to work on their own projects, so they can build their demo reel up and their skills, the class itself acts more like an actual animation studio, where the directors call the shots, and the animators have to make it happen. Therefore, we have to act like animators to make their vision come true. Students will have some limited creativity within each shot, but the majority of it is just to make the scene work the way it should.
The computers are not the most advanced, and most are only running Windows XP. This is fine with me, since upgrading that many computers that often is expensive, and it is always smart to wait on the latest OS until all the bugs are out. It is my firm belief that Vista is not an OS, it is a Beta. 7 is the real OS, since it actually works the way it should, more or less.
Despite this tour, it appears the school has been in negotiations with Universal Studios about moving into a bigger building. While this will probably happen after my first block, it will be a big change for the better. They will be moving into a location very close by, still on the same property, with a new set up. Instead of horizontal, it will be vertical. It will have more space for computers, a theaters, and a better mocap and green screen room. I look forward to seeing this new facility, which promises to be a big positive change for them.
Another change they are seeking is to become accredited by the State of Florida. Right now, they are not accredited yet, which is always a draw back, especially for financing. There are no federal financing options or scholarships/grants for non-accredited schools. While they have turned in all the paperwork to the proper Florida officials, it is now up to the State to declare them accredited. This will also probably happen at around the same time, while I am in school. This is particularly good, because it means that I will be able to get scholarships and grants to help pay for all of this, since it is going to cost me a pretty penny to go to this school.
Overall, I was rather impressed with them. While they are not a perfect school, there are no perfect schools out there. DAVE school has flaws, but they know they do and work around them to make it the best experience for the students. Their faculty/staff are well connected with Hollywood directors and actors, and they can sometimes get big names to donate their talents to the students. If you want to see a perfect example of this, go to http://www.daveschool.com/movies/, and check out "Batman: New Times", which stars Adam West, Mark Hamill, and Dick Van Dyke. Also look at Antrho, which was made for a Hollywood film maker to try to pilot his idea for a film. With the boot camp style of teaching, this looks like a great opportunity to really learn what I need to know fast, and get a job doing what I have always wanted to do, making movies.
There is one big drawback though, it is located in Orlando Florida, which isn't the problem, but the fact that my wife will have to stay here in DC for at least a few months, if not the entire year, is a problem. I hope we can figure something out so she can find a good job down there, and perhaps get her into the school as well, but we will just have to wait and see, and try our hardest.
Well I am looking forward to going, although I am not at all happy about leaving my wife behind. That is all I will write for now, I have a lot to do, including more work, more drawing, and more research.