During the third week of our Fall 2015 semester, our intermediate-level film students enjoyed a very special experience: a visit to The Mission Studios in the heart of Abbot Kinney. The Mission is a super high-end visual effects studio specializing in commercials, film and digital content, and founder Michael Pardee gave our enthusiastic students the warmest possible welcome. He was so gracious with the students as he brought us to various VFX suites, each dedicated to a specific set of tools and workflow. Our first stop was a wonderland of powerful computer generated animation. The digital artists working at those stations showed the students some original animated shows that were developed in-house at Mission. These animated characters were 100% computer generated, and mimicked the imperfections of clay-based stop-motion animation to a staggering degree of realism. It was amazing, and the students (who each had experience working with actual claymation) were blown away by the capabilities of digital art. Before we left that first room, several of the students had already made up their minds about becoming animators as a career – it was that cool of an experience.
Michael brought us through the rest of the stunning facilities, including the fabulous outdoor courtyard, a kind of urban oasis and respite that the students loved. Our next stops were to large suites dedicated to digital compositing using heavyweight tools including Smoke and Flame. VFX artists and producers brought us through several workflows in the layering of effects to take a standard commercial shot and, with the addition of visual elements, to create fantastic new worlds. We saw this process at work on national spots that the students were already familiar with and loved, and the experience of having content creators take them backwards through the process was truly empowering for them.
For the students, the net result of the visit is that they have a much deeper understanding that the filmmaking tools and processes that they are currently learning at Venice Arts are closely related to the most cutting-edge tools in the industry, and that the skills they are learning today can lead them to a future as expansive as they can imagine. As the students climbed into the Venice Arts van, donning the sweet Mission shades given to them by Michael Pardee as instantly cherished swag, I could see that their creativity and their imaginations were thoroughly expanded. Very special thanks to Michael Pardee and the entire Mission staff for their incredible hospitality!