Alex Alvarez Founder The Gnomon School of Visual Effects www.gnomonschool.com Hollywood Gnomon is a brick & mortar institution that teaches approximately 350 students every term. The school specializes in visual effects and videogame design, and was founded in 1997. They also offer online and DVD-based training, and in January, will launch an initiative with the Stan Winston family to offer instruction in character and creature development. The school is also now offering an accredited three-year program that offers a year of entertainment design training and two years of digital production.
STRENGTHS: “By offering online training as well as the DVD training that we’ve been offering for 10 years, it allows us to train a larger pool of people. Due to the physical capacity of our school, we can train a few hundred people per semester. Through working online, we’ve trained tens of thousands globally. The online component and DVD component allows us to do that.”
WEAKNESSES: “I think weaknesses in the education market have to do with the quality of the training and the fact that you have a lot of institutions that are promising educations that they can’t fulfill. Places that have mixed reputations. A lot have jumped on the bandwagon to get into education for profit without having the instructors that are qualified to teach those subjects. I think that’s the main negative that we see globally. There are a lot of institutions out there that really don’t have the qualified instruction or faculty or advisory board that matches with what they are promising. If you get a school that's in the middle of nowhere with no industry, that’s offering a curriculum on videogames, but there are no videogame studios there and they have instructors that aren’t working in the game industry and have maybe learned some techniques on their own online, or watched some of our stuff and think that they can now go and teach, students are being misled. That represents a weakness that I’ve seen.”
OPPORTUNITIES: “I think that there is a shift towards vocational education, as opposed to generic degrees. To go to a private university and spends $200,000 on a degree that doesn’t offer you a job, is getting less and less attractive to parents and students. You are seeing a little bit if a shift to vocational education. You come to Gnomon because you want a job specifically in the visual effects industry or the videogame industry, and our training is specifically preparing you to get a job, so when you graduate you can go into the workforce. As the cost of education increases — ivy league schools are now $300,000, and you wonder how parents are able to justify that expense without any logical way of how that is going to be paid back?”
THREATS: “For this industry, it makes sense for something to be vocational. There are specific needs that studios have, regardless of the excitement of the entertainment industry. It’s also an industry, because it’s based on technology, that changes very, very quickly. You need an educational system that is flexible so that you are able to meet the demands of the industry. If you have an instructor that worked in the industry 10 years ago, what they know is not necessarily that way things are done today. The concept of 10-year faculty doesn’t work in our industry.”
OUTLOOK FOR 2011: “These days, the quality of visual effects and videogames is skyrocketing. If you look at BioShock or Avatar, the visual quality is going up, which means that the artistic quality of the people making these products has to go up with it.”