Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Marc Stevenson on The Animation Workshop

The Animation Workshop in Viborg, Denmark
Marc Stevenson is an animator with a huge wealth of experience in the visual effects industry, having worked on many successful films including Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Moon, X-Men, and Charlie and The Chocolate Factory.

Marc recently took time out from VFX work  to teach at The Animation Workshop in Viborg, Denmark, one of Europe's leading centres of animation excellence. In an interview with FLIP Marc talks about his new experience as an animation instructor.

FLIP: Your recently taught a class at the Animation Workshop in Viborg, Denmark. How was the experience?

Marc: Very positive. The classes, workshops and seminars are given by a continual stream of industry professionals, and this makes the school feel more like an animation community, rather than simply a college for learning animation.

The students in Viborg specialize in either computer graphics (modelling, rigging, lighting and compositing) or animation. However, throughout the course - and especially during their final year film - students from both disciplines come together to work on group projects.

This is an invaluable experience, given that animation, whether you are working in film, TV or games, is almost always a collaborative process. The sooner that students get used to working in teams, the better.
An animation class at The Animation Workshop
FLIP: Are you new to teaching or is this familar territory?

This is the first time that I have ever taught animation, but not the first time that I’ve ever taught. After leaving University I spent a few years teaching English in Spain, so standing in front of a group of students isn’t entirely alien to me.

In some respects I think that TEFL (Teaching, English as a Foreign Language) is good practice for all forms of teaching, given the emphasis placed on making things as clear and concise as possible.

When you are teaching people, often with a very limited grasp of English, waffling on for hours simply isn’t an option.
Gateway to The Animation Workshop
FLIP: What is it about the Animation Workshop that makes it special?

Marc: One of the things that makes the Animation Workshop so special is its unique ethos. I got the impression from the short time that I was there that they are really trying to help the students reach their full potential, not just as animators but also as individuals.

Before arriving at the school one of documents that I was asked to read concerned different learning and personality types. Initially I thought that perhaps I’d been sent the wrong document, but after having taught there I realised that the Animation Workshop is very mindful of the fact that different students learn in different ways.

Everything, from the hydraulic desks that the students and teachers work at (making it possible to both sit and work at the computer) to the large airy classrooms, fitted with sofas and places to relax, makes for a very positive and creative working environment.

FLIP: What advice would you give to any graduate trying to break into the animation business?

Marc: Animation is, like everything else, becoming increasingly competitive. My advice to anyone entering the profession now is to have as large a skill-set as possible. Obviously concentrate on animation above everything else, but it’s is certainly beneficial to have an ability to model, light and rig - even if it is at a basic level.

In a large studio an animator is only ever going to be asked to animate, but often when smaller boutique houses advertise for animators, what they are really looking for are generalists that can animate. In a competitive climate being adaptable and versatile are often the key to how easily you are able to find work.

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