All education degrees are not created equal. Every degree is valuable, but some have the power to propel students further, especially when the university name at the top has a reputation for academic excellence.
A Sheridan College animation degree carries that particular kind of weight, as it’s viewed throughout the industry as the “Harvard of animation programs.” And while this high pedigree has become known as a gateway to increased career opportunities for students – they frequently get offered dream jobs at top tier studios like Pixar and Electronic Arts – it is not the only high-performance center at Sheridan. Bachelor’s degrees in illustration and photography are also highly coveted, and prestigious in their own right.
Over the last 10 years, the process of converting traditional methods to a digital form has been at the forefront of contemporary coursework. Sometimes this process is accelerated through advancements in software. At Sheridan you’ll find the modern representations of media, the new forms of paper, ink, and paint contained within 3D programs and image manipulators. But it is through advancements in hardware that you see the familiar tools artists know and love coming back to the fold.
One hardware innovation, the Wacom tablet, has become an industry-standard design tool for that very reason. Starting in 2007, Sheridan students began bringing Wacom tablets into the classroom to add their own personal touches to their projects.
“After a year of watching students flourish in a digital environment, we decided to upgrade all of our animation labs and studios,” said Howard Simkins, Professor and Coordinator of Academic Tech in the Faculty of Animation Arts and Design at Sheridan College. “Once students draw directly on screen with a Cintiq, they don’t want to use anything else. It gives them that ‘tactile feel’ they are used to, and grounding in a device that will become a staple of their post-graduate work life.”
Used throughout most of the visual communication classes such as photography, animation, illustration and game development, Wacom tablets, specifically the Cintiq and Intuos families of interactive pen displays, are intuitive to the creative process because there is no disconnect between the hand and monitor. In illustration classes, the tablets (both Cintiqs and Intuos) have erased the gap that digital art students faced with mice, restoring a sense of natural control that students can then directly apply to their artwork. Now that they are no longer “drawing with a brick,” these students can work faster; all while applying the traditional concepts of structure and shading that teachers use to give them that strong foundation.
With the upgrade, student workspaces have been designed to promote collaboration. For animation students, this becomes especially important during group filmmaking projects. By themselves students might be in charge of initial sketches or storyboards, but with Cintiqs, students can work together to make improvements or content suggestions in real-time. The beauty of digital workflows is that all this content can be done on non-destructive layers, meaning students can continue to learn visually without having to begin again at square one.
“To succeed as a digital artist you need to nurture your technical mastery just as much as your visual language and philosophy,” added Rafael Goldchain, Program Coordinator, Bachelor of Photography program. “Tools play a big role in the process, as they allow you to gain in-the-moment insight into whether a design choice you made actually worked. Does more brightness bring more emphasis to your subject’s eyes? Does adding a deep red evoke different feelings than a green? Wacom products let you test your theories as you learn to work faster and become more confident. Each lesson takes you further, and each project makes you more employable.”
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