When they enrolled in the VFS 3D Animation & Visual Effects program, Brandon and Samuel didn't expect to get a second year of training at one of the world's most famous European animation schools.
In early 2005, Vancouver Film School met with the directors of Supinfocom, a famous animation school based in Valenciennes, France. Their intention was to create a link between the two schools, who already share similar renown in the industry. What resulted was the VFS/Supinfocom Exchange Program.
An Exchange of Ideals
"VFS and Supinfocom are two of the top animation schools in the world, " explains Graeme Gish, VFS Director of Curriculum & Instructional Delivery and champion of the Exchange. "The idea behind the Exchange is to give graduates of both schools a chance to experience a different production process, a different cultural aesthetic, and to interact with a different group of students and faculty who approach 3D animation from a unique creative perspective."
The 3D Animation & Visual Effects curriculum provides students an overall understanding of the workings of 3D animation followed by the opportunity to specialize in Modeling, Animation or Visual Effects and to create a short project that displays their individual talents. Conversely, Supinfocom focuses on general 3D skills, the creative process, and then outputs their students' training in the form of a team-produced student film. "The programs are quite different and very complementary so, as a result, the students from each school get new opportunities and experiences that they didn't have at the other school."
Since both schools consistently produce both award-winning student films and impressive hire rates, the main purpose of the Exchange is to reward high-performing graduates with a second, exciting, diverse, valuable, free educational experience. That's right - students chosen for the Exchange have had the second school's tuition fees waived.
The Chosen Ones
The two VFS students chosen to partake in the first Exchange were Chien-Chia "Brandon" Huang and Chung-Hao "Samuel" Tung, both natives of Taiwan who traveled to Canada to attend VFS. "One of the biggest considerations for a good student Exchange was how a VFS student would function in a team atmosphere," says Larry Bafia, Head of VFS 3D Animation and Visual Effects.
"Samuel had proven throughout his VFS career to be a positive influence on his classmates. His knowledge of Maya and scripting would support any animation or visual effects project. A good sense of humor and an easygoing personality complimented his skill set. Brandon is also a very high-spirited student. His open-minded attitude makes for an easy blend into a group situation. Besides being a good character animator he also has a good technical sense. I knew Brandon would be a good fit."
So it was on January 2nd, 2006, that Brandon and Samuel landed in Paris and took a bullet train out to Valenciennes, a small town in the French countryside. Upon arriving at the train station, "2 students from Supinfocom, Matthieu and Kevin, were kindly standing in the cold wind and waiting for us at night," says Brandon. "They had a big board with our names written on it," Samuel explains.
Back to the Drawing Board
But, despite being in a foreign country, Samuel and Brandon soon found themselves getting down to familiar work. "The name of our project is.... still undecided," says Brandon, who works with a team of entirely French students. "It's the story of a guy called Caila, an accordion player who's coming back home in the subway. The story is about his dreams, his imagination, and his life. It's a lot of animation work but, hey, I'm from VFS."
Samuel's team-project is an adaptation of a poem from Baudelaire's The Flowers of Evil. "We present a young woman walking peacefully in a natural setting created by the words of the poem. In the corner of a lake, a living fluid follows her and catches her. She dies a death that's one part pleasure, one part suffering."
As well as learning about French literature and sensibilities, Samuel and Brandon are learning to speak French and getting to tour one of the world's oldest and most beautiful cities. "Paris is a place full of history and culture," says Brandon. "It's like a big museum. I want to model it, texture it, and put it in my portfolio."
Brandon and Samuel will finish their Supinfocom education in June and return to Canada. At that time, two Supinfocom graduates - Justine Codron and Frances-Xavier "FX" Goby (pictured) - will come to Canada to attend the VFS 3D Animation & Visual Effects program.