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October 2014
Issue: January 1, 2008

BUILDING A FARM TEAM

By: Marc Loftus

London's Escape Studios opened its training school back in '02, emphasizing techniques needed for success in the VFX field. Company CEO Dominic Davenport was an effects artist himself and knew the hardest part of breaking into the VFX industry was gaining real-world production experience. Escape is working to help its graduates overcome that hurdle.

The company — which also handles recruiting, as well as hardware and software sales for Boxx, Autodesk and Pixar products — recently became a member of the Sohonet network, connecting it to other members worldwide, including the nearby Moving Picture Company, located in Soho. The company's new Pods program allows top students to work on real productions through MPC, where they gain more than just experience — they also get paid!

Pods, says Davenport, grew out of conversations he had with MPC. Their film dept., as it turns out, is filled with Escape graduates, or "Escapees." A solution such as Sohonet would allow Escape to exist on the MPC network, where students could help out with junior tasks: match moving, camera tracking and rotoscoping. They would also be paid a standard wage, set by MPC, that would help offset the cost of Escape's three-month training program. MPC benefits by having an eager farm team with a solid, basic skill set at the ready.

Escape is working to set up a Pod program with another local studio that handles commercial and TV work. But it doesn't have to end in the UK. Sohonet has members worldwide, so similar initiatives could be worked out with studios here in the US, too.

And this is just a part of Escape's immediate education initiative. Courses are currently being written for learning character and creature animation, and online training tools will soon be offered in a subscription model. Pixar, in fact, commissioned Escape to build a learning tool for its RenderMan product.

"Universities suffer from not having the ability to stay close to the industry," he says. "By the time they develop programs, they are three years out of date. So by having access to this subscription service, [students] can have access to the latest tools, production examples and workflow that is being developed by us."