CalArts vs. USC
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    CalArts vs. USC

    I recently got accepted into the animation program at USC and the character animation program at CalArts.

    When I applied for college, CalArts was my first choice college with everything else being a last resort.

    After I got accepted into USC, I did some research just into the university in general. I tried to make a point of selling the school to myself so that, i thought, when my rejection from CalArts came I wasn't crushed.

    However, I did end up getting into CalArts... and that's when I became unsure that it is really such an amazing college... probably due to the fact that I was admitted.

    I haven't recieve work of any financial aid, so money isn't really the issue right now. I was just wondering if anyone had knowledge on the two programs. Obviously, USC would be a really fun school to attend, but I am not going to fork over that kind of cash to have fun.

    So does anyone know how the two progams measure up in terms of quality, accptance rate, or just why one is better over the other?

    Any sort of response or feedback would be wonderful. Thank you!

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    whoa, hey there lifesillusion! this is too funny, I got into USC's animation program too, I'm still waiting on Calarts....same deal here, looking to USC so i wont be crushed if Calarts is a no-go. I went in for a scholarship interview at USC and i talked to Kathy Smith, Christine Panushka and Sheila Sofian. I spent more time talking to Sheila and she explained that from a philosophical standpoint, USC is more geared towards independent filmmaking than Calarts' CA program. They dont seem to stress life drawing nearly as much as Calarts does, which, for me is a bad thing since i have no real interest in becoming an independent filmmaker.

    After touring the facilities and meeting some of the students, however, I feel like I'll go to USC because the instruction seems pretty good, the equipment is amazing and I'll get to meet lots of interesting people in other disciplines. Plus, i can better my life drawing skills and such on my own.

    Anyway feel free to email or IM me at ramon.alex.hurtado@gmail.com or panchosimpson on AIM. Best of luck with your decision, who knows, we may even go to school together!

    -Ramon

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    I'm a character animation student at Calarts, and I've seen some of the work produced at USC. Like you said, it looks like they try to foster creative film making, however I wouldn't quite call this independent film making. I saw films that attempt to break particular animation techniques and try new things, which doesn't necessarily mean you'll be an independent film maker as much as an experimental animator. At Calarts, you're encouraged to do both, but I feel at USC it's either one or the other. I could be wrong though.

    However, the Facilities at USC and the fact that it's a University rather than a small art college trumps Calarts, I'm sure. While the facilities here are good, we simply don't have the money to have super state of the art stuff. The Film school at USC has a renowned reputation as well. Being a university, you may get a more well rounded education as well, considering the wealth of departments and resources at your disposal. USC's film school has an impressive list of alumni as well (don't know about their animation program though).

    A big plus at Calarts, though, is the amount of exposure you will get if you truly want to get into animation. Your classmates are amazingly talented and chances are you will be working with a lot of Calarts grads in the future (according to what the teachers and alumni say). We get speakers and guest lectures from pretty much all the big animation studios you can think of. And every year you make a film, which has the potential to be shown at the Producer's show (a BIG exposure event), which is more than can be said about other schools.

    Regardlesss of what people say about Calarts too is the fact that you are really encouraged to do what YOU want in animation, rather than focusing on a typical style or story technique, etc. Historically, yes, they have been more traditionally focused than other schools, but that doesn't mean your limited to traditional techniques if you find your interests elsewhere. Independent filmmaking doesn't mean gluing straw to canvas and photographing it. It simply means telling a story in an innovative way.

    If you want to do film making that stresses experimentation, go to USC. If you want to do animation as you see fit, come to Calarts.

    Just my two cents. Good luck with your decision.

    -bloaty

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    Oh yeah, and I should say that at both schools you'll probably be working your ass off. Don't expect to have too much fun outside of working. I know at Calarts the only thing to distract you are your fellow classmates (an interesting bunch), because the town it's situated in sucks. I don't know about USC, though...

    -bloaty

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    Thanks so much for the responses. I really appreciate it. I toured USC last week and went to the accepted student event at CalArts. I was 90% leaning towards CalArts and now I think that it’s more of a 60% chance. I dunno.

    I really enjoy life drawing. I think that it’s my favorite portion of the whole animation education. The campus was BEATIFUL. I would totally love to sit out of the quad and draw draw draw. However, I although I took a tour I don’t feel like I learned much about the animation program. My tour guide didn’t have much knowledge of the program… and one of my tour guides didn’t even know that there was an animation program. Did you have a chance to look at the student work? I only saw animation cells and I wasn’t too impressed. But I think that comparing those to the AMAZING life drawings I saw at CalArts wasn’t fair. Did you receive information on how many hours of life drawing students do each week?

    I ended up e-mailing one of my teachers from CSSSA. She teaches and USC but attended CalArts. She said that the program at USC would probably be better for me just because of grades and extra curricular activities… but I don’t really think that matters if the animation education isn’t on par.

    Ramon, did you tour CalArts? If you did, do you think that the animation education you are capable of receiving is on par with CalArts?

    CalArts of course, was CalArts… wonderful. I love the student work and the teachers are amazing. I already knew a lot about the program, so there wasn’t really anything new. But I think that they scared my dad off with all the art. (but I'm not too worried about that)

    One of the things that I am most worried about is getting a job after college. Do you think that the job opportunity is equal for students at USC and CalArts? I know that there is a lot of networking that goes into CalArts… but does anyone know if there is the same sort of deal at USC?

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    I will have to say don't go to USC. I am a USC student in the Fine Arts school, and I have to say two things: 1) The Animation program is very, very new (the major was just recently added last year to my knowledge; before only a minor existed), and 2) The Fine Arts programs sucks big time. The students, while usually motivated, lack many skills that anyone admitted to a full-fledged art college must have. In my opinion, USC stresses theory too much, and fails to incorporate the "Practice, practice, practice" value that I believe the path to a successful art career takes. Frankly, I am very happy with the social life USC offers, but I am very disappointed in the art program. Now I know that you are looking into the Animation program and I am babbling about Fine Arts, but know that the Fine Arts program here has about 250 undergrad students in total--extremely small. With the just recently added major to the Animation program, I can only guess that the Animation program has even fewer students, and is even more undeveloped in comparison to the Fine Arts program. And like you said, one tour guide didn't even know USC had an Animation program--MANY students don't know it exists (it's way too small). Hope this helps.

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    man it sucks....i had already posted a reply to this thead like 2 days ago but apparently it didnt make it thru.

    lifesillusion: I did not tour Calarts, strangely enough I have not heard from them at all for weal or woe, but I've seen plenty of student work and like you said, it's simply awesome.

    Sadly, the work I've seen from USC is not very inspiring, you can tell that most people there would really benefit from more life drawing, which brings me to the next point. Apparently, you take two life drawing courses as part of the animation curriculum...although you can probably take more if you minor in two dimensional studies (plus i guess you get a painting class and basic design class as well which teaches color theory).

    However, its not all bad at USC, they seem to be pretty well connected in the industry, they have strong ties to companies like ILM, Dreamworks, Sony and SOFTIMAGE. Also, although the program is brand new for undergrads, it's largely based on the graduate program (and taught by the same faculty) which has been in place for a little under 20 years. Speaking of the grad program, they claim to have had very good success with their grads recently. Plus, they have amazing resources that you would probably not see in other schools and you get the opportunity to connect with people from very different disciplines.

    Also, many of the instructors are Calarts grads, which i think is a good think for sure. In terms of life drawing, yeah it's disappointing, but i've read that will weston teaches for grad students (and he also teaches at artcenter), so maybe it would be possible to get into one of his classes. Finally, the film "Values" which won best of show at SIGGRAPH 03 was produced by a USC grad.

    In my case, they're giving me a full ride there, so I think i'm going, but I've resigned myself to the fact that I'll have to explore life drawing on my own (probably at LAAFA or when i go home to san diego over the summers).

    hope this helps!

    PS. I really doubt the animation program sux as bad as fine arts at usc....i mena i REALLY doubt it.lol

    also, here are some links i've found for further reading.
    http://anim.usc.edu/about_history.html (usc animation homepage)
    http://www.awn.com/mag/issue2.5/2.5p....5schools.html
    http://forums.awn.com/showthread.php?t=2432 (compares usc vs ucla and calarts)
    http://conceptart.org/forums/showthread.php?t=95299 (scroll down to see school rankings)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wggkMVbl4Zw values

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