On a recent trip to Lille and Valenciennes, two cosmopolitan towns near Paris, I was introduced to a new way of teaching and inspiring artists to pursue their passions while helping them to “achieve the dream.”
It all starts in the schools, where artists are put through rigorous testing to prove their talents long before they are accepted into an art program. One such school, Supinfocom, which I visited in Valenciennes, requires students to work on a project, such as a brand identifier for a mock company, creating a unique artistic treatment based on a strict list of criteria. This type of project is a pre-qualifier for admittance, and only a handful of students will make the cut-space is limited, and only the crème de la crème students will be fortunate enough to add the school to their resume. While it would certainly be easy for the school to expand and admit students who have more promise (and money) than talent, it’s pretty obvious the school’s leaders value a solid reputation more than a hefty bank account. Also at Supinfocom is SupinfoGames, which offers similarly structured admittance requirements, but with a focus on game creation and development.
During the first and second year, students at Supinfocom focus on design and animation using programs such as After Effects. Teamwork becomes vital in the third year as groups of three and four students are challenged to use the latest 3D modeling and animation software to create animated projects. Team-based learning is certainly not a new concept. The challenge for the small team of students is to work together to create an animated short-from start to finish-and compete against other classmates and students from other schools at E-Magiciens, a small trade show and conference similar to SIGGRAPH in the early days, only with an enormous animation festival/competition.
While there are certainly many training facilities in the US that offer team-based learning, most are focused on instructor-driven projects and ideas that utilize large groups of students to produce an animated project. At Supinfocom, the average team size is three students, and everyone is involved in each phase of the production pipeline-from modeling and animation to compositing and editing of the final project. Clearly, as the teams establish a rhythm, the individual strengths of the team members are identified, and the team divides and conquers to meet their deadline. The ultimate goal for the students is to be on the winning team at E-Magiciens; winners are quickly recruited to join top studios.
Perhaps the most inspirational part of my trip was realized while visiting with The Valenciennes Chamber of Commerce, and seeing firsthand its commitment to the DCC community. The Chamber funds a business incubator with self-contained offices, where content creators can move right in and get right to business, utilizing their talent without worrying about overhead, business equipment, etc. The incubator has everything you need-a boardroom, a small television studio, and even a cafeteria-to get business off the ground. But the gravy train doesn’t last forever. There is a three-year time limit to get established, and once companies are successful, they must move on to allow for new businesses to incubate. It’s a commitment to the DCC community that cities in the States should consider adopting to help more small studio owners “achieve the dream.”