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What are the best online animation schools for coursework?
|Academy of Interactive Entertainment||Seattle||Washington|
|Ringling College of Art and Design||Sarasota||Florida|
|CG Spectrum Online School for Animation and VFX||Melbourne||Australia|
|Gnomon School of Visual Effects||Los Angeles||California|
|Think Tank Training Centre||Vancouver||British Columbia|
Academy of Interactive Entertainment, Seattle, Washington
Established in 1996, the Academy of Interactive Entertainment (AIE) has campuses in the U.S. and Australia, and one dedicated Online campus. While AIE has been offering online courses and training since 2005, the school launched its dedicated Online campus (AIE Online) in 2012 to provide the “best training and support possible” for online students. Online options for aspiring animators include an Advanced Diploma in 3D Animation & VFX for Film, a 2-year Diploma in Game Art & Animation, a Certificate II in Creative Industries, and a Certificate III in Screen and Media.
Designed for students who want to work in film, TV or visual effects, the 3D Animation Program is a practical pathway designed to give students the best technical training to work as 3D artists using the latest state-of-the-art technology. Students will complete impressive film projects that showcase their skills, and form the basis of a professional showreel to impress potential employers. Sample careers include Character Animator, Technical Director, VFX Artist and Compositor.
In the Game Art & Animation Program, students develop their skills in 3D modelling, texturing, UVW unwrapping, rigging, animation, lighting, using cameras, rendering and compositing—all in the first year. During the second year covers all aspects of animation and game development, as well as new and emerging technology. Second year students will work together to design and produce a playable game. This Major Game Project closely mirrors the real-world production cycle in an industry development studio, covering the entire process from pitching the game idea through QA testing and market analysis of the game.
Students graduate at the end of Year 2 with an extensive showreel of 3D modeling, animation, and a complete game level.
Both AIE Diploma Programs are focused on getting students to meet or exceed industry expectations in order to gain employment with a development studio or to develop their own independent games. Per the school, AIE graduates “work on the top games and films worldwide.”
AIE has campuses in Seattle, Washington and Lafayette, Louisiana, as well as Sydney, Canberra, Adelaide and Melbourne, Australia. The U.S. campuses are accredited by the Commission of the Council on Occupational Education (COE). The AIE Lafayette campus is also authorized by the Louisiana Board of Regents for Higher Education.
All AIE Certificate and Diploma programs are nationally accredited and recognized through the Australian Qualifications Framework, which is based on industry skill standards.
Ringling College of Art and Design, Sarasota, Florida
Ringling College of Art and Design (RCAD) was founded by circus baron, art collector, and real estate developer John Ringling. The school opened in 1931 with just 75 students and 111 course offerings. Today, RCAD serves 1,400 students enrolled in BFA degrees in eleven disciplines and BA degrees in two. Computer Animation, Film, Game Art, Motion Design, and Visual Studies are just a few majors.
Aspiring animators can enroll in the BFA Computer Animation program, which is only offered on campus, or they may take number of animation courses online. All are credit eligible. Options include Motion Design: Animated GIFs, Motion Design: Title Transformation, Visual Storytelling for Film and Video Games, and Motion Design: Time and Technology.
Each course consists of four “go at your own pace” sessions that require around 8-10 hours of work per session. Depending on the course, topics covered include Storytelling, Animation, Character Design, Live Action, Video Games, Adobe Photoshop, Animation, Gifs, Video, and Adobe After Effects. For a small fee, students can obtain a Certificate upon completion of any given online course.
The online courses at RCAD are powered by Kadenze, Inc., which “partners with leading universities and institutions across the globe to provide world-class online education in the fields of art and creative technology.”
RCAD graduates have worked on every Oscar-winning animated feature since 2003, with 14 alumni working on 2016 Oscar winner, Inside Out and 21 working on 2017 Oscar winner Zootopia. Graduates have also gone on to work at Blue Sky Studios, Cartoon Network, DreamWorks Animation, Electronic Arts, Lucasfilm, Nickelodeon, Pixar, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Walt Disney Animation, and many others.
Ringling College of Art and Design is accredited by National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).
Animation Mentor, Emeryville, California
Animation Mentor (The Online Animation School) is the brainchild of Bobby Beck, Shawn Kelly, and Carlos Baena who decided that the mentorship approach to learning was the best way to prepare aspiring animators for today’s competitive animation industry. Students at Animation Mentor are “united with industry professionals in a production environment,” to achieve this goal. Like all Animation Mentor instructors (the school has more instructors from major studios that any other school), Beck, Kelly, and Baena have worked at major studios such as Industrial Light & Magic, Walt Disney Feature Animation, Pixar, and Tippett Studio.
Credits for the trio range from the Toy Story and Monsters, Inc. franchises to Star Wars and Pirates of the Caribbean.
Animation Mentor students learn using the schools’ proprietary online campus, exclusive feedback tools, and real-world production pipeline. Students receive two hours of pre-recorded lecture material, made available to watch on-demand each week, a weekly eCritique and live Q&A with the assigned mentor and classmates, and access to the Animation Mentor resource library with guest lectures, additional Q&As, and weekly video news. Students also have ongoing access to all characters and rigs from the courses, including Bishop, Stella, Stan and Stewart.
While Animation Mentor does not offer degree programs, it offers workshops and six core animation courses that allow students to dive right into animating. Students can customize a program based on their specific interests by taking several workshops or they can enroll in all six courses.
Workshops are six or 12 weeks and include Maya Workshop: Animation Basics, Cartoony Animation for 3D Animators, Previsualization Basics for Animators, Creature Animation: Locomotion or Fight or Flight, Game Animation Fundamentals or Combat Attacks, Intermediate or Storyboarding Fundamentals, Introduction to Digital Painting, and Visual Development: Principles of Design.
The six core animation courses, which lead to a Certificate of Completion in Character Animation, include Animation Basics, Body Mechanics, Advanced Body Mechanics, Introduction to Acting, and Advanced Acting. After completing the courses, students can take what they've learned and apply those concepts and techniques to a new animated shot in the Polishing and Portfolio course. Courses are 12 weeks each and students leave the Character Animation sequence with a demo reel full of their best animation.
Upon completion of Animation Mentor programs, students gain access to Career Services, which provides direct referral opportunities gained through Animation Mentor’s connection with studios in the industry and exclusive industry Q&As.
Animation Mentor has won several awards, including the 2006 Best Practices in Programming Award Gold Level, 21st Century Distance Learning Award from the U.S. Distance Learning Association
Animation Mentor has an alumni community of over 5,000 students in over 105 countries, now working in world-class studios like Pixar, DreamWorks, Industrial Light & Magic, Laika, WETA and many more.
Animation Mentor has won several awards, including the 2006 Best Practices in Programming Award Gold Level, 21st Century Distance Learning Award from the U.S. Distance Learning Association.
CG Spectrum Online School for Animation and VFX, Melbourne, Australia
CG Spectrum Online School for Animation and VFX has two flexible training options for students—small classes or 1-on-1 mentoring. The programs are designed for students of all kinds including those just starting out, animators looking to enhance their careers, and those interested in changing careers.
Courses for the programs are designed by the mentors who teach them and include topics in Animation, 3D Modeling, Concept Art, Houdini VFX, NUKE Compositing and Game Design. Classes as well as critiques are recorded so students can go back and review their lessons at any time. Per the school, students in the program will also have access to the “most talented artists in the industry” to ensure that “CG Spectrum students are the best connected, best trained and best prepared for life beyond school in their respective fields.”
In addition to the unique 1-on-1 approach to training, “CG Spectrum mentors spend a majority of their time working within the student files to show them how they would approach their work as a professional. This allows students to quickly adopt professional workflow and reach a higher standard at a faster rate.”
The top program options for aspiring animators include the six-month 3D Animation Program and the Advanced 3D Animation Diploma. 3D Modeling, Concept Art & Illustration, Game Design, and Visual Effects Programs are also available.
The 3D Animation Program is designed for students with no prior animation training. They will learn animation from the ground, including all the important fundamentals needed to become an animator such as the 12 principals of animation, body mechanics, and how to rig your own character. Course highlights include 3D Animation Foundations and Physical Animation.
The Advanced 3D Animation Diploma is designed for animators at the intermediate to advanced levels. Per the school, in this 10-month program, students “will learn advanced techniques for character acting and creature animation and use it to create finished pieces of work” for their professional animation demo reel. Artists will meet online weekly with an assigned mentor as they work within the student’s animation project files to provide” in-depth feedback, keeping the experience personalized and ensuring that they are adjusting the animation course topics to optimize” the students “potential.”
Course highlights for the program include Acting for Animation, Advanced Acting for Animation, and Creature Animation Portfolio. Graduates of the CG Spectrum Animation Programs are prepared for careers in 3D animation for film and games.
Gnomon School of Visual Effects, Los Angeles, California
Gnomon School of Visual Effects has been called the MIT of Visual Effects” by Fast Company magazine. Established in 1997, the school says that it offers “a variety of educational options to help students reach their goals in the entertainment industry, with both degree and vocational certificate programs and specialized courses for high school students.” Located inside the historic Television Center building in the heart of the Hollywood production district, Gnomon has 600 graduates to date and more than 100 individual online courses for professional enrichment.
Individual animation courses are available and may be “mixed and matched” to suit students’ career goals. Options include Acting for Animators, Introduction to 3D with Maya, Character Sculpture, Color Theory and Light, History and Principles of Animation, History of Visual Effects, Animation and Visual Effects, Character Animation, Modeling, Motion Graphics, Storyboarding, Texturing and Shading, Timing for Animation, Animation for Games, Character Design, Character Modeling and Sculpting, Previsualization and Animatics, Stylized Character Creation, and Creature Animation.
Gnomon graduates have landed positions at some of the world’s top studios. Walt Disney Animation Studios, Industrial Light & Magic, DreamWorks, Digital Domain, Blizzard Entertainment, Reel FX, Electronic Arts, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Nickelodeon Animation, Rhythm & Hues, and Marvel Entertainment are just a few.
Gnomon is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) and has been recognized by ACCSC as a 2015 ACCSC School of Excellence.
Think Tank Training Centre, Vancouver, British Columbia
Think Tank Training Centre traces its beginnings back to 2005. It all started with three classrooms and a theater on the lower floor of a 100-year-old heritage building in Vancouver, British Columbia. By 2009, the school has grown into several floors, complete with extra classrooms, a common area and a drawing theater and stage. In 2007, Think Tank introduced Think Tank Online, allowing students to study Animation for Games from anywhere in the world.
Think Tank’s 16-month Specialized CG Training Program (Asset Creation) covers Texturing and Look Development, Modeling for Film, Character Modeling for Games, and Environments for Games. After the 14-week Foundation Term (1), which includes Maya, Photoshop, Mari, Mudbox, 3D Modeling Theory, and Shading, Lighting and Rendering in Vray, students will move on to Terms 2 & 3, where that may choose a specialization. Options include Modeling for Film, Characters for Games, and Environments for Games. In Term 4, students will have one-on-one sessions with their chosen mentor to guide them through the production of their demo reel. Students may choose to take this semester online or on-campus.
Online students enjoy live weekly classes, class group sizes ranging from 5-8 students, supervised production of professional grade projects, full-time support system via industry professionals, and a state-of-the-art learning portal where students have the opportunity to connect with other students along with working industry professional mentors, ask questions, share portfolios, and receive professional art direction and feedback.
For each course, students receive access to a weekly training video. Each week, required assignments build upon the lessons – contributing to the term project. At the end of each term, students walk away with a term project that will help build the students portfolio. The Online Asset Creation Program leads to a Diploma.
Think Tank graduates have been hired by Industrial Light & Magic, EA, Digital Domain, Animal Logic, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Double Negative Visual Effects, Rainmaker, BioWare, and many others.
Think Tank Online is not accredited, but the school says that it is “working hard at becoming accredited.”
Other Online Animation Schools to Consider
Animation Apprentice & Bucks New University, London, England & High Wycombe, England
Bucks New University (est. 1891) has partnered with Animation Apprentice (est. 2012) to offer an MA in 3D Animation delivered exclusively online. The 30-week program places a strong emphasis on character and creature animation in a digital environment. With a focus on cutting-edge technical and creative skills, students will learn how to develop original creative content, gain an awareness of current challenges faced in the animation industry, and conduct research in the field.
Sample course modules include Animals & Creatures, Character Performance, Maya Basics, and Locomotion and Mechanics. Students will also complete the Research Techniques and Dissertation module as well as a Final Project & Demo Reel.
By the end of the program, students will become “skilled animators,” with a “deeper academic understanding of the industry.” Graduates will leave the program with an impressive portfolio of their work, along with the help of “a dedicated team of career and employment specialists, who work in partnership with academic colleagues, employers and the Students' Union” to prepare graduates “for the world of work” and guide their career management.
The employment specialists at Animation Apprentice will direct graduates to companies that are hiring for projects in film, VFX, advertising, games and web animation.
Bucks New University is Officially Recognized by the Government of the UK as a higher learning institution that can award degrees.
AnimSchool, Orem, Utah
AnimSchool was created in 2010 by David Gallagher, Animator, Rigger, and former Character Development Supervisor at Blue Sky Studios. Serving more than 250 students in two programs, this unique online school has more than 30 instructors currently working at major studios such as Blue Sky Studios, DreamWorks, Disney, Sony, and Pixar. Program options include 3D Animation and 3D Character.
The 3D Animation Program is divided into two parts—the Animation Track, and the Animation Program. The Track focuses on classes 0-3, covering Animation Foundation. Classes 4-7 make up the Animation Program. The Program helps develop the skills needed to animate on films, TV productions, VR and Video Games.
The 3D Character Program is divided into two parts as well—the 3D Character Track, and the 3D Character Program. The Track focuses on classes 0-3, which cover Modeling and Rigging. Per the school, classes 4-7, part of the Character Program, allow students to “focus more specifically on their area of greater interest, selecting two of five electives covering the technical, tools side of rigging, or the sculpting and facial expression side of modeling, Environments, Materials and Texturing, or Lighting.
Terms for Programs and Tracks are 11 weeks. “Each week, animators from film and game studios work with students one-by-one, giving the students a guided opportunity for growth.”
AnimSchool is compliant with all state post-secondary proprietary school laws and is registered under the UTAH POST-SECONDARY PROPRIETARY SCHOOL ACT (Title 13, Chapter 34, Utah Code).
AnimSquad, Los Angeles, California
AnimSquad is an online learning source for aspiring animators. Workshops and master classes are offered and taught by “Disney Tutors,” who have worked on films such as Tangled, Frozen, Big Hero 6, Zootopia, and many others. Per the school, students will l meet live online with their chosen tutor and the rest of the class, once a week, for three hours. The tutor will critique each student's work, one by one. Students will have the opportunity to ask questions, record critiques, and download locally to their computer.
AnimSquad utilizes Zoom Webinar Software (HD), which “allows for a smooth frame rate.” With easy-to-use features, every meeting is recorded and delivered in HD. Downloading is easy and convenient and students can watch the recording on any device.
Sample workshops include Beginner Animation, Intermediate Animation, Expert Animation, and 2D Traditional Animation. Master Classes include Animating a Cartoony Shot and Animating a Quadruped to name a few. Master Classes are “comprehensive and hands-on,” with chapter divisions and the ability follow along, hit pause, and replay sections as students progress through the class.
Other AnimSquad highlights include an online lecture library filled with animation-related lectures (except Beginner I). Animsquad tutors add new lectures frequently. Graduates of the programs have lifetime access to new lectures.
AnimSquad is not an accredited school.
CGTarian, Vilnius, Lithuania
CGTarian, the Animation & VFX Online School, says aspiring animators can try any course 100% risk free with the school’s 14-day money back guarantee. Courses are divided into four categories: Basic, Intermediate, Advanced and Modeling & Sculpting. Basic courses include BootCamp: An Intro to Animation. Intermediate courses include Characters in Motion, Physics of Animation and Intro to Performance.
Advanced courses include Acting in Animation, A Thinking Character, Crafting a Believable Face, Cartoony Animation, and Polishing and Pro Techniques. Modeling & Sculpting courses include Character Modeling for Production and 3D Clothing Production.
CGTarian Online School became accessible to the English-speaking world in 2012. So, in addition to engaging in online meetings with instructors and video reviews of their work in English, U.S. students will engage in online meetings with professionals from Disney, DreamWorks, Blizzard, and other studios. Students will also gain experience working on real-world projects for these or other major studios.
Depending on the number of courses completed, in addition to a portfolio or demo reel, graduates will leave CGTarian with a Certificate of Completion or a Diploma.
CGTarian is not an accredited school.
iAnimate, Bakersfield, California
iAnimate is an online animation school that offers workshops “designed to target all of your animation needs.” The school also says that it puts students “in direct contact with veteran animators from the biggest & best studios” in the industry. All sessions with instructors are live and recorded for later viewing. Other iAnimate highlights include an “amazing” line up of exclusive & unique character rigs (more than 60) available to all students, breaks for as long as needed in between workshops without any restrictions, and top studios waiting to view student reels and select them for their production needs.
Workshops include Feature Animation, Game Animation, Creature Animation, Rigging, Maya and Modeling, Motion Capture, Lighting & Compositing, Pre-Visualization, and Unreal Engine. The length and cost for each workshop varies. Feature Animation (3D Character Animation) consists of seven workshops, 11 weeks each, while Game Animation consists of four workshops, 11 weeks each.
Feature Animation “is designed to teach the skills, workflows, and principals needed to succeed” in the animation industry. The goal is to teach students “how to create that great, believable animation; animation that connects with audiences around the world.” Game Animation features “focused study of 3D animation for the game industry and its specific needs.” The workshops “consist of multiple live talks, demos, reviews and assignments that would resemble an actual production pipeline.”
Upon completion of the animation programs at iAnimate, graduates will receive a Certificate. iAnimate alumni, those who have completed an animation path (Feature, Games, or Creatures), are also granted lifetime access to the student section.
iAnimate is not an accredited school.
RocketSky, Hampton, New Brunswick, Canada
RocketSky is a Canadian online animation school that operates using a “simulated production environment.” Per the school, the programs take a “fundamentals first” approach to learning character animation. In addition, training is “one-on-one with professional TV, feature film and video game animators.”
Other program benefits include some of the world’s lowest tuition rates for high-end character animation and the opportunity for graduates to continue developing skills via access to RocketSky content and mentors for a lifetime.
Around 95% of RocketSky graduates are currently working in the TV, Feature Film and Video Games industries.
RocketSky is not an accredited school.
Animation Career Pro, Mississauga, Ontario
Animation Career Pro is an online source for “free” (project files for each class are $8) animation training. Aspiring animators may choose from six programs including 3D Animation, 3D Modeling, 3D Rigging, 3D Lighting and Texturing, 2D Animation, and 2D Rigging. The curriculum for each program is designed to follow a specific order, allowing students to progress through the classes and build their animation skills.
The 3D Animation Program consists of 19 courses, beginning with 3D Basics 1: Intro to Maya. Other courses include 3D Basics 2: Intro to the Graph Editor, 3D Body Mechanics 2: Walk Leap and Settle, 3D Acting 1: Mood Posture and Posing, and 3D Advanced Dialogue 1: Monologue. Programs may be viewed on the Animation Career Pro website or YouTube.
Animation Career Pro is not an accredited school.