Laurence is passionate about connecting creators with technology. He has 20 years of experience in the Computer Animation and VFX industry, and is currently the CG supervisor at Folks VFX in Toronto, Canada. Laurence spent nine years at Autodesk working on Maya product team and is a college professor of Visual Effects and Animation at Centennial College, where he has developed courses and enjoyed teaching for over a decade.
What is the connection between CG Supervision and teaching as you’ve been doing both for a long time?
For me this a beautiful cycle. I was lucky enough to run into people working in the industry who inspired me to get into this business. I was taught by teachers who were CG supervisors themselves. Then I was encouraged to teach by my CG supervisor at the time and went on to hire some of my students. Many of whom have gone into supervision themselves! Some have even gotten into teaching to help inspire others. It’s great to watch this cycle multiply and grow.
Do you think teachers should still be involved in the production while working as a professor at the Uni?
I absolutely do, but this can happen in many ways. It’s a great opportunity to be able to be in production and teach at the same time, but this is not possible for everyone. Engaging with industry pros on an on-going basis is a great option.To me, it’s the discussions and contact with industry that really helps teachers focus on creating great students that will succeed.
What are the alternative ways to traditional university teaching?
I think that to answer this question you have to know the student and what they need. Many students want to take an academic approach, or focus on a specific area to push research and Universities are ideal for this. For other students, they may want to focus on career skills and getting into the studio quickly. For these types of students, a shorter more focused program is great and the options are numerous – colleges, vocational schools, finishing schools, online courses – it’s never been a better time to learn new skills.
At the CG industry beginnings, most of the CG artists have been self-thought and knowledge was kept in small circles, like San Francisco or LA. Today, the whole knowledge lives online. Are there advantages of structured learning to self learning?
The diversity of online learning options has been a huge opportunity for students and pros alike to learn more and to spread best practice. It can be challenging though to separate the good content from content that is misinformed or presenting older techniques. I will often encourage my students to answer their questions by looking online, but I take the time to show how to separate the good content from the not so good. You need to do your research and try for yourself to determine the best approach, and not take everything online as established techniques.
Do you have any “secret well” where you go to or would recommend others to get their thirst for knowledge?
Other teachers! Seriously though, finding other people in your industry through events and online communities and discussing shared ideas and problems is a great way to be inspired. I find Reddit to be a good place learn and be inspired. I am always reading FX Guide as well to see what’s new and cool.
What is the idea behind the CG Connect Toronto? Can you tell us more about the event?
CG Connect Toronto was invented together with Nikola Milosevic to help showcase talent in our home city of Toronto and to instill a culture of sharing techniques and ideas. Also an opportunity to share a beer with co-workers and friends. We were inspired by great events like Beergraph in the UK and saw the opportunity in sharing knowledge in a fun and relaxed environment. It’s a tough event to put together, but so rewarding to see artists who have never seen themselves as speakers discover that they have something great to offer. I look forward to our next event.
The importance of attending conferences?
Conferences are a great opportunity to learn something new. Even more it’s an opportunity to block off your schedule and focus on your industry and the great people in it. I’m always fascinated by how many friends I run into from my own home town at Siggraph – as it’s the time we have to really connect and spend together learning without everyday life getting in the way.
You will wear a number of hats during CGA Belgrade – from education and mentoring to implementing agile strategies in VFX and gaming studios. What is your favourite hat to wear during your first visit to Belgrade?
I hear there’s some great restaurants I should be wearing my eating hat in. 🙂 Actually, I’m most excited to connect with some of the passionate artists and entrepreneurs I’ve run into from Serbia in my travels. I am also excited to understand what’s happening in education and the studios here. I’ve been so impressed by the passion I’ve seen so far and I’m keen to know more.
Thank you Laurence, see you at the CGA2019