Students at Animationsinstitut should gain as much experience as possible during their studies. Among many other things, there is the option to take a mobility year. Some use this opportunity to expand their practical knowledge, for example by doing an internship and network with companies in the industry while building their future careers. Others go to a university abroad.
Usually, studying abroad takes place within the framework of bilateral collaborations with film and art schools and is based on mutual exchange. Students of Animationsinstitut stay abroad for a semester and respectively, students come to Ludwigsburg to participate in workshops and seminars or to work on projects within student teams. For exchange programs, Animationsinstitut has a cooperation network of partner schools around the globe.
Harald Dieterichs was also able to draw on this. The animation student is at MoPa L'ecole internationale du cinéma d'animation in Arles, France, for the 2021/22 winter semester. "For me, the main thing was to take in the cultural experience," Harry says, "I wanted to do a project in France and experience how people work together and animate here." After all, he says, language also influences how you think and conceive creatively. The country also has a special tradition in comics and animation that interests him.
He chose the school in Arles because of its study focus. The MoPa specializes purely in 3D animation and not, like Animationsinstitut, also in Visual Effects, Production, Interactive Media, Technical Directing, and many other animation techniques such as Stop Motion. At first, Harry, who originally completed an apprenticeship as a communication designer and is now in the third year of his studies at Animationsinstitut, was also into visual effects. Now, though, he is mainly interested in 3D animation and character animation, i.e. how animation techniques are used to bring characters to life.
He had planned to spend some time abroad during his studies for quite some time. "Actually, I wanted to go to Canada, where many important companies are located," Harry continues. However, the entry restrictions due to the pandemic interfered with this plan. "The same thing happened twice, I wanted to do a three-week summer school in Moscow as part of an exchange project of Filmakademie." Alas, six days before his flight, everything was called off because of the virus.
However, when it finally worked out with Arles, he was through the roof. To organize the exchange, Harald turned to the International Network Department at Animationsinstitut. They put him in touch with MoPa, which is already one of Animationinstitut’s partner schools through programs such as the FMX School Campus. Then, Harald was matched with Théophile Farant, a student at MoPa who also wanted to go abroad; the exchange became a reality. During his stay abroad, Harry receives a scholarship from the Baden-Wuerttemberg Foundation.
"I actually wanted to go to Rome because I really love Italian cinema," says Théophile. "At first, I didn't even know about Animationsinstitut. But when I saw the level at which students' projects are developed there and began to appreciate the opportunities for training, I was so impressed that I went to Ludwigsburg instead of Rome."
In particular, Théo could expand his skills here in the area of VFX in live-action films. To do this, he took part in the Set Extension Workshop (SEW) as an exchange student. In this class, students from Filmakademie’s Cinematography and Production Design courses team up with Animation and VFX students of Animatinsinstitut. Together, they learn state-of-the-art techniques to combine virtual and real sets. During the SEW, a VFX short film is created. Within the project team, Théo was eventually chosen to direct the film. "It's really a great experience for me to direct the project," he says. In addition, he highlights the fact that an LED screen was used in the SEW film shoot. "It's incredible that students at Animationsinstitut can try out such new tools and shoot with them," states the French exchange student.
The Parisian by birth also likes the study location Ludwigsburg as well as the nearby big city Stuttgart very much. He has swapped apartments with Harry. Théo moved into the latter's shared apartment in Ludwigsburg during the semester, while Harry lives in Théo's one-room apartment in Arles. Harry also likes Arles, the ancient city in the Provence: "The city itself is beautiful, just very touristic. I especially like the surrounding countryside; it's great for hiking and climbing."
Both spend most of their time working on their student projects, however. Harry's goal for his time in France is to learn more about the software Maya. "Within my class at Animationsinstitut, no one specialized in Maya. The MoPa, though, trains their students mainly in Maya," Harry reports. Some of the teaching methods and organization of classes at MoPa are very different from those at Filmakademie. There is a stronger focus on school-like instruction at MoPA while Animationsinstitut teaches more according to the principle of "learning by doing”. At MoPA, theoretical learning has also led to the formation of project teams that work together on a 30-second short film after some time, though.
Animationsinstitut’s students can spend a semester abroad at one of Filmakademie’s cooperating schools during their mobility year. "We try to take students' wishes into account as much as possible," explains Tina Ohnmacht, head of International Network at Animationsinstitut. "If there is interest in an exchange with a university abroad, then we try to make a co-operation agreement." She says there are already intensive collaborations with animation and VFX schools through FMX and the Animation Sans Frontières (ASF) talent initiative. Those are frequently used for exchanges, "but in principle, many things are possible."
The cooperation with MoPa only came about during the pandemic. In previous years, the Danish computer games development program DADIU, for example, had been popular, in addition to the long-established GOBELINS l'École de l'image in Paris. Since there are several well-known companies in the industry in Australia, some students have already opted for Work & Travel stays there. However, the Corona situation has made this more difficult in recent times.
According to Ohnmacht, the winter semester is particularly suitable for exchanges. This is when exchange students would have the opportunity to participate in the Set Extension Workshop at Animationsinstitut, as Théo did. The AniFilm/AniPlay module is also open to students from abroad. Here, third-year students develop and realize an animated film as well as an interactive experience. But there have also been some project cooperations where students from abroad took on a specific role in the team of a diploma film. Thus, they could gain practical experience as well as add a project collaboration to their portfolio.
"It's important to Animationsinstitut to encourage its students to learn new things and make exciting experiences in other places"Dr. Tina Ohnmacht, Head of International Network Animationsinstitut
The International Office also supports the exchange students beyond helping to organize the exchange. For example, Ohnmacht recommended that Harry should apply for a scholarship from the Baden-Wuerttemberg Foundation, which provides financial support for student mobility at Filmakademie – and Harry actually received it. The International Office also supports students by organizing German language courses. Théo had planned to improve his German before his stay at Animationsinstitut, but in the end, he had little time for it due to the project work: "The lecturers spoke English in the classes anyway and all the students do it very well, too. Therefore, it was then, fortunately, not necessary for me to speak perfect German."
Whether through professional development or the experience of intercultural collaboration, Tina Ohnmacht says students always benefit in some way from their exchanges. "It's important to Animationsinstitut to encourage its students to learn new things and make exciting experiences in other places," she explains, "whether it's at universities or international companies through internships." This helps students advance their future careers in any case, she states. At the same time, Ohnmacht emphasizes, Animationsinsitut is a haven for talent from all over the world, who collaborate in student teams and participate in workshops and seminars. "For those who want to study in Ludwigsburg for a certain period of time, we want to offer the best conditions possible."