College of Fine Arts at UNSW

Published on Wednesday, 11 August 2010

The Bachelor of Digital Media at COFA is designed to meet industry demand for digital media content developers with skills in interactive media, sound, web design, digital imaging, 3D modelling, and animation. In the later stages of the program, students customise the direction of their core studies.

COFA Bachelor of Digital Media graduate Philip To won an Annie Award at age 26 for his work at DreamWorks Animation on ‘Monsters vs. Aliens: Mutant Pumpkins from Outer Space’, a 2009 Halloween special for the US, screened in Australia on the Seven Network last November. He worked on ‘The Golden Compass’ as well, which earned the Oscar in 2007 for Best Visual Effects. “The degree at COFA was my starting point,” said Philip, who continued his training and after-hours work to develop his skills. “My goal since starting my degree was to work on feature animated films.

“I attended COFA when the Digital Media degree was still quite new, back when LightWave was the main application for Mac computers. I believe the animation and 3D programs are more attuned now. The course was geared for digital disciplines of all types, which has good and bad points. For the local market it was great because the industry in Australia is typically based in advertising and a well rounded skill set is important. In fact, learning about diverse subjects has actually helped my animation. The classes in photography, life drawing and sculpture helped hone my digital skill set. While the course wasn't geared toward 3D animation, I felt it was my responsibility to push that aspect of my education.

“Our support group included encouraging lecturers and tutors who were very experienced in their own fields. Lots of positive energy within the course filtered down to the students and helped raise the level of work. The main lesson I learned was that you have to work really hard. This stuff is difficult and regardless of how good you are you have to struggle to produce good work. Getting to Dreamworks was more down to the time I put into further training and the experience I had in Sydney as a generalist and character animator. I gained valuable skills at COFA and would do it again in a heartbeat.”

COFA lecturer and 3D CGI artist William Burdis said he emphasises students' responsibility as artists to produce genuine, original work with integrity. He believes in a cross disciplinary approach to production challenges and said solutions are not always software-based or even technical. Students should think with open minds and look for answers from many sources. William has worked in visual effects for over eight years on such films as ‘Happy Feet’ and ‘Alice in Wonderland’. He was awarded for his work on a backward compatible motion control system for animating dinosaurs in ‘Dinotopia’.