VFX Apprentice Update

As we wrap up 2021, I wanted to share all the stuff my team and I have been up to at VFX Apprentice, as well as celebrate some of the incredible accomplishments of our apprentices. There’s A LOT of content here, so try to pace yourself! haha.

This year has been all about building a proper foundation for a VFX learning ecosystem that can thrive and evolve with our insanely diverse industry. That needs a few things:

  1. Quality content comprehensively covering a VFX learning journey
  2. A community that provides support, mentorship, and encouragement
  3. Ongoing invitations to get the whole world to join us in this adventure

Because there’s so much to cover, I’ll divide each category into its own post. So let’s get to the content!

We started the year out with Tradigital 2D FX livestreams, which have all been converted into permanent lessons.

2D_FX-Livestreams

As we were going along, you gave us feedback that more lecture-style content was needed before going too deep on crafting FX. So we got to work on a new series covering a broad array of design principles & elemental forces, done by the Head of FX at Jam Filled, Dan Elder.

image

Early next year, we’ll release even more beginner-focused content with an “Intro to Drawing for FX Artists” series by the incredibly skilled Sonia Firsova.

image

We’ve done a ton of other 2D FX work this year, including lessons by Fortiche FX artists Guillaume Degroote & Tom De Vis, along with many other notable artists.

Introducing_Guillaume Degroote

We’re also working with Joe Williamson & Jason Tom Lee to create an introduction to 2D FX in Pixel art! To do this, we’re enlisting our company mascots Sparker & Aquanna, and adding a few new faces to the lineup as well. We’re excited to see how these lessons resonate with the FX community. We’re still super early in development, but here’s a quick teaser of works in progress:

11.17_splash

sparker5a_32x

While the 2D and foundations content has been a big focus this year, we also invested heavily into the tech behind the in-engine student experience. Our approach relies on industry standard game projects that will provide a solid platform for content in the years to come. These include fully functional game scripts, character animation & environment assets, and of course, intuitive particle hookups.

image

Our vision is to make your experience smooth and intuitive; no more setting up your own game before you can implement VFX properly. Just drag-and-drop your systems into their place, and you’re ready to go. Niagara and Cascade are both supported, and we are looking to complete a Unity counterpart for the side scroller project early next year.

image

Using this same framework is our new 3D project, now in beta.

image

This thing is insanely robust, with full PBR, adjustable camera, and some other goodies we’ve got in the works.

Booms--Blasts_Project-Update

It is a versatile style-fluid project giving you control over whatever 3rd person game you want it to emulate.

image

With these projects in place, we are building more development-focused lessons focused on getting you production-ready for a variety of projects.

That reminds me: Our list of instructors is growing constantly. If you want to get help prepare VFX artists with the specific skills needed to work at your studio, we should definitely talk about having you make content with us! You can reach out to me directly and I’ll set up a meeting.

The end goal of combining these game projects with focused lessons is to get full coverage of Platform, Gameplay, and Style categories. It’s a ton of ground that requires diverse skill sets. It’s been the joy of my life building the team that can make this happen within a cohesive learning ecosystem.

Speaking of cohesion! There’s this whole foundational aspect of planning the apprentices’ journey that we’ve been hard at work on. (Red Dots are already complete and live). My team and I are updating this road map constantly. We’ll formally release it when it’s ready for the public. For now, here’s a teaser:

As of today, we have well over 120 hours of content, with more coming each month. We currently offer 2 bundles that contain 5 courses. You can preview each lesson in more detail from the links on this page.

And finally, there’s A LOT more new & upcoming content. Trust me when I say, it has my head spinning on a regular basis! haha. But I must get on to the other aspects of this update.

Next post: All about our amazing community!

40 Likes

Now for the most lively aspect of our VFX learning ecosystem: Our Community!

First, the hard numbers: I just checked this morning, and we’ve currently got 993 enrolled apprentices. Of that group, 476 have opted to join our private Discord server. After just over 2 years of operation, I am truly amazed at how much our community has grown!

image

It’s inspiring to see students posting daily on our private Discord server, sharing their awesome progress and getting the feedback they need. Discord is ideal for us as a laser focused system for streamlining learning and growth.

Speaking of feedback! We would never be able to maintain the sort of vibrant and engaged community that we do without our incredible TAs. These individuals go above and beyond to give students an amazing experience: @Hank95 @Nibilli @SmearKees @Lee and Sonia Firsova. Each brings unique talents and perspectives to help us cover a broad range of student needs in a vast landscape of VFX skills. And they work with me behind the scenes to ensure our future content directly fits with what the community needs. There’s no possible way we’d be where we are without them! I simply love my TAs. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some of our more seasoned Discord members who aren’t officially TAs, but share their knowledge and greatly benefit their fellows. I would name a few, but fear I would forget many more. In short, thanks to everyone who has helped each other in our community!

With portfolio pieces, our students have been consistently blowing away everyone’s expectations. Here’s a small sample of the work they consistently continue to do:

And the jobs our students are getting! Oh my gosh. Things are insane out there. One site shows there are at least 200 still-open jobs listed in the past year (undoubtedly an incomplete list).

Suffice it to say, we see our top students get hired insanely fast, long before they’ve had time to complete our full coursework. It’s quite unlike anything I’ve seen before. In 2021, we’ve placed students at many major and indie studios. I’m on calls every week with new studios, reviewing our latest crop of student work to find candidates for you. I do my best, but competition is fierce over our top apprentices.

We don’t take all this hype lightly. I know (because many of you have reminded me many times) that there’s a lot more to being ready for your first job than just making shiny particles. At least twice a week on Discord, myself and/or my TAs are meeting with students in group calls to do feedback, open Q&A, game dev advice for future developers, as well as new developers getting their feet wet in the industry.

Our Discord calls are growing each week, with high engagement for over a couple of hours at a time. Some join in the chats, and others just listen quietly. All of our top VFX apprentices will tell you that these sessions are instrumental to their success.

To wrap up this post, I just want to say that the VFX-A community has already surpassed my wildest imagination. I now think of growing new VFX talent as similar to growing plants: you don’t focus so much on “I need a plant right now!” Instead, you think of the ecosystem: the sunlight, the soil, the water, the temperature, etc. So with our community we have many functioning aspects that nurture new talent. Whatever has grown from our VFX ecosystem, it truly has a life of its own! It’s a wild and beautiful thing seeing all this amazing fruit coming out of our community. Thank you to everyone who has helped bring it to life!

Next up, I’ll be wrapping up this round of updates with the business business: our outreach efforts and studio collaboration. Stay tuned.

11 Likes