When UTS decided to partner with Australia’s leading 3D animation and visual effects studio Animal Logic to bridge the gap in the booming animation and visualisation sectors, both parties saw potential for preparing graduates for industry in a different way via the UTS Animal Logic Academy.

Large-scale collaborative work was high on the list of what industry wanted the university to prepare students for. Traditionally, graduates had come to industry with small-scale individual projects in their university portfolio and were able to focus on an assessment task alone or in small groups. This didn’t prepare them for a large production studio where there can be up to 40 in a department and 1500 people overall working on the same project (such as a 3D-animated feature film).

There are some key ways of doing this without providing the actual scale: from encouraging a movement away from individual projects, to becoming a skills specialist and problem-solving with peers.

Letting go of ego

At postgraduate level, industry assumed there would be a solid foundation of technical and creative skills. They saw the Master of Animation and Visualisation as an opportunity to teach students how to let go of ego, embrace adaptability and be able to contribute optimally to whatever task they were assigned to (as this could change rapidly).

The interesting thing students experienced was that after the initial pains of letting go of their personal task or project, they became inspired by the quality and scale of what they could achieve together, which was far beyond what any of them ever imagined they could achieve alone. And the level of this work is reflected in contributions that are presented with pride on their showreels and leads them almost directly into specialised roles in industry upon graduating.

Moving from generalists to specialists

It’s essential at undergraduate level that students develop broad knowledge and skill. In the postgraduate environment, students develop specialised skills in order to contribute at high level to complex projects, and also to accelerate their entry and progression in industry.

Mentored, project-based coursework is supplemented with self-directed learning, where students reflect on knowledge and skills gaps, and then plan and undertake research and skills development on a dedicated day of the week. This not only develops their technical skills, but also establishes the mindset for them to pursue a lifetime of learning,

Leveraging peer-to-peer learning

During the self-directed learning day, students are also encouraged to draw on peer support to research information and develop solutions to challenges. Initially students enter the master’s program seeking answers to their questions from the industry mentors. But over the course of the first session of study, students are empowered to find answers to questions themselves. When stuck, the next level of problem-solving is peer-to-peer learning, as some of the students may already be expert in the area a particular student wants to develop in.

Beyond this, students can seek help from their mentors (or ‘leads’ as they are referred to in industry). They may not always have the answer to their question, but can support them through a collaborative process of self-learning and problem resolution.

Watch: Spirit

A great example of what the students have produced is ‘Spirit’, a 3D animated short film by the Master of Animation and Visualisation students that was created in response to the bushfires in 2020. It won Bronze at the AEAF awards and was an official selection at the Sydney Film Festival. Discover more projects by the Animal Logic Academy on our website.

How reflection drives continual improvement

Students often question the value of the reflective tasks in practical degrees. As we move through the process of preparing them for large-scale collaborative projects throughout the year, we often witness a transformation. They start to feel empowered by being able to identify and plan their professional and personal improvement. This reflective analysis strengthens their research skills and outcomes, preparing them in the best possible way to take control of their accelerated journey into industry.

As the Academy enters its sixth year of operation, the future is about adaptability and growth. The borders between industries and roles are blurring, and sophisticated animation and visualisation skills are finding application in diverse areas beyond media and entertainment, such as digital fashion, medical simulation and extreme climate simulation. The future for graduates with these skills sets is both full of opportunities and expanding.

For more information on the Animal Logic Academy, check out our website.

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