(l to r) Kurt Debens, Ben Holen and Nick Beins.

A ten-week mentorship at Adelaide's Rising Sun Pictures VFX house has led to first professional gigs for three young students.

In August 2015, RSP partnered with the University of South Australia to create an opportunity for ten third-year students undertaking a Bachelor of Media Arts to spend ten weeks at RSP’s Adelaide facility, learning VFX in Houdini, Side Effects’ 3D animation software.

The students were mentored by artists Dan Wills and Thomas Cant, who between them have worked on the likes of Gravity, The Hunger Games and X-Men: Days of Future Past.

“We wanted to help students build on skills they had learned at University, and provide them with intensive training offered in the context of a working visual effects studio,” RSP’s Education and Training Manager Kirsty Parkin said. 

“Students are taught by experienced professionals and master skills they will need to land jobs in the industry and build productive careers.”

Kurt Debens, Benjamin Holen and Nick Beins, who transitioned to staff positions as junior Houdini VFX artists this month, all developed an interest in visual effects early in life.  

“I always enjoyed gaming starting with Donkey Kong,” Beins said. “When I got older, I became more interested in film. I watched behind-the-scenes footage of the making of films and games and thought that would be a really cool job.”

RSP’s 10-week Houdini training program exposed them to the basics of navigating Houdini's interface and the intricacies of modeling and fluid simulations. 

All ten students trained in a studio environment, worked with elements from actual film productions, and were required to produce professional quality results.

“I had no idea what to expect going in,” Debens said. “The course took what we learned about Houdini at UniSA and allowed us to expand that knowledge dramatically. 

Not only did we gain new insights into Houdini, we were taught basic Nuke compositing skills essential for visual effects artists.”

“I really enjoyed the classroom experience,” Holen said. “I had my own computer and spot in the room. Having daily conferences with our instructors was very good. We were able to talk with them about what went right and what went wrong, and get help with anything that needed fixing.”

“We went from understanding the very basics of Houdini to comprehending the process of creating our own tools from scratch, using and creating vast node networks, and understanding the lighting and rendering process", said Beins. "Anyone who has used Houdini knows how complex and intimidating it can be. I am amazed by how much we learned”.

They also also received career guidance from RSP’s HR staff. “We got great advice about applying for jobs and on what recruiters want to see,” said Holen. 

Beins points to the intangible benefits, too:  “We were given countless networking opportunities and firsthand insight into how a VFX house operates."

The three are now settling in. “Right now, I’m focused on learning as much as I can and continuing my progress,” Debens said. 

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