During his mobility year, Vincent Maurer, a Technical Directing student, moved to Canada. While staying there, he worked on animation and VFX productions for major studios and simultaneously fell in love with the country's natural beauty.
TD student Vincent Maurer on the road in Canada during his mobility year in Vancouver
Moving to Canada someday. Vincent Maurer has been toying with this idea for quite some time. For professionals in the animation and VFX field, the city of Vancouver is a particularly important destination. It is considered to be the place with the largest collection of top companies in the sector worldwide. In addition to many smaller players, industry giants such as Sony Pictures Imageworks, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), and Animal Logic are located there. Generally speaking, the Vancouver Film Studios have the largest film production capacity in the world outside of Los Angeles.
"Before deciding to move there, I wanted to check out Canada," Vincent says. He wasn't disappointed: "It's a very beautiful country," the TD student enthuses, "I traveled around a bit, for example through the Rocky Mountains." Regarding Vancouver, he finds the nearby mountain landscapes particularly impressive. "I even saw a few bears there."
Pictures of Vincent from his travels in Canada (click to enlarge)
Vincent first studied Animation at the Animationsinstitut but has been shifting his study focus to the Technical Directing specialization for a while now. For his stay in Canada, he is taking a one-year break from his studies. To do so, he took advantage of the so-called “Student Mobility” program after completing his third year of studies.
New Horizons through Exchange, Professional Experience, or Travel—"Student Mobility" at the Animationsinstitut
It allows students of the Animationsinstitut to pause their studies for two semesters to gain professional experience or participate in university exchange programs. Many students do both during the mobility year. They study one semester at one of the institute's partner universities and work the rest of the time in the film industry. In Vincent’s case, he combined gaining professional experience with a trip to Canada.
Students receive advice on how to organize their mobility year at the International Office of the Animationsinstitut. Here, the staff, for example, gives an overview about the various exchange or scholarship programs and supports the students on how to build connections to exciting employers in Germany and around the world.
Even though Vincent wants to travel and explore the country during his mobility year, he is focused on his future career in the industry. In order to gain professional experience in the world of major studios on the West Coast of North America, his first destination was Sony Pictures Imageworks, where he participated in a talent development program.
This program is called iCAD (Imageworks Cultivating Academic Development). Those who demonstrate a talent in computer animation, digital arts, or computer science in their application are eligible for a paid internship at Sony Picture Imageworks through iCAD, including professional training from the company. Thanks to Vincent's prior experience, as well as his background as an Animationsinstitut student, he was accepted into the program.
Vincent was at Sony for two months. During his time there, he worked in the production team of the animated film SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE. Being part of such a large animated film production was a very interesting experience for him, Vincent states. "I worked as a lighting artist using the software Katana and also did the compositing for the final shot."
Vincent's place of work at Sony in Vancouver (click to enlarge)
Vincent's start in Vancouver became a whole lot easier because he had some contacts in the city through the Animationsinstitut. Over the years, many graduates of the institute have moved to the VFX metropolis to work there. For example, Dennis Müller who returned to Ludwigsburg to give some workshops for the students—including Vincent. Dennis has already worked as a lighting artist and compositor for Disney, among others. Today, he is a senior lighting TD (sequence lead) at ILM in Vancouver.
Network of the Animationsinstitut in Vancouver
Dennis suggested to Vincent, after his Sony internship, that he should try ILM as well. He recommended Vincent to apply for a TD position and Vincent actually got a job in the virtual production environment! His TD know-how convinced the studio in particular. Working at the legendary VFX studio was always a dream for Vincent. "That it worked out so early almost feels a bit surreal," he assesses.
At ILM, Vincent worked on the production of PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS, a show based on a fantasy book series that is scheduled to release on Disney+ in 2024. He enjoyed working at ILM immensely. "It's a great company that produces very exciting projects," Vincent raves about his time at ILM.
After five months at ILM, however, he went back to Sony, where he continued working as a lighting artist. This time not as an intern, but as a permanent employee. Here, he will remain until his return to Germany. Both Sony and ILM have already had conversations with Vincent, asking him if he could imagine working in their studios after his studies. Vincent’s case portrays the promising prospects of graduates in the animation and VFX industry.
More pictures of Vincent in Vancouver (click to enlarge)
"It may well be that I go back to Canada. But I'll have to see about that," says Vincent. For now, he wants to focus on his diploma. He expects to finish his TD degree at the Animationsinstitut in 2025. According to his experiences during his mobility year, finding a job after his graduation seems like a piece of cake.