Hi all! I've been alerted to this thread and suggested that I weigh in .. I've read the comments and everyone brings up great points, so it's not my intention to get in the middle of a vfx industry wage / tuition / rate war; but I'll try to be as unbiased and realistic as possible here. As some know I'm the sole Houdini / FX instructor at Lost Boys. I designed the curriculum about three years ago and it's taken off. I'm self taught personally, so I fully agree that it's possible to learn everything on your own and do well at less cost. I do believe the number Lost Boys asks is a fair amount and below is my reasoning. I'm welcome to debate and disagreement and if need be lets come up with some alternatives that work for the majority of people out there.
1. Self taught vs. school.
Even though I did quite well being self taught .. my demo reel was all over the place. I didn't know what areas to focus on, my own strengths/weaknesses, industry norms and techniques, or have a set routine. I didn't have a strong mentor. I had to maintain all of my own hardware, and I had no support from peers. In my FX program the student has a completely immersive and supportive environment to learn in. We have highly regimented projects. We have dailies; personalised lectures, and the pupil is told how to hone shots for maximum effectiveness. The hours are FULL TIME .. from 10am-5:30pm every day. Not a night class twice a week .. it's like studying a foreign language in it's own country. I firmly believe that a year of immersive study in a supportive and structured environment like this saves lots of time. It pushes a student's skills farther than they realistically could on their own. In general our demographic is about half students, and half up-skilling professionals. They will generally up thier level in a year; and this could take years on the job or at home .. meaning; Student to Junior .. Junior to Mid ... Mid to Senior.
You'll notice a consistency in the projects from our FX Demo and the industry has responded very well to them.
2. Cost of tuition.
a. $41 is a lot of money. However, check out our competitors .. I'd assert that our tuition is below average. If you look at the instruction hours, it's reasonable. This is simply the cost of doing business and staying competitive. My classes are only 7 students maximum with one group overlap; and they have myself, and my assistant full time for a full year. If a student is successfully placed as a Junior they both have a profitable career after only a year, and if frugal can probably make back the tuition soon. I know that my university education was far more, and I had way less job potential at the end of it. Took me years to justify the cost of it. Going to a low end tech school might have us pay almost as much money, waste time, and then have zero useful skills at the end of it. $41 Gives our students an incredible year, a job at the end if they work hard, and full time instruction providing a strong technical and artistic base for their rest of their career.
b. What is the real value of school? It's true that there's now an almost unlimited set of resources available to learn the software. I don't teach the software. I take my students camping to study fire and water. We break stuff to study fractures. I teach low level vector and matrix math, and often give physical or drawn examples of how these principals work. We work on group projects in tandem with plates and the compositing students to develop real studio skills. I have one on one conversations with my students as they struggle, ask questions, try to understand advanced artistic and shotwork concepts. I teach problem solving, and develop their eyes .. Houdini is great; but it's a tool to get there .. not a means in and of itself. The students will develop their own styles that will let them be seniors someday learning it the traditional way (from Senior to Junior) on real projects .. a case by case basis, just like at a studio. I firmly believe I give my students a better education than I've ever had; My education was from seniors at the studios I worked with and it was in a stressful environment, under the gun, production .. not a supportive school. I would have gotten farther faster if I'd have gone to a school like this for it.
c. Honesty is crucial here guys. I'll admit that I make decent money teaching the program. Not as much as I'd be making if I would have chosen to stay in the industry as a senior FX artist or lead. But, close .. and this is a lifestyle choice I've made to better myself artistically. Many schools would choose to put profit into marketing and phony ads. Our two person ownership team (yes, only two people) put it into getting the best instructors, the best equipment and facilities, and the coolest projects. We shoot our own plates, we do many outdoor activities to further our learning, and we often have industry lectures as well. Our marketing is our alumni and testimonials.
This is generally a scam at many schools. At my program it isn't. Anyone who would disagree should do their homework and reach out to the full listing of alumni on this page. My alumni will probably say as they have told me that they were satisfied with their investment, and are successfully working on the job. So far out of my students I've had one that was not placed as an FX TD. The other 22 students were placed .. not as runners, two month gigs, or render wranglers .. but as FX TD's more often than not working on major movies with Houdini. Here's the facts:
(4%) Placed in an equivalent job, then career change
To add to this, once placed they have generally progressed quicker than most people in no small part due to their solid foundations in the art and science of FX work.
Thanks for reading, that was my completely biased opinion and I'd welcome discussion .. ok gotta get back and teach