AS Malaysia's digital content market continues to grow, the country now houses some 100 animation companies, 122 visual effects (VFX) companies, 57 games and interactive media companies and 93 new media and platforms companies – but with a vibrant digital ecosystem, there is much room to sharpen expertise and talent.
APU’s School of Media, Arts and Design (SoMAD) offers courses and programmes in animation and VFX at Diploma and Bachelor Degree levels, enabling students to specialise in modelling, animation and composite-based applications in the creation of character filmmaking.
The university shared that it works closely with creative industry leaders and hires specialist lecturers.
Furthermore, SoMAD is one of the first Toon Boom Centre of Excellence in Malaysia, which is a status granted to an institution offering exceptional academic programmes for animation and storyboarding using Toon Boom software.
Meanwhile, students will also have access to the Executive VFX Studios with industry-relevant software, powered by a seamless virtual lab and remote lab access that would enable both physical and virtual learning.
“At SoMAD, students get an overview of both animation and VFX at diploma level and can further specialise in either field by studying for a dual degree, Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Animation or Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Visual Effects, jointly offered by APU and De Montfort University (DMU), UK,” said SoMAD academic manager Edwin Pio Rufus.
APU's partnership with DMU in the United Kingdom enables students to be awarded dual awards - separate degree certificates and transcripts from each institution upon graduation – and enhances not just teaching and learning experiences, but also career prospects.
While some students and parents might find that both animation and VFX are similar in education, however, Edwin and animation programme leader Jack Lai, clarified: “Both animation and VFX are under the umbrella of the creative industry, but we would rather see it as a different specialism.
“Animation focuses on in-depth knowledge and methodology in animation, while VFX focuses on digital video production and post-production.
“Both animation and VFX support each other in the production pipeline. That is why the career pathway for both programmes could be seen as overlapping.”
The animation bachelor degree programme teaches students different animation techniques ranging from traditional 2D to computer-generated animation, development of animated content, character creation, character performance, motion design, rigging, effects and simulation.
“Our animation and VFX programmes teaching staff have a balanced blend of industry and academia experience and this has also enabled us to have strong links with industry, particularly through our Industry Advisory Board,” they stated.
Recent awards and recognitions that animation and VFX students won locally and internationally are testimonies of their learning outcome is meeting industry standards.
For instance, a short animated music video Peegoo Pigeon screened in three international animation festivals; two short films Saabham and Hemp is Better than Cotton directed by animation and VFX students won three awards in SDGFilmfest 2021.
While the short film Wolf was the finalist in the fourth Dimension International Film Festival 2021; animation projects Dream and Jealous Love were officially selected in Animart Festival 2021.
Besides that, as a technology-driven university, Edwin said, APU has invested in state-of-the-art industry-relevant tools for students to practise and use when completing their coursework and assignments like Nuke, Substance Painter, Houdini, Toon Boom Harmony and ZBrush.
It also has a professional green screen production floor, and is equipped with high-end computers for effortless rendering, with a dual-display that enables students to work efficiently and effectively.
“On top of that, we have a Cintiq Lab to hone students’ drawing skills and four Executive Studios with industry-relevant software.
“Through our seamless virtual lab and remote lab access, students are given access to all these facilities at all times,” said Lai.
Students would gain production experience through industrial training as the emphasis is placed on professional practice for greater employment prospects.
According to the latest Annual Graduate Tracer Study by the Higher Education Ministry, 100% of APU graduates were employed upon graduation.
Furthermore, the university shared that some 50,000 alumni have been employed worldwide, to date.