Animators lack digital know-how

April 19, 2002

Universities' failure to train students in software packages used in the animation and special-effects industry is threatening their ability to find jobs when they graduate.

The tension between equipping students with traditional skills and teaching them to master particular programs, such as those used to create hit films Shrek and Monsters Inc , was one focus of the Animation Generation 2002 conference at Kingston University, in London, last week.

Jeremy O'Brien-Hall of Cinesite, a leading visual-effects and digital-imaging firm owned by Eastman Kodak, said that students were not graduating with the right skills.

This was largely because of the reluctance of many academics to embrace technology, even though it had become all-pervasive in the industry.

Damien Gascoigne of Kingston University said students at his institution were still taught to "think like directors" and the importance of mastering traditional skills such as drawing and creating characters and storyboards.

This approach was favoured over teaching students how to use computer programs, which he said were complex and took a long time to learn.

But Mr O'Brien-Hall argued that software was becoming simpler to use. "The learning curve is not as steep as it's been made out to be," he said.

Students lacking these skills were not getting jobs in the digital media industry, which stretched from Wallace and Gromit-style animation to special effects for movies, Mr O'Brien-Hall said.

Companies were fighting over graduates from universities such as Bournemouth because their students had good software skills.

Ruth Lingford, a Royal College of Art animation tutor, agreed that there was a tension between educators and the industry over whether to get students to "think like auteurs" or to ensure they had the skills that would help them find jobs.

Trevor Murphy of the production company Bermuda Shorts said: "The auteur attitude is fine if you are very talented, but what about everyone else?"

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