Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Living Persona 4 part 2

I've got another moment now, so it's about time that I posted something about the school.

I had Induction day on the 8th of January, which was basically a fancy name for 'get the new blood together in the Woodlane IT lab and have them register,' so I'm really not sure why I was so nervous about it. It was, however, a good idea to phone the exchange coordinator, Stuart Westhead, about the details of the meeting before hand however - while he told me I could meet him in his office and walk down to the library together, I attempted to find the library meeting spot before the need arose. While the building itself is not difficult to find, when I wandered inside and asked the librarian about Induction, she didn't seem to have any idea whether the rooms had been booked at all, and the computer database was down. So, backtracking up the enormous hill from whence I came, I ended up waiting in Stuart's office after all.

While not the case in the animation studios, the IT system in the rest of the Falmouth Uni is a bit different from ECU's, and it bears mentioning that unless you attend the short workshop that follows, you may be a bit lost. I'm not sure if it bears mentioning, but the weird embedded Internet explorer half-screen on the desktop weirded me out. Perhaps I am simply old-fashioned. Now, it seems that the IT support and services for these computers are considerable, but I have yet to make use of any machine outside of the animation studio, where the system has been shunted back into the default, 'log in as generic student, save where you please.'

The Woodlane campus on its own is quite old, as old as many of the houses here, and that means I assume at least a century under its belt. Much like the rest of the town, it seems like a hidden jewel - past the small entrance for cars and a downhill walk, each building is nestled in between trees and greenery, with the occasional sculpted work dotting the grass. Red brick buildings and white, all of them aged and carrying itself with a sense of history. I can only imagine what it's like with dozens of students bustling in the area.

This is, of course, a recollection at least two weeks past the fact, and I have not been back since. My regular journey takes me up to the Tremough campus, which was a jarring change.

For the bus system, I had a hell of a time divining exactly which bus would take me there, and it ended up being that any of three or four buses from a single stop in the moor would do. I recommend looking up Traveline South West for the fastest and cheapest way - which seems a little ridiculous since the site, frankly, was of much more use than the official site of the bus company. Note that also, unless you want to pay over 6 pounds, each ticket will only take you as far as your destination, and you can't board a bus with the same one again, unlike home. There are, however, return tickets that you can buy ahead of time. The driver can actually give you change(!!!) for your fare - that in itself was a wild concept to me. Plus the seats are much comfier and have more legroom than Translink buses, but obviously there are fewer places to sit down, and leaving the bus is a pain once it's crowded due to the fact that there is only one door. Oh, and also, once a couple of drunks brought their giant dog on the bus, who sat on a seat beside them. The bus smelled like wet fur for the rest of the ride, and I was astonished at the lax rules.

Back to the school itself: I have to say, and many agree with me, but the main building of the Tremough campus looks really ugly from a design standpoint. It is, however, rather huge, and I think it tries to emulate the SFU Burnaby building's style, but on a smaller scale and with red, stony walls. There's still construction all over the place, so not everything is quite updated yet - for example, I must have busted a few nerve endings in my brain trying to look for the Student Services office, asking everyone in sight for directions, before realizing that the sign that said Accommodation Office on the top floor was a lie.

Now, the main point of my visiting the Tremough Campus a few days before the first day of classes was to discern exactly when and where I had to be for the first day. I had received absolutely no instruction in regards to those details, despite Stuart continuously e-mailing the head instructor for animation, and my pestering. Going around, getting completely lost and inquiring anyone who looked like they had an inkling of authority in the Media building, I ended up getting an impromptu tour by a girl in Media Services, who proceeded to guide me to where the studio and offices were. No one, however, was to be found.

The interior of the Media building may never cease to unnerve me, I should note - while the corridors and studios sport a very warm orange-cream-sage colour scheme, it feels more like an office than a school (much less the art school I was used to back home). Every wall is immaculate and new, devoid of decoration (save in the animation hallway, where several concept works were hung up in a very officious-looking manner), and everywhere there are doors which require not sliding, but scanning your student card before being allowed to proceed. This gets rather ridiculous, because you need a card to exit the building as well as enter, so if you forget that tiny bit of plastic, you're grounded until someone else unlocks it for you.

Now, animation has its own, large studio which all the classes are held in - and it is nice. Everything is new and nice and there are stations for stop motion, line testing, light boarding, whatever you need. And a lot of computers. Fast, nice, Windows XP computers. I am tempted to describe it as ludicrous: every computer station has a double screen to work on. It feels like I am getting spoilt. In fact, the first day had one instance of my mind being blown when, instead of writing on a white board, there was actually a giant motion-sensitive screen (names fail me) connected to the instructor's laptop Powerpoint presentation, where he could use a stylus and write, as though it were a board. Is it necessary? Perhaps not - but this is one of the up sides of going into such a new program. Nice, new stuff. Note for you 3D goers that they teach Maya here instead of XSI and 3DS Max (though George, the teacher for such courses, is more than fluent in them as well).

Anyways, I eventually had to go home with the advice to show up in the studio around 9 am, and I would probably be on time - it not early - for class. Turned out that I was early by an hour. The door to the studio hadn't even been unlocked yet. It just so happens that my luck carried me through again, in that when I asked a random person in the hall for assistance, she turned out to be the exact person who took care of wandering souls such as I, and I got a very thorough tour of both the Media building, the library, and the rest of the school out of it. Andy, the animation head, was also really good to talk to (the reason for the previous radio silence was due to him being away for the last week before classes), and very easy-going.

So, as expected from European schools, the actual class schedule is pretty unstructured. Not to the extent of Edinburgh, where you have no classes at all, but more like a very relaxed, studio-based version of what we have. There are still classes and workshops and projects, but no one cares if you come in an hour late.

One particular thing I should mention, however, is their semester system. While on the surface it seems like they function under a trimester, with major breaks for Christmas, Easter and Summer, the actual mode of classes themselves have two terms. Imagine the overlap of three 10 week long semesters, but with the first 15 weeks as being workshops and classes, and the second 15 weeks to be purely self-directed, project-based studio time. So in my case, being enrolled in the middle semester, I will be getting 5 weeks of classes, and 5 weeks of studio. This is rather important to note when deciding whether to take the fall or spring semester, but I'm not certain that every department is geared that way. It's best to ask beforehand.

More forthcoming.



ccker said...

hmmm just looking at your pictures and your are right! The animation room does look like an office- a perfect, prestine office. It sounds like your finding your way around all right- and having luck on your side is pretty handy too.
keep us posted once you start producing work (and keep posting pictures, I love em)

Steph said...