One postgraduate degree, 19 students, 30,000 hours of production. That’s just a snapshot of what goes on at the UTS Animal Logic Academy, and Alessandra (Ally) Grasso is fresh from her year in the studios.
Ally, who completed a Media Arts and Production degree at UTS before applying to the Academy, says she’s always wanted to work in film.
“It was a lot more challenging than I expected, though,” she says. “I didn’t come from a 3d graphics background or anything like that, but if you’re passionate about it you’re going to keep going.”
The Academy is a unique year-long course that’s a partnership between UTS and award-winning visual effects and animation studio Animal Logic. Last year’s cohort of 19 would be at the studio nine to five, Monday to Friday – even coming in occasionally on weekends. “We were basically running a start-up studio,” says Ally.
“We wouldn’t have lectures or homework. You come in, and then we would do desk rounds to see how everyone’s going, big group meetings, or we’d go into the theater room and have lessons or master classes from industry mentors. So we were always learning.”
Students at the Academy work to industry speed and follow industry deadlines, and throughout the year-long course the cohort had three different ‘studios,’ each involving a different project. Ally worked as a lighting and layout artist throughout the projects, where they created both traditional animated shots and a virtual reality (VR) experience.
From working right up until deadlines to pitching an idea to producers, Ally admits it was an intense year. But “it was so exciting to be able to be there, really hands-on, for eight or however many hours a day. That was really cool.”
Just a few months after graduating from the Academy, 16 students are already working in the industry and one is undertaking a PhD at UTS. At the moment, Ally is working at the Flying Bark Studios as Production Coordinator. Having always been passionate about storytelling she knows she definitely wants to work in the industry, particularly with computer-generated imagery.
“There’s so much work that you wouldn’t think goes into movies, even with live action. I’d love to do live-action movies with computer graphics in them and I really want to work on blockbuster movies one day.”
What she’s really interested in, though, is virtual reality, augmented reality, and any kind of creating interactive stories. “VR is already being used in medicine, science; there are so many educational opportunities as well as the creative.”
She adds: “I think the reason why UTS and Animal Logic have partnered together is that they really want to push boundaries and bridge the gap between the classroom and the real world. I want to come up with new ways of storytelling, and playing with these new technologies was a really fun way to do that!”
The Academy also recently won The Rookies 2018 VR Game of the Year Award for TerraChi, a VR project made by the 2017 graduates. TerraChi is an interactive VR experience that transports the user to a stylised world where Tai chi inspired moves and biometrics allow the user to change the world around them.