Prior to attending the Centre for Arts and Technology (CATO), I had taken 5 semesters worth of high school animation. During that time, I had also won a team film award for which I did an animated intro for. CATO’s Kelowna campus was local to where I lived and after speaking to the student advisors, it seemed like they would deliver the highest level of education. The school boasted that it would teach all aspects of 2D and 3D animation, character design and personal development. With all of the promises, I naturally expected for the school to fully prepare me for a job in the video game industry.
The school had excellent 2D programs taught by former Disney animators which really improved my drawing skills. The instructors were very knowledgeable and more than willing to help.
Unfortunately, the school’s 3D and personal development programs fell desperately short of the mark.
Unfortunately, the school’s 3D and personal development programs fell desperately short of the mark. The 3D modeling program was taught largely by a graduate of the school and another 2D Disney animator, neither of whom had worked as a 3D modeler professionally. Because of this, they never taught us how to properly rig a character, despite the promise of doing so on the website and having a skilled technical artist on staff. By the end of the program, most of the students had a higher knowledge of modeling than the instructor who taught the first few modules. The 3D animation part of the program was good, but plagued by faulty software, as it was taught over a video conference unit.
The other portion that disappointed me was the personal and professional development program or PDP for short. PDP was similar to high school CAP classes, often covering a lot of the same curriculum. It also focused strongly on some form of spirituality, teaching students how to “send thoughts out into the universe”. Many students, myself included, believe that this class was put in place to fill the required number of instructional hours per week, as they had no instructors to teach relevant 3D curriculum.
Some of the classes were sorely overpriced. One class, which was called Anpro (a class where you would plan your demo reel) cost $1,500, or roughly $45 per student per hour. The class was essentially a lab, with each student spending approximately ten minutes per class with the instructor and the rest of the class was spent on homework.
Classes were often canceled and then scheduled to be made up at times that did not work for all students. Some classes were not even made up, or were made up without giving notice to students, making it impossible to attend. When confronted about this, the faculty simply said that we were wrong, and did nothing further to look into the situation.
The diploma was printed out on the schools laser printer, and the pixilated border was cut off on one side.
Lastly, the diploma that I received at the end was of poor quality. It was printed out on the schools laser printer, and the pixilated border was cut off on one side, showing the schools lack of attention to quality and detail.
Although the school did have some high end computers and software, a lot of the computers were sadly outdated and would crash whenever working on advanced projects. Furthermore, the internet was constantly not working causing frustration and canceled classes. There were even rumors afloat that the schools ZBrush licenses were pirated.
The student lounge’s fridge was cleaned out maybe 3 times in the two years I spent there, so it was no surprise that it was constantly moldy. The sinks would become plugged and the floors covered in coffee spills for weeks at a time. Only after complaining and having a student take pictures and emailing them to the campus director was the problem ever solved.
Would I recommend the program? I would say no, as do at least one of my former instructors and many of my classmates.
Would I recommend the program? I would say no, as do at least one of my former instructors and many of my classmates. It is probably more suitable as an introduction before going into another program. The school seems more interested in making money than delivering a suitable education. Furthermore, many members of the staff do not have the necessary levels of expertise to adequately prepare you for a job in the industry.
Make sure you shop around prior to starting school, and contact some alumni while you’re at it. Although the school has made some improvements since my time there, I feel that it’s too little too late. I was disappointed in the school’s lack of willingness to improve while I was there.
I have been out of school for approximately 2 months now, and although I did graduate with an A grade average and have applied to dozens of studios, I still haven’t landed a job yet. I plan to keep working on improving my skills, and am developing a new portfolio in my spare time. If I had to do it over again, I would have probably attended a different school, likely VFS or something similar.