Over the last few years I have received many many messages from people who wonder about The Animation Workshop in Denmark, and are interested in applying. While I love to help people individually, I found myself writing the same answers over and over, and I figured it was probably best to gather all the most frequently asked questions, and put together a little FAQ for all to see instead. Hopefully I can help out more people this way. You can find more info at the school's web page: www.animwork.dk/en/
To introduce myself first: I started studying at TAW in 2012, and I went for the Computer Graphic Arts program, so this is what I know the most about (although I do know quite a bit about the Character Animation as well). I am currently in my third and last year of the education, and will soon graduate with a Bacherlor’s degree. Anyway, let’s get started (wall of text ahead):
General school info:
The school is situated in a small town called Viborg in Denmark, and it’s teaching things like animation, computer graphic arts and graphic storytelling. It is international, so all the teaching is in English, and there are many international students at the school. Its main focus is teaching the students how to make animated films, both 2D and 3D. It is known for producing some great Bachelor films, of which several of have gone viral (like for instance The Reward (www.youtube.com/watch?v=kkAYze…) or The Saga of Biorn (www.youtube.com/watch?v=MV5w26…). But just like it’s known for the great student work, it is also known for being very difficult to get into. I will try to explain what you can expect from the school, and what is expected of you.
The Character Animation program (Bachelor - 3 years):
This program is all about giving life to characters. If you want to spend hours and hours making pretty pictures, designing, or colouring, this is not what you are aiming for. As a character animator you will be an actor, making people believe the character they see on the screen is alive. The 1st year will be spent solely on 2D animation, drawing hundreds upon hundreds of frames to make balls bounce, flour sacks walk, Mickey Mouse dance, a bird fly and many other things. The 2nd year will be spent learning 3D animation, where you will become good friends with the 3D program Maya. There will also be several group projects where you make short films together. The whole 3rd year will be spent making an animated shortfilm, either in 2D or 3D, depending on which team you end up on. After your 3rd year, you will be required to go on an internship for minimum 13 weeks. This can be anywhere in the world, wherever you want to go. You just have to make a showreel/portfolio during your 3rd year, and send it with an application to whatever studio you want to intern for. The school can help you with applications if you want.
The Computer Graphic Arts program (Bachelor - 3 years):
Some people thing CGA is all drawing and design, which is not the case. You will definitely learn a lot about drawing, design, composition, colour etc., yes, especially when it comes to making backgrounds, but the main goal of the CGA program is to learn 3D. You will learn to model characters and objects in 3D, rig characters so that they can be animated, create 3D textures and lighting, compositing shots, and generally go through everything that is needed when producing an animated film (apart from the animation itself, which the animators will take care of). CGA is a very technical course, so if you’re not very fond of computers and techy programs, it may not suit you that well. 1st year of CGA is a nice combination of drawing and 3D, and in 2nd year it gets a bit more 3D heavy, as well as a ton of group work. 3rd year is just like for the animators, the whole years spent making one animated film, either 2D or 3D. You will also need to go for an internship for minimum 13 weeks, just like the animators.
Graphic Storytelling (Bachelor - 4 years):
This is a very new program at the school, so I don’t know all that much about it, unfortunately. While CGA and CA cooperate a lot in group projects, GS sort of just do their own thing. But as the name suggests: They learn to make comics, so they focus a lot on story, and how to tell a story through drawings. It seems like they’re having lots of fun at least
The Drawing Academy (1 semester):
This is a classical drawing course that lasts for one semester, and it runs both spring and autumn. You will basically spend 5 hours every weekday drawing nude models, and it’s an incredibly good resource for learning anatomy, as well as how to draw forms. I took one semester there myself, before I started CGA, and I leveled up super fast towards the end of the course. It is quite expensive, but if you can afford it I really recommend it.
The teaching and workspace:
The teachers are all from the industry around the world, which means that they actually have paid jobs doing what they teach you, rather than just teaching. This is great, because they know what the industry want and demands, and can teach thereafter. We’ve had teachers from studios like Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks, Framestore, Double Negative, Weta and many many other places. Having good teachers are vital for the school, so they keep track of which ones do a good job, and keep inviting them back, whereas the less good teachers don’t. This means that each year generally gets better and better teachers. Apart from good teaching, the students also get valuable contacts in the industry. We are all supposed to make a living after our studies, after all, and the school wants to prepare us in the best possible way to be able to do so.
Apart from great teaching, each student gets their own work station with a powerful computer, Wacom tablet, and pretty must all the big programs that are used in the industry, like Maya, Zbrush, Photoshop, After Effects, Premiere, Nuke, Mari etc.
There are generally week based assignments, or group projects lasting a few weeks or months. Most of the students work hard to make the best they can, and it’s not uncommon to see some students sit around in the classrooms at midnight and in weekends (although no one will expect you to work like crazy - sleep, exercise and healthy lifestyle is strongly encouraged by the school!)
This is definitely what I’ve gotten the most questions about, so I will try be as informative as I can:
The acceptance to the school is based on your portfolio. The requirements vary a bit depending on which program you want to apply for, but all require that you master some basic drawing skills, like how to construct shapes, perspective, and anatomy. Apart from technical drawing skills, they want to see that you have strong ideas, so avoid putting any fan art in your portfolio, as well as very generic things like “warrior on a hill”, or “angry dragon breathing fire”. (That is, if you have a backstory for the drawings, you can probably make it far more interesting – the school loves to see story in the portfolio pieces ). You can find out more about the specific requirements here: www.animwork.dk/en/degree_cour…
The level of the portfolios seem to get higher every single year, and it’s not easy to get in (I failed the first time I tried, and went to the Drawing Academy instead – something that turned out being a great experience). However, you don’t have to create masterpieces to get in. Just devote a lot of time to make your portfolio, and really put your heart into getting good ideas and good drawings. Push yourself, especially when drawing the things you aren’t quite comfortable with (like backgrounds, for instance). Show the school how much you want to succeed, and how devoted you are to the task. Make them know you want to do this for a living. If you fail the first time, then try again. And again. Several students have tried for years before they finally got accepted.
Entrance exam and interview:
If your portfolio gets accepted, you will be invited to a test and an interview. A lot of people have been worried about this, and ask me if it’s really as terrible as it sounds. I can safely say that it’s not that bad, and in fact quite fun.
You can take the test either physically at the school, or from home and send it over email (mainly for foreign students). You will have a total of 3 hours for the test (4 hours if you take it from home, to get time for scanning and sending the drawings), and you will use pencil and paper. You will have to design a character, a small background, and a storyboard of 8-15 frames based on some themes you get. It is quite fun, despite the time pressure (and trust me, time sure flies during the test). The test isn’t really so much to see how good your drawings and design are (although it is taken into consideration), but rather a test to make sure that you are actually the one who made the portfolio you sent them.
The interview is a nice chat where you just have to talk about why you want to study at the school, and what your plans are for the future. This is also so that the school can make sure that you can handle criticism (because your work will be criticized a LOT during the education), and that you’re not an asshole who won’t cooperate with anyone. Teamwork is a vital part of the education, and they need to know that all the student can work with each other. So be a nice person
Living in Denmark/Viborg:
This is another thing that seems to worry a lot of people. Denmark is known as a pretty expensive country to live in. The school is situated in a small town called Viborg, so it is a bit cheaper to live there compared to the capital. Still, don’t expect housing to be much cheaper than 2500 DKK. For food and general shopping you can probably manage with 200-300 DKK per week, if you can find good offers. And while the tuition at the school is free if you’re from a country within EU/EEA, you still have to pay a materials fee, which is 2200 DKK every month (this will be 79,200 DKK in total for the 3 years).
As for housing, there is a campus right next to the school (around 3 minutes walking distance), where students automatically are placed unless they find an apartment on their own.
Most people in Denmark are very good at speaking English, so that shouldn’t be a problem. The school offers Danish courses for foreigners who are interested, but it’s not required.
Some people have asked me if they can expect to get a part-time job to support their studies in Viborg, but I wouldn’t count on that. Viborg is a small town, after all, so it’s limited how many restaurants need people to clean dishes and stuff. Of course, it is possible, it’s just not very easy – especially if you don’t speak Danish.
As for the town itself: It is very cozy, calm and quiet, surrounded by farmland and lakes. It is very safe to live here, and nobody needs to be afraid even when taking a midnight walk in the dark. Crime rates are generally low in Denmark, although bike theft is quite common. For those who are looking for a place to party at nightclubs every weekend, this is probably not the place for you. But as a student, you will most likely find that you want to spend most of your time at school anyway (the school even has its very own pub!), and parties and social activities are frequently held.
To finish this long post off: The Animation Workshop is an incredible school, and I have developed so much both as an artist and as a person during my time here. I’ve also gotten many great friends, both students and teachers, whom I will stay in touch with throughout my whole career. I don’t think many schools have such and open and friendly atmosphere, where everybody is so willing to share their knowledge and cheer for their classmates, rather than competing. We know that we one day will be colleagues, and we want our team to be as strong as possible. This, combined with ambitious students, is what has enabled the school to produce so many great Bachelor films. So if you want to be a part of the school and create some amazing things as well, then go for it – pour all of your heart and effort into it. It will totally be worth it.
I hope this was helpful, and if you have more questions, I can try to answer them as well