There’s a reason why film companies around the world are so keen to include animation and visual effects in their productions. And it’s not simply to save money, according to the director and head mentor at the Richmond-based Shinobi School of Computer Graphics.
In a phone interview with the Straight, Magic Eslami explained that 10 years ago he watched a car being exploded on a movie set not far from the foot of Lonsdale Avenue in North Vancouver.
“It was a huge, huge process, done very early in the morning,” the veteran animator recalled. “They really tried to make it safe.”
Nowadays, this type of scene can be created through computer graphics. It’s less expensive for filmmakers, and it also eliminates the chance of cast or crew members becoming accident victims.
“You can do things with computer graphics that you cannot really do in real time or in a live-action scene,” Eslami said.
That’s one reason why this industry is booming in the Lower Mainland. According to the Vancouver Economic Commission, there are more than 60 local visual-effects and animation studios. It means Vancouver has the largest cluster of such companies, both domestic and foreign, in the world.
Eslami emphasized that computer graphics have applications that go far beyond the movie industry. “It’s gaming. It’s visualization of architecture. Even what we used to call industrial design is relying on computers,” he said. “It’s growing every day.”
The Shinobi School of Computer Graphics offers one-year diploma programs. Eslami is particularly proud of the school’s small classes, which have a maximum of 10 students. All the instruction is face to face and Shinobi’s underlying philosophy is that students’ creativity needs to be unleashed.
“Our main program is computer-animation modelling, which covers almost everything we do,” Eslami said. “We start from the basics of production of a movie in 3-D, all the way from modelling to texturing, lighting, rigging, and animation all the way to the rendering process, which is when the final images go into a sequence.”
In addition, students learn about preproduction, production, and postproduction. The program is intense, and Eslami acknowledged that students face a steep learning curve in the beginning. But once they see how they can channel their creativity into results, they become very excited.
Eslami has been teaching animation for 19 years, and the Shinobi School of Computer Graphics was founded in 2014. Over the years, his students have gone on to work on blockbusters such as Avatar, Madagascar, and Ice Age.
Some who enrolled had an engineering background, he said, whereas others were artists or came from different fields altogether.
Local residents who are accepted are eligible for B.C. student loans, and the Shinobi School of Computer Graphics meets B.C.’s Private Training Institutions Branch’s quality-assurance standards.
As for the institution’s name, it’s the Japanese word for “male ninja”.