Rising Sun Pictures and UniSA Create Hands-On VFX Training Program

Rising sun pictures (RSP) and the University of South Australia (UniSA) work together to meet the growing demand for technical and creative jobs driven by the increase in international film and television production to South Australia. Their mission is to make sure more of these jobs go to local talent. The VFX studio and the university are jointly running a unique and successful training program for visual effects. Dozens of emerging artists who have gone through the program have found employment with visual effects studios in Australia and abroad, including 23 employees at RSP. Launched five years ago, the program has grown steadily and has provided students with hands-on training in computer animation, compositing, digital lighting, and other in-demand skills.

"South Australia has a very well-established display industry, but what it has lacked in the past is local workforce qualified to meet the needs of the industry," said Joanne Cys, Executive Dean of UniSA Creative. “In the past, companies like Rising Sun Pictures that work on films and television programs have been largely dependent on imported labor. Having access to local talent who are well educated and have relevant experience would of course be a great asset. "

The training program is designed to help build a pool of local talent by providing students with the skills they need to go straight from the classroom to industrial employment. Third year students studying visual effects as part of UniSA's Bachelor of Film and Television program complete some of their coursework in classes taught at the RSP studio in Adelaide. The courses cover compositing, lighting, FX and other topics and are structured to reflect a professional production environment. You will be taught by experienced artists from RSP staff.

"The students are working in a pipeline that is identical to the one we use to create visual effects for Hollywood, so that's very realistic," said Tony Clark, RSP's executive director. “You have access to real production data, act as a team and are coached and looked after by working artists. The result is that once they graduate, they are ready to go to work. "

In addition to undergraduate instruction on the Bachelor of Film and Television, the program also includes graduate certificate training, which teaches postgraduates higher skills. It also offers a variety of short courses for working artists and others looking to learn new skills.

Historically, many VFX artists were self-taught or learned on the job, but this is much less true today. Visual effects used in movies and on television are more sophisticated than they used to be, as are the software used to create them. Beginners need a deep pool of knowledge and often special training in a certain aspect of the production of visual effects.

UniSA students learn a range of skills and knowledge in their first two years on campus. They then put this knowledge into practice at RSP.

"We are helping to professionalize an important industrial sector," added Cys. "It is a process that commonly occurs in emerging creative industries. It is part of the university's mission to expand expertise and raise standards for developing businesses that are important to the local economy."

RSP originally started the training program to meet its own needs for up-and-coming artists, but the program goes beyond that with graduates currently employed by major visual effects studios in Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne. Others have found employment in the US, New Zealand, and Asia.

"We're very proud of that," remarked Clark. “Our program has a good reputation. If you went through our course and did well, it means that you have very good potential as an artist. Other studios are quick to grab our graduates. "

The students see the program as a bridge that eases two of the greatest challenges in starting a career: finding their first job and adapting to the world of work. Samantha Maiolo completed the apprenticeship program and got her bachelor's degree last year. She was then immediately hired as a junior roto and painter at RSP.

"I've learned so many invaluable skills in a very short time," recalls Maiolo. "It's very hard to find hands-on experience like this. You can't get it by watching YouTube videos. I have been tutored personally by teachers who are artists themselves. They were able to walk me through techniques and make sure I fully understand them have understood. "

Adelaide-based Justin Greenwood, a graduate of the program currently working at RSP, has earned credits for nearly a dozen films, including Alita: Battle Angel, Tomb Raider, and Captain Marvel.

"I always thought if you want a career in this industry you have to change your life," commented Greenwood. "To be able to work in the same city where I grew up and went to school is both a great opportunity and a personal blessing."

The success of the program has led RSP and UniSA to look for ways to expand and build on it. UniSA recently launched the Film Concept Lab (FCL), a workshop program for students interested in film and television production. FCL and RSP students are currently working with independent production company We Made a Thing Studios to produce a short film that will premiere at this year's Adelaide Film Festival. FCL is designed to reflect the success of the visual effects training program by providing students with hands-on experience that can ease their path to employment.

"Film Concept Lab is a big step for us and a real innovation," noted Cys. "We hope it becomes an annual part of our program, enriches our students' education and ultimately helps them with their careers."

The visual effects training program has become an integral part of RSP operations. According to Clark, the effects of the training program may last longer.

"We are giving young people the skills they need to be productive in this field for decades," added Clark. “We are committed to expanding the workforce to not only meet our needs, but also to contribute to the health of the industry and our community. We feel responsible for it. "

Source: Rising Sun Pictures


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