Learn 3D skills at Auckland’s Media Design School (MDS)
It’s all about CG at this New Zealand-based institute that gives students the practical skills they will need in the 3D industry. You can find out more about MDS at a free event in London this June
Sometimes it’s in those less obvious places, off the beaten track, where the exciting work is happening…
For students aspiring to be tomorrow’s filmmakers, animators and visual effects creatives, with a strong understanding of the fluid relationships between their disciplines, New Zealand is such a place.
Auckland’s Media Design School (MDS) was established in 1998. “What’s interesting is that the school has grown alongside the New Zealand film industry,” says the institution’s marketing director Jackie Young.
Media Design School offers a dynamic learning environment for students to develop their skills
“New Zealand has established itself as a global production hub and we’re now a part of that ecosystem.” The school, then, has the distinct advantage of being based in a country where a lot of high-profile visual effects and animation work has been produced over the past decade – notably for the Lord of the Rings films, Avatar, The Adventures of Tintin and the forthcoming The Hobbit and Avatar sequels.
- To read how Weta Digital made these films click on the links below
“We work very closely with the industry,” Young says. “We quit counting the number of our graduates on the Avatar credits. Our graduates are all over the world.” Furthermore, the institute has won over 300 national and international awards for 3D animation, creative advertising, graphic design, game development, and more – and it also offers masterclasses for practising professionals.
The school’s industry links include connections with leading game studios, creative agencies, production houses, and digital studios, including Weta Digital, Animal Logic, DDB, Lucasfilm, Framestore, Industrial Light & Magic, DreamWorks Animation, Gameloft and Saatchi & Saatchi.
Further enhancing its education remit, the Media Design School is also part of Laureate’s Centers of Excellence in Art, Architecture and Design.
The school has recently started adding degree qualifications to its offerings. “For some time we’ve been offering one- and two-year diploma programmes,” Young explains.
“In February 2012 we launched the first of our degree programmes in 3D Animation and Visual Effects.” The degree is the first of its kind in New Zealand and has been accredited by the New Zealand’s Qualifications Authority (NZQA).
The BA provides students with a comprehensive grounding and detailed knowledge of the creative industries of visual effects and 3D animation. Underpinning the students’ creative practice is critical thinking and reflection on work in progress, through collaborative and individual projects. As such, students learn about various production pipelines and engage, too, with film history, visual design principles and aesthetic traditions.
Artwork created by Andrew McCully, a student at Media Design School
“MDS is the leading school in NZ for industry-standard 3D training,” says Andrew McCully, a student at MDS – and this was one of the major factors in his decision to apply to the school.
“The productions developed by students are fantastic and I wanted to be involved in these. I definitely haven’t regretted my decision. Working on my first individual production was a great experience. I tried to recreate a lot of visual ideas from cinema that I love. I also learned a lot about the production pipeline, which has naturally progressed into working on the team production.”
The first year
In the first year of the degree, students learn foundation skills such as drawing, colour, character design, computer applications, and knowledge of 2D and 3D animation principles. Story development, storyboarding, digital environments, scene layout and the creation of special effects are introduced.
Over the first year, students also achieve a high level of proficiency in industrystandard technical tools and software.
In the second year of the degree, all students undertake the first of their group projects in addition to their core classes. The group project provides an introduction to the various roles within a production team that are required to create a short production.
Students first study traditional art, then move to digital pieces like the one below by Isak Edström
Towards the end of the second year, students pursue their chosen specialisation in Visual Effects and Motion Graphics, Technical 3D Studies or 3D Animation Studies. The students retain a specialist focus for the remainder of their studies, but all core subjects – including tutorials, theory classes, and art classes – are taught collectively.
In the third year, students participate in group projects that bring together people from each specialisation and combine their skills. Across the degree there’s a 20:1 student/teacher ratio. “The faculty are very focused on student interaction,” Young says. “We’re a teaching institute, not a research institute.”
Students at the school are taught in terms of developing both generalist and specialist skill sets. “With the degree, you need to be a generalist – adaptable and when needed a specialist, as things change so quickly,” says Young.
Student award winners
Tellingly, student work has recently secured a range of prestigious awards – and not necessarily in student categories. At the 2011 Los Angeles Movie Awards, students from the school won in 10 categories including the First Place Animation Award, International Best Production Design and International Best Special Effects.
How do you apply to the Media Design School?...
So how do you apply? Prospective international students should hold the equivalent of the Cambridge International Examinations or have successfully completed a Media Design School Qualification, Level 5 or higher. Applicants who are 20 years old or over may apply for entry through presentation of a professional portfolio and an interview.
International students must be at least 18 and will need to allow at least one month to apply for a visa. For students who have English as a second language, a minimum IELTS score of 6.0 or equivalent (or 5.5 for foundation study) is required.
Young emphasises that everyone requires a portfolio and also good use of the English language, because “essentially, it’s all about communication”.
For portfolio submission, students should include a range of work, such as paintings, illustrations, photography, 3D modelling or visualisation, graphic design, CAD drawing, and evidence that they have knowledge of software such as Photoshop.
Experience with 3D software is an advantage but not essential.
Young describes a “virtuous circle” of education and industry links – one that’s backed up by specific examples of collaboration.
“We’re in an environment with a lot of high-end industry contacts and teaching tools,” she says, “and a major, recent industry-connected project has been the production of a short film based on the universe of Weta Workshop conceptual designer Greg Broadmore, Dr Grordbort Presents: The Deadliest Game.
The film was directed by Media Design School 3D programme leader James Cunningham, with 3D and visual effects produced by a team of 11 students.”
As well as maintaining these links, in the future MDS aims to expand its games courses. “We plan to offer two game development degrees (programming and art) from August 2012,” says Young.
“The gaming industry is developing in New Zealand now, and the IP industry is top of the New Zealand government agenda.”
To understand the true value of taking a course at MDS, you need to place the school’s work and the student experience within the bigger picture. “We’ve seen the industry in New Zealand mature,” says Young. “Students want degrees to position them in the industry. We’re seeing people who know what they want from an early age.
We’re proud of our studio-like environment, which replicates real-world conditions, and because our origins are in working with industry we’re able to give this kind of reality check.” More than anything, though, Young and her colleagues are looking for one thing in prospective students: potential.
Find out about studying at Media Design School
Hub Westminster, London.
6.30-8.30pm, 14 June 2012
To attend, RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’d like to know more about how to get started in 3D click below
10 simple steps to getting a job in CG
How to get hired in 3D
3D World Jobs brings together CG job-seekers and studios
Tips for getting that 3D job
Find a 3D Course
3D World promotion, first published in issue 156 of 3D World magazine
Find out more at Media Design School’s website
on Thursday, May 17th, 2012 at 12:00 pm under Events, News.
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Tags: Learn 3D, Learn CG, Media Design School