FAQ for the APT
Animation Personal Trainer FAQ
What is the APT program?
The Animation: Personal Trainer program is an intense, personalized and completely customized 4 week online study program for animators and animation students of all levels. APT is a more interactive form of animation teaching than the video VTS format and is one of the most flexible and personalized approaches to animation training available. Only a very few students each session will be taken on for the program. Each student will have their own curriculum developed just for them to help them achieve improvement in their animation. The APT is not a one-size-fits-all program of animation training but is made just for you. If the VTS is like an exercise video and other schooling programs are like group jazzercize classes, then the APT is your own personal trainer. Thus the name... Animation: Personal Trainer.
What is the goal of the APT?
The goal of the APT is to use my 15 years of experience as an professional animator, animation supervisor and teacher to help other animators gain significant and noticeable improvement in their animation. I have helped develop and teach animators in real world professional environments in the demanding realm of production for many years. Many of the animators I helped train and supervise have gone on to the most well known animation studios in the world. Others have gone on to be teachers, supervisors and mentors themselves. I want to use this experience and expertise to help animators and students around the world who have a desire to improve their animation without necessarily making the large time or money investment to go back to school or enroll in more structured training programs. In short: I want to help you improve your animation, but not by requiring you to completely restructure your life for a long time. Oh sure, you'll have to restructure you life for a little while, but 4 weeks is manageable. Each student can expect to gain significant and noticeable improvement in a given area of their animation as a result of participating in the APT. This area of focus for your training will be determined by you in coordination with me so that you can know that you're getting exactly what you want out of the APT program.How does it work?
Upon successful enrollment each student will receive a confirmation & welcome email message outlining the operation of the program. Then we discuss the student's current level of animation, review their work, discuss their desired goals, what areas of animation that they want to work on to gain immediate improvement, etc. Once an agreement is reached upon this area of focus a unique and customized curriculum will be developed for just for them. This curriculum will be geared toward helping the student make significant improvements in their area of focus. It will include weekly homework assignments, homework reviews, video feedback sessions as well as email support. I'd add in a puppy, but they always die during shipping. Oh well.Didn't the APT used to be 8 weeks? Why only 4 weeks now?
True, the APT was originally designed to be an 8 week course. However after a few sessions I learned some things about how people learn animation. The typical path most people follow in learning animation is a series of cycles. The typical cycle is a short burst of growth and understanding, followed by a longer, slower plateau of practice and use. Normally we exist in a state of slow progress or a plateau where we get a little better, but there aren't any major breakthroughs. This goes on for a while until we get into an environment that stirs the pot and we get an "Ah-ha!" moment. Suddenly we "get" an idea or a principle and very quickly are able to "see" it in our own work and in the work of others. This is an exciting time and we make a lot of progress very quickly. Typically what follows is a longer, slower plateau period of practice and mastering the concept. Once that concept or principle is burned into our minds and we understand it and have practiced its use we are ready for a new "Ah-ha!" burst and the cycle repeats. I have found that it's rather rare to find a student who can have repeated and successive "Ah-ha!" epiphanies one after the other after the other for a long period of time. It's far more normal to burst, learn a lot and then settle into understanding and practicing how to apply the principle. In previous APT sessions the initial "Ah-ha!" stage was usually within the first 2 and a half weeks. After that it was a few weeks of learning how to apply that principle to your work and then 4 or 5 weeks of repetition and application. By the end of the course students were solidly in the plateau stage of the cycle and a lot of the energy had drained from the experience. The APT is an "Ah-ha!" place meant to kick start those short bursts of learning. In my opinion you don't need to pay me for those weeks of repetition after you've grasped the concept. You can do the plateau on your own without paying for it.What are the technical requirements for participating in the APT?
You'll need a web browser and you'll need the ability to make AVI's or Quicktime movies of your work, as well as have Quicktime 7 to see the video feedback and video lecture movies. Oh, and some form of file compression- either Zip or WinRar. Other than that, there are no technical requirements. You can do the APT with stop-motion or hand drawn animation if you wish.Do I need to be a Maya user to participate?
No, there will be no requirement that you be a Maya user. I work in Maya myself because I know it and like it, but this is about helping you improve your animation where you're at. Thus you can use any animation package you like- or none at all! Use pencils and clay if you prefer. Whatever makes you smile. The idea is to allow you to succeed in the environment you currently work in. The less time you spend fighting software you're not comfortable with, the more time you can focus on getting better as an animator.Do you provide rigs for students to use?
In keeping with a software agnostic ideology, no I don't. Students can use any rig they like, whether it be a free rig from the internet or their own character they've built. The focus will be on helping you improve in a given area of your work, so again I want to allow you to use whatever you're comfortable with. However if the student doesn't have a rig or know where to get one I can point them to some decent rigs to use that have so far proven themselves up to the challenge.What qualifications do students need in order to participate in the APT?
You have to want to get better at animation and be willing to put in the time and effort to improve. Other than that, there are no other requirements. There will not be any reel reviews or portfolio reviews (not for admission, anyways), no admissions policy other than first come, first served. Basically if you order the service before all the spots are filled for a session, then you're in. This is an informal program and as such the regulations regarding student admissions for more traditional institutions do not apply. I am confident that I can help any animator improve in a given area of focus for their animation regardless of their experience. So as such there are no admission requirements other than the aforementioned desire and willingness to work hard for your own success and the ability to pay through the kLango Animation Online Store via credit card or PayPal. About the only thing I can think of by way of qualification is that if you're going to use a piece of software then you should at least be proficient in using that software for basic animation creation and editing.How do you determine what the curriculum needs to be for each student?
We will find what the curriculum needs to be for each student by an initial review of their work and a one on one conversation about their own desires and goals for their animation. I then will offer my analysis of what is needed from the student to improve and achieve their goals. If this analysis is agreed upon by the student, then I will develop the curriculum complete with a series of assignments and targets to help the student improve in this area. The focus will be on student retention and comprehension, so the assignments will reflect this exercise mentality. Once the curriculum is developed it is shared with the student where they are allowed to ask questions. If it is determined that any additional modifications are needed to the curriculum they will be done at that time.If this is so personalized, why do many of the students do the same exercises?
Well, because the exercises work! You can learn many different areas of animation using the same tests. I don't promise to create special one of a kind animation tests for every student. That's kinda silly and frankly, a huge waste of my time. What's personalized is the use of those exercises and how they are used to suit what each individual student needs. For example: one student might need to start with simpler tests and may not move much beyond mid range exercises. Another one can start with a mid level exercise and move on to more complex ones. The last exercise for the first student might be the same as the first exercise for the second student. All I can say is: the exercises may be the same, but what each student is focusing in on for their exercise is developed to help them where they need help. So while the exercises may be very similar, how they are assigned and what the students focus on is still very personalized.How often do you give out assignments?
Each week the student will receive a new assignment(s). Some assignments may span several weeks, but there will be new aspects each week. These assignments will focus on developing an understanding of the foundation principles behind their area of focus, as well as practical implementation. The exercises are an ascending hierarchy of difficulty and complexity as the session continues. Each assignment will focus on developing confidence and capability in the area of focus for the student. That is an important distinction to note: unless otherwise specified as a 'demo reel' assignment, many of the exercises will strive to teach fundamental principles rather than provide demo material. In other words: you might not want to put it on your reel, but you'll definitely learn from it. The idea is simple: if you grasp the concept and fundamentals then you can make your own demo material with confidence and understanding. But some more advanced students come into the APT with a demo reel focus, and that's fine as well. Remember, this is about your needs. So we accommodate them. The student can expect to spend at least 16-20 hours each week working on their assignment. Some students may take more or less time, but the goal is to provide students the opportunity to improve their animation but still live life and meet their other obligations (job, family, school, rugby club, knitting classes, pet grooming, etc.)I have 80 hours a week dedicated to learning animation. Can you give me more assignments to keep me busy?
Well, perhaps I could, but then I'd only have one student- you! In order to balance all the students' needs (as well as my own life) I can only give out and grade the few assignments each week. If you find yourself with time on your hands and want to do more, then do more! Think up an exercise or a test of your own that re-enforces the concepts you're studying. Go online and immerse yourself in some of the amazing free information out there on animation. Don't wait for me to spoon feed you everything. I have found one thing to be true in this business: those who are successful and 'make it' all share one common trait- they are all rabidly self motivated. They never accept doing 'just' what the teacher or the class is doing. The success stories are written by those who go above and beyond, who push themselves, who seek out learning and information rather than sit and wait for it. So if you have a ton of time, great! Use it! I'll be glad to give you some tips and helpers on your 'extracurricular' projects.How do you offer feedback on the assignments?
Each student is required to submit a movie of their assignment work for the week (in AVI or MOV format) by the deadline agreed upon for the student. (note: If the student is a Maya user they can also submit a copy of their workfile for me to look through.) Different students will get different submission deadlines so that I can spread out the feedback work through the week. This work will then be reviewed and critiqued by me in a video session which will then be made available to the student within 48 hours of the submission deadline. This video session can contain all kinds of dynamic information, including feedback right in their work file if possible. Students can then ask questions about this feedback via email or text chats.How often do students meet with you?
In the first two APT sessions we tried doing the web camera chat thing. On paper it sounded great. However after trying it we found that it wasn't the most reliable - or even the most meaningful- teaching tool. Connection problems, chat server service issues, world wide time zone changes as well as too little to go over resulted in chat sessions that weren't used widely or were of little real benefit. Basically the reliability of the technology just isn't there yet- at least not on a level that is meaningful for teaching. So in an attempt to make the program stronger a larger emphasis is put on the weekly student feedback/teaching videos. The time that I would take in doing a web chat is now put into making really strong feedback videos- videos that the student can keep and re-watch again and again. The videos are more than just a laundry list of what to fix in the work- they have a strong teaching component. Time and time again during the first two APT sessions we saw the students greatly valued the weekly, personalized instructional & feedback videos far more than the intermittent web cam chats. That being said one on one web cam chats are still available to students on a request basis- time and schedule allowing.How is this different from other animation schools & programs?
In terms of it's execution the APT will not be ground breaking. However the concept is far more personalized. With the APT you can have a personalized curriculum developed just for you with personalized lessons and lectures, personalized assignments and you can get right into it and see definite improvement and better understanding in a given area of focus in 4 weeks. Think of it less as a school and more as boot camp for your problem area in animation.How much does it cost?
The cost for a single 4 week session of the Animation Personal Trainer program is $995.00 USD. Payment is accepted via major credit cards or PayPal on the kLango Animation Online Store. Unfortunately at this time we cannot process checks nor take wire transfers.Do students of the APT qualify for government aid, student loans or other financial aid? ,p>Unfortunately, no. The regulations and administrative costs necessary to comply for qualification for student loans or other more traditional higher education financial aid programs are far too extensive to allow the APT to maintain a profitable existence. With student enrollment being purposefully low it would be impossible for me to recoup the expenses required to comply with student financial aid programs. In other words, it's way too expensive for me to make the APT program compliant with financial aid regulations for my students to qualify for them, so there would be no point in doing the APT in the first place. I decided that it's better to have the APT without financial aid than to not have it at all. Do you issue certificates or diplomas?
No I don't. I make no claims for the APT to be a replacement for traditional college or university. This is not an online school or a remote learning program affiliated with any institution of higher learning. This won't count for class credit anywhere and no certificates will be given. This is merely an alternative means to obtaining animation training that resides outside the mainstream educational culture and that to date has yet to be offered in the marketplace. As such I don't offer any of the things that a traditional higher education experience can offer. Things like overpriced text books, rampant music piracy, predatory credit card offers in the mail, co-ed dorms, boring English Lit 101 profs, beer bongs, fraternities or sororities or steroid laced school athletic programs. All I can promise is that you'll see definite improvement in a given area of your animation.What can a student expect from the APT?
You can expect to find greater understanding of the areas of animation that previously used to baffle you. You can expect to find definite and noticeable improvement in your animation after completing the course. You can expect to work a lot on your animation to get that improvement (I can only do so much for you). You can expect to be challenged, to have me call your bluff and to be pushed to be better than you were. You can expect that I will give you the personal attention that you need. You can expect to have a fun time learning- I like to keep things fun and light.How are you qualified to offer this program?
I have been a professional animator, animation supervisor, animation director and director. I have worked in feature films, direct to video, game cinematics and television. My training and tutorial materials have been used by the best animation schools for years. I have hired many dozens of animators in my years of experience. I have taught many young, hard working, talented fresh faced kids how to be a professional animator. Many of my previous charges are now working in the best animation studios in the world and some are even teachers or mentors themselves. I dunno, I think I know what I'm doing. Heh.When does the next session begin?
Since I take so few students it is to be expected that the sessions will fill up quickly. I apologize for this. But don't lose hope- I plan to do more sessions. So for info on the next session keep an eye on my website blog, keithlango.com.