Sunday, 7 April 2013
Interview with our CEO - David Kwok, AnimationXpress
by AMRITA VALECHA
Could you explain to us about the Training Philosophy of CG Protege?
The key focus of our training program is that of the partnership between the trainer and the trainee, with the shared goal of keeping Singapore competitive in the global CG industry by raising the standard of work done here.
As the work of our previous trainees will testify, the rapid progresses they make in learning and improving their show reels over the course of the part-time program are due to the high levels of dedication and commitment shown by both trainers and trainees. We strive to set the principles for motivation within our trainees and encourage them to apply the same hunger towards achieving their goals and excelling in their respective fields.
The teaching of software techniques alone is not enough. The mastering of traditional art skills and an awareness of commercial aesthetics also equips trainees with skills integral to success in the industry. These are skills that must be constantly honed in the rapidly progressing international CG industry.
What is the kind of approach of teaching at CG Protege?
Our course fills up an important gap from between the classroom knowledge and the workplace. Through being focused, and guiding students to choose a single area that they want to specialise in, the course has helped many students develop their first professional specialised skill, achieving a standard that meets employers' expectations.
Whether we will open a class for each specialisation will depend on the projected market response and demand for graduates. With feedback from our network of CG companies, we match market projections of employers' demands with our training program. Our focus is to ensure that the talents are able to find work in the CG industry.
Secondly, the course strives to instill an artistic sense required by the industry and try to sharpen and improve that art sense. Other academic courses prepare the individual by teaching techniques alone, but very few courses also help to impart the aesthetic sense, exposing the students to what is aesthetically pleasing, and equips the individual with the necessary directions to continue to strive for aesthetic excellence on his own, after the course.
Thirdly, it teaches the students to understand the problem solving process. The trainers will explain the rationale behind guidelines and principles. This equips the students with the knowledge and skills to tackle future problems in a logical and systematic manner, while not compromising on aesthetic requirements.
Lastly and very importantly, all mentors / instructors for the program are working professionals in the CG industry who have between 2 to 7 years production experience each. Many of them are head of departments or lead artists. As they are working on international productions every day, they keep the students up to date with the latest techniques used in the industry. Besides the mentors and instructors, our course advisors are Singaporeans currently working in the US. Two are from Blizzard and one from Bluesky Studios. So that the students are keeping track of the industry needs both locally and internationally. As they have worked their way up from Singapore to US, they can better associate themselves with the challenges the students are facing.
Could you tell us about the different courses you offer?
All our programs are accredited by the Workforce Development Agency of Singapore (WDA) and the trainees are awarded Workforce Skills Qualification Certifications upon graduation.
There are 4 main group of courses we are running.
A) SHORT FOUNDATION COURSES
These are the programmes that prepare candidates with a foundation to enter into the advance certification level.
B) UPGRADING COURSES
We have upgrading classes / Masterclasses that enhance and update the skills of 3d artists who are already working in the industry.
And these courses are taught by head of departments from various computer games, animation and visual effects companies.
C) ADVANCE CERTIFICATION
Upon graduation, every trainee will be awarded a WSQ Advance Certificate in Animation. There are 5 areas of specialisation for the program - in Character Animation, 3D Modelling & Texturing, 3D Modelling & Rigging, Lighting & Texturing, and Digital Visual Effects.
The focus of the program is to prepare the trainees with a professional specialised skill to enter the industry.
It helps trainees develop their first professional demo reel, achieving a standard that meets employers' expectations.
D) CG PROTEGE DIPLOMA/APPRENTICE PROGRAM
The CG Protege Diploma/Apprentice program is designed to help skilled but less experienced artists address potential employers' concerns so as to obtain full employment and gain valuable working experience on international projects.
EMPLOYER CONCERN #1:
If you lack working experience, some companies are concerned that you will slow down their production if they were to put you on the front-line.
The CG Protege Diploma / Apprentice program will provide you with a training stipend of $1000 a month for a period of 12 months. This support comes from WDA. On our part, we will also encourage our partnering companies to give you another $700 allowance once you begin On-The-Job Training. (We are selective towards companies we work with as we are concerned about our students' wellbeing and will ensure the apprenticeship has value towards their career.)
Out of the full entry starting salary of $1700, the company is only paying you $700. Hence hiring an apprentice through our program reduces the company's risk of hiring a less experienced employee. As $1700 is an apprentice's pay, and not an intern's pay, you will need to have basic specialised production skills and ability in order for the company to put you in the frontline as an apprentice.
EMPLOYER CONCERN #2:
Some companies are reluctant to take in a fresh artist as they do not have the time and resources to look after "someone with zero experience".
Our program addresses this concern by continued upgrading of the apprentice through night-classes at CG Protege during the apprenticeship period. Our trainers work with the employers to create structured training to match their specific needs. The companies we are partnering with, including Double Negative, Ubisoft, One Animation etc. have responded positively to our tailored training plans. We are also talking to 2 major overseas companies to send our apprentices overseas for training.
Hence the CG Protege Diploma / Apprentice program reduces the financial risk of a company taking in a fresh candidate and in return, you will be employed and paid full entry level salary during this economic downturn, gaining valuable experience. With good on-the-job performance after a year, the companies are also most likely to extend your employment. With this effort, we hope that we can raise the standard of Singapore's pool of talents as well as help them pull through this tough time. When the economy picks up, we will then have a stronger and more ready pool of talents for new challenges ahead.
HOW MANY STUDENTS ARE STUDYING AT CG PROTEGE AND HOW MANY HAVE PASSED OUT TILL DATE?
We have trained close to 200 artists since the last quarter of 2006. The program has been well received and we've expanded programs and training facilities. The objective is to create a strong pool of production-ready talent to be deployed in the growing computer graphics (CG) industry. The programs are supported by both the Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA) and the Workforce Development Agency of Singapore (WDA).
HOW IS THE COMPLETE ADMISSION PROCEDURE FOR THE STUDENT LIKE?
All potential trainees will attend an industry and career talk, followed by a selection interview before they can be admitted into the programs. We need to be sure that they have put in effort in self-training or learning about the CG industry. Their prior training need not be in 3D. We can accept trainees based on their art skills. The most important criteria is that we need to see that they have the passion and determination to work hard to reach their dream.
HOW IS CG PROTEGE AS A TRAINING CENTRE DIFFERENT FROM OTHER INSTITUTIONS?
CG Protege is a quality provider of WSQ accredited training programmes recognised by the Workforce Development Agency of Singapore. Training is administered by Tiny Island Productions (an Animation Production Studio) and a team of industry veterans and trainers who have a successful track record in grooming and preparing artists to join the pool of production-ready talents. Students can gain assistance from the full range of production expertise from Tiny Island Productions which is located just next to CG Protege.
The various head of departments from Tiny Island Productions as well as experienced leading artists from other international studios provide the training. And many passionate artists from Tiny Island Productions mentor the students. As many of the mentors have gone through the same route as the students, they understand the students' problems and needs. Together, both companies form an incubator for nurturing talents. This has been an very effective model as our past graduates have found positions working on television and film projects for both local and international animation and visual effects studios, like Big Communications, Lights & Shadows, Lucasfilm Animation Singapore, Mikoishi Studios, Real U Singapore, Sparky Animation, ST Electronics (Digital Media), Double Negative Visual Effects, Weta Productions etc
WHAT IS THE FEE STRUCTURE AND DURATION OF THE COURSES LIKE?
They two major programs we offer - the WSQ Advance Certificate in Animation and WSQ Diploma/Apprentice program in Animation costs only S$800 and S$1500 after government subsidies. The updated information for all other programs can be found on our websitewww.cgprotege.com
WHAT KIND OF INTERNATIONAL GUESTS AND INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONALS HAVE BEEN INVITED TO CG PROTEGE?
Recently we have worked with one of the best animation school in the world - Gobelins Paris on a Character Animation Master Class in Singapore. At the training, we had Jean-Claude Tran (2D and 3D Animator, formerly at Walt Disney Feature Animation in Paris, France and in Florida, USA, and currently at Pixar Animation Studios), Michelle Meeker (3D Animator, Animation Mentor instructor, formerly Weta Digital; PDI/Dreamworks; Pixar Animation Studios) and Robert Bennett from GOBELINS Paris (he has worked around Europe and in the USA presenting a course in " Corporeal Acting " for different animation schools and studios, including Walt Disney Feature Film France, Warner Brothers Feature Film USA and A-Studio in Copenhagen. He has also given classes for Richard Williams' Workshop.)
We also launched a Hans Bacher Master Class Design and Art Workshop for Animation Production. Hans Bacher has been working in the animation film business for the last 30 years. First in Germany in his own studio, later on major disney movies like who framed roger rabbit, beauty and the beast, lion king, aladdin, hercules, fantasia 2000 and mulan, as well as spielberg's balto. He has won several awards for his design work, amongst them the annie-award for mulan.
On top of that, we do have regular industry speakers from companies like Lucasfilm, Ubisoft, Double Negative, RealU etc to share their experience and information on the kind of job requirements for each role in the company.
ARE YOU AFFILIATED TO ANY STUDIOS WHERE YOUR STUDENTS WOULD BE EMPLOYED AFTER TRAINING FROM CG PROTEGE?
We work closely with the graduates to help them to locate jobs upon graduation. However the demand for the CG industry here fluctuates from time to time. Hiring peak periods normally begin at the initial stage of a project (Feature Film, TV Series, Games). During hiring slumps, we work with Tiny Island Productions to employ those who are unable to locate jobs to sustain them during the downturn. So that the students can continue to apply what they learn in school and gained working experience.
WHAT ARE THE LATEST DEVELOPMENTS AT CG PROTEGE?
We are in the process of putting together an advance diploma program taught by a pioneering artist at Disney. So far the feedback from supporting agencies have been very positive. We are definitely very excited about this opportunity.