Try, try again so they say… That’s how I ended up in Seneca’s Animation program! I started off as a lost soul, only having decided during the last year of highschool what I truly wished to pursue; which happened to be the magical world of Comic-books! There weren’t any schools that offered making comics of course, so I went with the next best thing: Animation: with a side helping of Video Games! Only problem was, I had never actually taken any art courses… so after looking at the requirements for Seneca and Sheridan’s animation programs, I soon discovered I needed a portfolio.
After mustering the best of my efforts, I was rejected, and placed into Seneca’s Art Fundamentals!
I was required to put all my best drawings together including perspective and life drawings, but I had never really done more than dumb doodles of cartoons over my math homework. After mustering the best of my efforts, I was rejected, and placed into Seneca’s Art Fundamentals! Which for the delusional dewy-eyed youth that I was, happened to be a great starting point.
I was introduced to nude figure drawing, which at the time was the most bizarre thing I have ever experienced, but after a few awkward weeks, figure drawing became natural. Art Fundamentals was a great taste of what was to come, and an excellent start to my future career! After a lot of hard work and determination, I finally made it into the Animation on the third try! From there, the learning curve increased exponentially.
A (Paper) Flipping Good Time
Life in the Animation wing of Seneca at York University was intimidating at first, but soon after became like a second home. Spending pretty much every day with a reasonably sized group of about twenty strong (give or take a few), you quickly become friends with nearly everyone in your class, especially when everyone is about as big a nerd as you are. It’s really quite a friendly community.
Seneca’s teachers are all enthusiastic and available for help after class and if that fails, a handfull of teacher’s assistants, or even just advanced students are available when you are stuck. The course structure is pretty sound, you learn basically everything you need to become a self-sustained animator, including: layout, camera movements, animating the old fashion way (on paper!) along with programs: Flash and Toonboom. Other classes include: acting, character design, animation history (cartoon watching class!) and of course the ever-evolving digital class to bring it all together. Repetition is key, the sheer amount of drawings required to make a small amount animation will increase your skill quickly.
Study of motion needs its foundations, and that foundation is life drawing. Studying anatomy, skeletal structure, and capturing entire poses within 30 seconds, accompanied by longer in depth studies help you learn to really capture motion in your drawings. There are computer labs available during 2D Animation but typically aren’t open late due to security reasons, but you get your own labs when you choose your specialty of 3D Animation or Gaming in third year. Unfortunately if you are looking to specialize in traditional animation, you only really get a two year taste of it. And while it technically is a three year program, the third year is totally different from the first two.
Within a friendly but competitive atmosphere that comes with the territory, it’ll leave you working harder than expected.
In The Third Dimension!
After having completed my first two years, I chose the Gaming program, which required another portfolio submission because of the limited space available. The first two years in Animation were tough, and required pulling a few all-nighters, but the Gaming program was even more intense. I exchanged my life and free time on this final year, for at least twelve hour work days with the occasional day off. It wasn’t required, but you get what you put into it. Having twenty-four hour access (with the exception of some holidays) to the labs is invaluable. Working in a studio environment is just an awesome experience. Within a friendly but competitive atmosphere that comes with the territory, it’ll leave you working harder than expected. I really recommend living close by!
Technology moves really fast, and this course does it’s best to keep current. Learning a strong foundation in modeling, both organic and otherwise was vital and a great starting point. Zbrush is probably one of the coolest programs out there, it’s like sculpting with a Wacom. We also dabbled in 3d animation, not as much as I would have hoped for. Then again, it seems more like you are learning the tools rather than spending time focusing on getting a polished final product. Motion Capture was another thing we got our hands on, which wasn’t entirely useful at times, since our MoCap software was out of date and pretty faulty, but it still was an incredibly fun experience as we were the subjects who got to put on the funny suits, and make ball jokes all day.
Learning Unreal’s game engine was among the more difficult things. After creating all the art, you have to understand how to name it correctly, import it into the game and texture them. There is a ton of micromanagement involved to ensure files are proper and functional, which is where the Gaming Production class comes in. Here you learn all that goes on beyond the art. From the conception of a game, right to the finish. You even get to come up with and pitch your very own game! Later on, you get to work as a team to create a slice of what this game could be, minus gameplay unfortunately. No coding here!
Looking back, I would probably change a few things about how the classes were run, or organized, but the course is ever changing for the better. With a heavy course load without electives, having to choose from an abysmal list of variations upon the same course disguised under different monikers makes finding a course you actually want to take, versus the ones you actually can take due to schedule conflicts is quite the major and time consuming setback.
I found this course taught me more than enough to land me a job, which I did even before finishing school.
I found this course taught me more than enough to land me a job, which I did even before finishing school. I was fortunate to be one of the few hired immediately by one of the professors. If you are determined enough, you will leave successfully employed! Nothing new here… but the harder you work, the easier it will be for you to find a job. Luckily the teachers have their connections and are awesome enough to give you that little extra boost in finding a job.
In this industry, having connections can easily land you a job over someone more experienced. The professors also recognize determination and will actually allow for extra time spent at the facilities for extra portfolio work once school is finished. The coordinator is a great guy, and has organized for companies to come in for meet-and-greets, and to check out students’ work. Beyond school, the Coordinator has followed up on past students, to see if they have found employment and try to hook them up with interviews.
From no art-experience all the way to employment as an artist leaves a real feeling of accomplishment. Overall, Seneca left me with a very positive experience and a great big start to my career in the industry.