Monday, December 8, 2014

Are Actors Born or Made?

Acting is often seen as an innate talent, as something inherent or intangible, which has more to do with an actor’s genes rather than training. If that is the case, what then, is the need for trained actors, acting teachers, methodologies and acting classes?

Acting is a craft just like any other performance-based skill such as singing, dancing and to some extent sports and athletic activities. A singer or dancer has to learn the craft and keep working on the skills to improve. Why should acting be any different?

Let’s take a look at some of the skills that an actor has to build to move forward in the world of acting.

“Inner workings” such as thoughts, emotions, feelings and imagination that an actor is required to draw upon to perform whether on stage, the street or on screen is a critical skill. Can a person be taught how to think, imagine, feel or emote? Perhaps not. However, thinking can be nurtured, feelings can be brought out and imagination can be enhanced.

A good acting teacher or mentor will not tell students to see through his eyes or tell them what to see. But a teacher can and should enable students to open their eyes and see, to live in the moment, to enhance their imagination, to observe life and characters from their surroundings.

The field of acting requires many such “skillsets” that a student must build and hone:
1.     Optimal use of voice, its projection and modulation
2.     Body posture
3.     Action and reaction among actors
4.     Precise movements to be made for stage and screen (in front of camera)
5.      Memorization of dialogues and scripts
6.     Improvement of listening skills
7.     Taking direction from directors and technicians

Skills, training and talent will only take you so far. Actors must also have enough confidence to go through the challenges of an actor’s life. The rollercoaster of hectic work schedules, too much work and sometimes no work at all. Being judged and evaluated constantly. Frequently facing rejection, yet not letting it dampen their spirits. Actors also have to manage the stress of living in the limelight, where every minute action is scrutinized and judged.

To succeed, it is essential for an actor to be motivated internally as well as externally and make his/her presence felt while enacting different roles and characters. In all of this, there is definitely a need for a mentor, coach, guide, facilitator and a friend.

An acting teacher has the onus of fulfilling this role fully or partially and must motivate and keep the flame of passion and dream for acting alive!

Monday, October 27, 2014

In The Know!

You know the number one question you get asked when you meet new people or go to family events and meet uncles and aunts  – “what do you do a nowadays?” It’s October and family events are on the rise so I’ve been subjected to this question over and over again. For those of you in the average (sarcastic snigger) medical, engineering or MBA programs, this is a relatively easy answer. You say it and it’s accepted with a general nod of the head and wise look in the eye. But what do you think happens when you say you’re in CGI (Computer Graphics Imagery) or VFX or Digital Art?!? For folks like me the 'what you up to now' question is a flincher. Because here's your average reaction to the answer – skeptical look plus narrowing of eyes.

So I've been a CG artist for a while now, and I'm tired of people looking at me like I'm speaking Morse code when I tell them what I do. Most people try to break it down for themselves by saying, you make  cartoons?!? Well I can, but that's not all I do. Or the public favorite, 'Ohh you’re in Animation.' Again No. I can animate but no I'm not ONLY in the animation department. Of course by this time people have decided that I am in 'Animation' making 'Cartoons' and it takes a couple of cold glasses of water and finding my inner peace to actually explain to them what I'm a part of.

Lets start with a basic example. Meet Richard Parker (the tiger) from Life of Pi. You think good old Richard was sitting in a zoo somewhere doing tricks until he caught the eye of Ang Lee (the Director). Hell no! Richard didn't exist. Richard was imagined by Yann Martel (Author of the book) and brought to life by people like yours truly. I mean not me me. But CG VFX artists like me. Richard was drawn out on paper by a concept artist in a studio and then taken from 2d to 3d. Lost you yet?

Walking you through the CG pipeline for creating “someone” like Richard Parker starts with Modeling the tiger. Imagine molding clay, except you're doing it virtually on a computer and three-dimensionally. The modeler makes Parker look big and well fed or starving and half dead based on the requirement of the shot. Once Parker is modeled and roaring to go, the Texturing and Materials team steps in. They give Parker the color and coat that turns him from a dull grey into a vibrant golden-orange-black-striped mean machine. So we create Parker, color him exotic, now we got to put some bones into him, I mean literally. The Rigging team makes sure that Parker has joints in his legs and movement in his jaw and can swipe his claws. I mean so far Parker was a static statue; after the rigging team is done with him he can now jump into action. That is Animation. Whether Parker is supposed to look like a ferocious bad-ass, roaring and walking with the swagger of being a royal beast, or he's half dead, barely able to stand, hobbling around with an expression of death, is all done by the animator.

Then there’s the Lighting department—mood setters. Should Richard be traumatised by lighting strikes and light blitz, or is it harsh daylight with stark shadows, or is it a cool night with soft moonlight filling the scene? So once we’ve created Richard, textured him, put bones into him, lit him up and basically got him all ready to go, the Rendering team takes it from here. Very simply, it is the last major step where you take everything done so far and put it together so that it can play as a movie.  

I‘ve merely scratched the surface and given you just a taste of what the world of CGI is  made of. This world is far more humongous then you can imagine. Books could be written on the different levels and departments it consists of. While hoping you'd read these books might be asking for a bit much, I guess you now have a little insight the next time you ask someone like me what it is that I do. Roar to that!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Odd Ball

I love Family events. Since you are reading this you can’t hear the heavy sarcasm dripping from that sentence. Now don’t get me wrong—I love my family.. well my immediate family. It’s the extended family that can get very, you know.. extended. Let me give you a little background. I come from a family of engineers and doctors. If someone walked off the trampled path they’d go become a CA. One cousin even had the cheek to go do an MBA—now that was different. Until, well, I came along.

I started off with engineering and realized early on that it wasn’t my cup of anything. So of course concerned family members subtly (same heavy sarcasm note as before) pointed me towards the medical field, then (a little frantically) towards accountancy, then (with a gun to my head) towards an MBA program. But every family has a black sheep and I spectacularly disappointed everyone by announcing that I was entering the ‘Creative Field.’

Three basic reactions met me everywhere I went (remember those family events I mentioned earlier) 1 Blatant Disbelief; 2 Unabashed Shock; 3 The Head Shake / Look-of-Shame. Blatant Disbelief came from the younger crowd. Mainly because they realized that my days were numbered. I was definitely going to be cut out of the will. But also because they never really thought ‘Creativity’ was something you turn into a career option.

Unabashed Shock was from the parent-age crowd. Mainly shock towards my poor parents, who everyone assumed had “let me go out of hand” (literal translation from the Hindi “haat se choot gayi hai”). “If only you would have been more strict.” Also it doesn’t help that my elder brother is one of those mathematical child prodigy types (I never stood a chance, see). The shock was more since my ‘gene-pool’ was obviously so strong.

The Head Shake / Look-of-Shame thing happened from the grandparents’ gang. Since they have seen the world, this anomaly (yours truly) was something to be expected. The proverb should have been ‘A Look is Worth a Thousand Words.’ With the looks I’ve faced, I swear, less thick-skinned people would have dropped like flies. But luck favors the brave and I’ve withstood all the Head Shakes and Looks-Of-Shame with a smile.. by that I meant skittish simper.

Now that I have all your sympathy and you are feeling like I come from a family of weirdoes (its not their fault.. it's society playing safe as a whole), let me assure you, I’m no unique case. In our country where ‘trend-changer’ is only a thing for the big cities (that too only some parts of big cities) a ton of my friends have faced and battled similar reactions. I’ve done an earlier blog on ‘the not so beaten path’ which was basically my journey from aww-some.. to awesome (wrong blog if you were looking for modesty). But I recently had a chat with a couple of people who told me how they were struggling with getting their families to understand what they wanted to do—their ‘Passion.’ And I just wanted to reach out and say.. hey.. you are not alone (I just felt like Charles Xavier… how cool is that!!!).

Some of the greats all started under family pressure but stepped out from under-the-wing so to speak to achieve nothing short of utter greatness. Alfred Hitchcock, started as an estimator (esti…whaat) for the Heneley Telegraph and Cable Company (oh and you thought you had it bad). Bill Cosby was a bartender (that’s a pretty cool job actually). Ashton Kutcher was studying engineering and working odd jobs as a carpenter and farm laborer (how can someone so good looking be allowed to do that!!). James Cameron majored in physics before changing his ‘Avatar’ to become a filmmaker. I mean, wow!!.. can you see where I’m going with this.

The stories of so many people who have made it massive in the creative world started just like us (may be farm laborer is stretching it a bit). But my point being if these people had buckled under family pressure or gone with the flow and continued down the path they originally were put on, the world would have been at a loss. (Tell me you’re not inspired yet). Since I’m going all Professor Xavier on you, I’m going to quote from the man himself to keep the fire in you burning, ‘A new and uncertain world. A world of endless possibilities and infinite outcomes. Countless choices define our fate: each choice, each moment, a moment in the ripple of time. Enough ripples, and you change the tide... for the future is never truly set.’ 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

To Believe or Not to Believe..!!

Someone said the mark of a really good movie is that you get so caught up in what's going on, that you never even remember to think, "How in God's name did they do that?" When you finally get around to asking that question, you find that the answer is even more mindblowingly awesome than the movie itself.

I recently watched Guardians of the Galaxy (Marvel fan in the house) and realized my favorite character in the movie was a genetically modified raccoon - Rocket. No points for guessing that Rocket was created in a fancy high end computer (at Framestore Studio for those who want to know). The beauty of the movie is that you never feel even for a second that Rocket isn't 'human.' So many shots in the movie seem just insane – the land of Morag, the capital Xandar, the Kyln prison sequence –  the list just goes on. It got me talking to a couple of aspiring filmmaker friends of mine that are movies slowly moving from being created on 'real sets' to 24-inch computer screens?

As a lay person who has seen movies like Avatar, Gravity, Life of Pi, to name a few, I've been thinking that the amount of the movie being shot on a real stage is so farrrr less than what is computer-generated. Some of my friends agreed. Life of Pi is a case in point. The part with the lead character and his boat was shot in a wave pool on a sound stage. But the sky, the ocean, the island, the meerkats and oh yeah the tiger - making up 80 % of the movie – were created by hundreds of CGI and VFX artists. There is no doubt that without CGI and VFX we would have fabulous concepts that looked extremely ridiculous. 

But some of my other friends were keen to add that Filmmaking is not just down to extreme CGI and VFX. There are filmmakers that go to insane lengths to avoid using CGI. Everyone’s favorite example was Batman (the Dark Knight series). In every movie in the series there are scenes where the viewer must think, “I bet thats CGI. I mean how else can this be done!” The chase sequence in the first movie where Batman flips the Joker's 18-wheeler. 'Holy Shit' was the only justifiable sentiment to that shot. So was that CGI and VFX pulling out all their shots? No.. that was created by a technique in Hollywood known as – Flipping a Real Semi, like really. To get the amount of force needed to lift the Big-Rig head first, the crew actually built a huge steam piston mechanism into the vehicle. And oh yeah all this happens in the heart of Gotham city. So was that at least CGI? No again, see, because that would be too easy. Christopher Nolan and team  went to downtown Chicago and closed off a street to film this sequence. Why!?! Because that’s how the big Bat would do it.

Now both sides, the extreme CGI and the 'We shoot everything you see,' had numerous such examples. And yes most movies are a mix of both these techniques. I for one was just left awestruck by both. Full marks to everyone around going to such great lengths to tantalize our sense of awe every time we go to a movie.

Frankly, be it a creation on a computer or a real life creation, I'm just happy to be part of a world where such things are even possible. Aren't you?!?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Big Switch - II

The title says it all but to recap from part I, I had to switch from Maya to Blender and I was a very unhappy camper. Its not like I had stock options in Autodesk that I was getting separation anxieties, but I read somewhere that it if you have a strong will it takes only 30 days to get into a new habit. Lets just say my ‘will’ had not had a workout in a while. It was quite the weakling.

My first week at Blender was nothing short of a car crash. More like multiple car crashes with some helicopters thrown in for effect. I’d been a Mayan (how cool does that sound) for so long that just basic moving around in Blender was like writing with my left hand (I’m right handed in case you didn’t catch that). Stuff that I could do in Maya with my eyes closed with one hand tied behind my back, become tasks that took me hours, well not hours but much, much longer than usual.

I was well and truly on my way to hating the software when I had a couple of really fascinating experiences. The first was when I tried using Fur in blender. Now every Maya user will agree if Maya has a pain point (and I’ve admitted it has a few) it’s the hair and fur system. Fur in Maya requires some very special handling. A. You need a bad-ass system that can output the fur B. you need to pray that Maya had gotten up on the right side of its bed, cause I don’t remember ever trying Fur in Maya without it dying on me. And by dying I mean smoke coming out of your system and you pulling out half your hair in frustration. But Blender, Blender was just something else. It has something called Quick Fur. I almost chocked on my coffee when I heard this. The words Quick and Fur don’t really go together when it comes to 3D software, but when I tried the option it was amazing. I’m not saying I created fields of corn and grass but the ease of handling and the fact that the system didn’t die and continued to work smoothly was just too fascinating to ignore.

So, reluctantly at first, I started to dig deeper. I started to see that the tools in Blender were at least as powerful as the tools in Maya, if not more so. Though it was like learning a foreign language, once I got over the initial learning curve and the many many, many keyboard shortcuts, I found working in Blender was blazingly fast. I’m not just talking about rendering the output, I mean the process of creating models, animations, particle systems, all the usual and some of the not so usual things that one uses when working on a 3D project. I started feeling like Blender was freeing my mind. I could turn my ideas into reality a lot faster.

Besides its workflow and such, there were other things in Blender that I found too amazing to wrap my head around. For starters its latest version weighed 106.8 MB… 106.8 MB! A full-fledged 3D software!! To give you some perspective, Maya’s installer file stands at 1.8 GB… GB. Shockers. Makes you wonder what the hell is packed into it when they both let me do the exact same thing.

My curiosity now fully ablaze, I found more and more things in Blender that were quite fabulous. Besides letting you work on your 3D elements, Blender also has a Video Editor. Even though it looked a little different to your typical Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro set-up, all the tools were there. But wait it didn’t stop there, I could Composite in it, I could Sculpt in it and and and.. it had an inbuilt Game Engine … The OpenGL-based engine uses a graphical interface for building game behaviors without coding. It features a bullet physics engine for real-time collisions and interactions, and has support for vehicle dynamics. Oh yeah and all this was free. Like free free. Blender is an open source software. You can download it off the Blender website... again, for free. This is the part where I stood up and gave the Blender guys a standing ovation.

The thought that Blender is a free open source software hadn’t even crossed my mind yet. After working on Blender I feel like it’s amazing that companies and production houses would want to spend bundles of money on their setup with Maya.

The winds of change were definitely blowing. I had this renewed fervor to want to do as much as possible in Blender. Push it to its limits so to speak. It was like reading a really great book that you just can’t put down. So I have to say coming out of the storm, after Blending (that sounds pretty cool too huh!?!) for a couple of months I’m officially converted. I feel like a Phoenix rising from the ashes. Maya will always be my first love but Blender is definitely where the future lies.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Big Switch - I

Have you met people who seem to thrive on change?!? You know the type that quotes stuff like, “The only thing constant in life is Change,” and all that at you. People who seem to switch jobs and career paths; even lifestyles as easily as changing a pair of shoes. Well, I’m not one of those people. When I pick something, I’m pretty much signing on for life. I’m not saying I’m rigid, I mean I shuffle what I have for breakfast now and again, but I kind of like being in my comfort zone.

So the story that follows didn’t start out as a happy one. I’d been a 3D artist for a bit now, mainly working in Maya (3D software), sometimes in 3DS Max (also a 3D software) dabbling in Zbrush (a different type of 3D software) now and again. But Maya was where my heart was. Sure we had our tiffs, Maya can be quite stubborn sometimes but mainly we got along. Work was good and as an unsuspecting soul, I was on my merry way to understanding all I could about said software.

I want to say we had a long and prosperous life and Maya and I sailed into the sunset happily every after. Unfortunately, life is hardly ever a Disney movie and the storm clouds (as I saw them then) were gathering.

One day I came to work and there was this buzz going around about this new software (when I saw new, I mean new to me).  Blender they called it. I scoffed it off and got to work. But a few days in, I realized this buzz was pretty persistent.  There were talks about us changing our software pipeline from Maya to Blender. What started out as denial for me slowly led into panic and finally into fully blown out hysteria. I couldn’t believe that we were going to have to leave Maya and switch to something else. I mean come on I spent so much time mastering one thing and you’re telling me I had to walk away from all that and pick up the reins of a new software? 
Management said its still CG, the work you do is still basically the same. But as an artist I felt like I was betraying Maya. Also, I could do things in Maya with my eyes closed, I knew all the hotkeys, almost had reflex actions when it came to doing several functions. Imagine unlearning all that. I felt like a superhero being asked to put down my cape and be human again. I know, I know, I can be very melodramatic. But it was nothing short of trauma at that time.

Now since we’ve already established that this is not a Disney movie you know that instant happiness was not on the horizon. I didn’t make the switch smoothly. But the important thing is… I did make it.

(I have a word limit so I’m going to pull the plug here.. but come back next week to find out the whole deal on the BIG SWITCH.. My journey from Maya to Blender).

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Crash of 2014

Tell me this, have you in your life, created a spectacular piece of work, be it in CG or VFX or Digital Art or any time intense field of art (not that there are any other kind, but you catch my drift!). Then taken a moment to hit the render button or go to full screen or even something trivial like change the view and suddenly the worst thing possible happens - your screen freezes!!! Have you then prayed on your knees to every possible God you know (yes even Loki counts…) to give you one chance, just one measly chance to hit the save button before the evilest thing technology can do to you happens – the file Crashes.

 Well I was a recent victim of just such an event. I had worked the better part of my night on this major exterior environment in CG, and for once it was coming out exactly the way I envisioned it. Like I was Michelangelo and I was creating my own personal David. One of those beautiful moments when you’re Midas and all you touch is Gold, only in a good way. All the modeling and textures had come out beautifully and I had started to get into the groove with the lighting. I spent 3 hours getting the scene to look just the perfect temperature of scary and decrepit when the thought that I hadn’t saved in a while and how awful it would be if it crashed now, crossed my mind. I cursed myself for putting that thought out there in the middle of a test render and bit my nail to the bone when the render seemed to get stuck at 89%. I prayed for the file to survive and magically it churned out the remaining render. Having the attention span of a teaspoon, I immediately got lost in the absolute beauty of the output and forgot about that small voice in my subconscious screaming save, save now you crazy person.

You would think something bad happened right about now… But no! When I learn a lesson it’s never just half-baked, the misery of my action has to completely scar me so I never forget the pain I go through. After getting the lights right, I did half an hour’s worth of experimental changes to the settings. Now any self-respecting artist will tell you that they always know exactly what values they tweaked, well the term experimental is used to cover up just that. There are times when you randomly tweak some settings over and over again and suddenly you get absolutely smashing results. Only after you see the result do you go back and check your stroke-of-genius changes.

I was glowing with my own brilliance and clicked on the minimize render button so I could check out what I had done with the settings, when things started to go wrong. I felt like my mouse pointer was stuck. I rattled (banged) the mouse for a bit and tried again. No response. Swallowing hard with a growing sense of panic I decided that I better hit the save button. I hit the save button about 50 times all the while saying “please God pleaseeeee..”. I made quite a few large promises to God about how I would be a better human being and eat all my veggies if only this work would get saved, but the tech Gods were not listening. Or probably standing by saying, "serves the bugger right."

After working at full throttle for a good 5 hours my machine had decided it had enough. Everything just stopped working. With the temperament of someone letting go of a loved one, I banged my head a bunch of times, cursed everyone and everything, threw some papers around the room but finally accepted that shutting and restarting was the only way to see if anything had saved. Nothing had. It was almost a career altering moment for me.

Needless to say I now save every 5 seconds. And no for once I’m not exaggerating..!

Friday, July 4, 2014

National Award Winning Director Hansal Mehta Conducts an Exclusive Seminar at FX School

On 21st June, Filmmaking students at FX School were privileged to attend an exclusive seminar by Director Hansal Mehta whose film Shahid won the National Award for Best Direction in 2013 and whose recent release Citylights received enormous critical acclaim.

In an intimate, candid and enlightening dialogue with students, Mr. Mehta shared his experiences and his method of working. Mr. Mehta’s matter of fact, down-to-earth persona made the interaction engaging and lively, with questions and answers flying back and forth. Methods of directing actors, approaches to script-writing, ways to motivate and inspire team members, the importance of sticking to a film’s budget and many other topics were discussed.

The most important learning that students came away with was to focus on their storytelling and constantly work on their craft.

Raj Devjani, a Filmmaking student who attended the seminar says, "It was illuminating to have Mr. Hansal Mehta speak with us about his work.

Having embraced digital filmmaking methods, he reinforced our faith in the fact that analogue may not necessarily be the best way to make movies today. This was heartening for the students of FX School, who have only stepped into the digital era of movies and are not acquainted with analogue.

Further, when sharing his experience while making Shahid he emphasized on the pragmatic. It was singularly inspiring to learn how he made that film almost without any conventional resources and got people to take notice of it. He underscored that whatever one's tools are to make movies, one must be brave to venture into the unknown and that nothing is above storytelling."

CB Arun Kumar, Academic Director of FX School says, “FX School is becoming a leading film institute pioneering in using the latest tech innovations and this, combined with the quality of our education allows us to foster and deepen relations with the best in the industry such as Mr. Mehta.”

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The One – Part II

Recap - Quick cuts and thriller music as shots of me looking at webpages in dim light, meeting people in dark glasses and low hats, suspicious expressions.. zoom into my eye as I walk out of one institute, zoom out to show me standing outside new location..
Well so you’re up to speed as to what I was doing, (if not take a minute and read the earlier blog, well ok maybe 5 minutes I tend to ramble) So I found myself on day 10 of my search looking for Inst no. 2. Frankly I passed it a couple of times but really didn't imagine a decrepit building like that could house an institute..(Have I mentioned I'm quite shallow?).. I finally realized that I had to go into the building, so holding my breath I walked in. I know creativity can sprout anywhere but really for me, dark, dingy and shady don't go with flow of creative juices. I mean how exactly to come up with an earth shattering idea when half your mind is focused on where the nearest exit is in case the building decides its had enough of standing up. I finally got what all those real estate people say about 'location location location'.
At another institute with a very similar look, I tried my best not to be swayed by the 'site' of the place and make my decision, but the counsellor there did the job for me. I mentioned my interest and showed him some of the things I had created. He listened quite attentively then a little too assertively told me I was making a big mistake. How filmmaking wasn't the right choice for me and that I should get into the VFX course they had. I mean I'm interested in VFX but as a part of filmmaking. Tried to tell him that, but he got so aggressive I started to agree with him only so he wouldn't go all 3rd degree on me. He hard-sold the VFX course and the more he pushed the more I knew I didn't want this. 
A big thing I noticed at almost all the places that I had been so far was that the students seemed to be standing by, while all the hands-on work was being done either by the faculty or the assistants. Almost no where did I see students fiddling with cameras or lights or really participating and learning. Until that is, I came to FX School – violins playing.
My meeting with FX School as a place was like a dream sequence. I opened the glass door and I heard the words 'Action'.. I looked up and was partially blinded by the lights, pin drop silence and then by a girl slapping a guy. I stopped in my tracks in shock and was almost going to retreat not sure if I had just walked into the wrong place and this was some movie shoot going on. Two seconds of shock later I realized that all the people involved in the shoot looked like students. Someone yelled 'Cut' and it was like the sound had been turned back on. I was still reeling with shock before I picked up that there were other people around me and someone was very politely asking me if I needed to see a counsellor. Oh yeah I did.. and also what the hell was happening.
The counsellor invited me into a room and explained that a student shoot was in progress. Wow! so all those were kids studying here. There were two Teaching Assistants but it was the students who had to set up the lights, choose the camera, the lenses and decide what was the best way to get that shot they wanted. I almost signed the dotted line without hearing anything more. So much hands on exposure!! I showed her my work and she said that I seemed to have a really good hand with the camera so maybe in Filmmaking I should specialize in the camera department. She even set me up to speak with a student who was currently doing the course there. The faculty I met had some great movies to their credit but still seemed extremly down to earth and approachable. I felt like things here were completely  transparent, no hidden agendas about pushing me to take a different course and most importantly all that hands-on experience. Also, they had a sweet Mac based setup all through with tons of high end cameras and lenses. But I didn't just jump on the wagon here. I gave the last Institue I had in mind a shot.
Now I must say even the last place pretty much rocked for me. It was huge, one of the few places that looked like a campus; they had an awesome setup with equipment and some pretty big names linked to them. So looking through rose tinted glasses it seemed even better than FX School. Only I dug deep, so I soon realized, when I was being given the tour, that though they had the latest equipment and some pretty informed faculty and a really swanky setup (they had the most intense security I had seen, really felt like Bond before entering M's lab) the kids here too seemed to be standing around while all the pros handled the cameras. The only time I saw students use the equipment was a class that was in their final leg of the course. So a newbie was just supposed to absorb and learn from.. looking. Hmm.. Looking vs. Hands on.. I pretty much ran all the way back to FX School.
Now I know your thinking of course you'l say great things about FX School, you study there. So here's a challenge, be as thorough as me and actually go try and find a better institute. Do what I did and let me know if you had a different experience. I know I'd love to hear it.