Capilano University’s School of Motion Picture Arts has something that’s the envy of digital-visual-effects educators across the country: the 71,700-square-foot Nat and Flora Bosa Centre for Film and Animation.
“It’s basically a film studio in a box,” Adam Sale, the school’s coordinator of the digital-visual-effects program, told the Georgia Straight by phone. “I think the contributors and sponsors that contributed to the building are just amazing.”
There’s a 200-seat high-definition 3-D theatre. There are three permanent, state-of-the-art sound stages with green, black-and-white, and blue screens. There are permanent houses and apartments, permanent bar scenes, and permanent Hollywood-style backlots.
Students involved in making films don’t need to go through the hassle of obtaining municipal permits when shooting on-site. Best of all, according to Sale, it gives them an edge with their portfolios when they’re applying for jobs.
“You don’t see the same old, same old,” he said.
The school offers diplomas not only in digital visual effects but also in 2-D and 3-D animation. And because Cap U also offers programs in several other film-related disciplines—such as acting and costuming—there are opportunities for students to collaborate on films or digital visual effects with students in those areas.
For first-year students, it all comes together in a joint annual production called Cascadia.
“It’s this postapocalyptic, futuristic work with artificial intelligence and a lot of motion-capture performances as robotic humans—kind of cyborgs,” Sale explained. “We’re doing five-minute episodics. Every year, we mix it up and have fun.”
Motion capture involves recording the movements of objects or human actors to animate digital characters. One of the best known examples came in James Cameron’s Avatar, in which Indigenous alien characters took on a lifelike persona with the use of this technology.
Sale said there’s an ongoing debate over whether motion capture is really animation. But there’s no denying its popularity in the film world.
“The mo-cap, for example, is used for visual digital effects but it’s also used for acting and more character-focused stuff in 3-D,” Sale said.
The school is also a leader in the use of augmented reality and virtual reality. “We’re currently running Vive Pro wireless down in our motion-capture studio,” Sale said.
The challenge, he added, is bringing together these technologies in a way that enhances storytelling while immersing audiences in the experience.
In the second year, students devote a great deal of attention to developing their portfolio. “It’s nice to be able to have our own dedicated mo-cap studio and VR station as well for visual effects and 3-D,” Sale noted.
As Vancouver has developed a global reputation in digital visual effects and animation, it has led to the creation of dozens of studios. And that means there’s plenty of work for those with the necessary skills, as anyone who visits the website can see.
Sale said the school is in the process of creating a combined degree program in digital visual effects and 2-D and 3-D animation. He thinks Cap U is well positioned to offer this because the school already offers programs in acting, costuming, human kinetics, computer science, and math.
“We are poised to create a unique degree because of the university status combined with, essentially, a film house,” he said.
Cap U’s School of Motion Picture Arts will host an open house from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on February 9 at the Nat and Flora Bosa Centre for Film and Animation.