Inside Escape Studios

Visiting Escape Studios - December 2009

Isabelle Duarté, Lee Dan­skin, Char­lotte Wills, Alex Ame­lines and Jeff Pratt

Last Fri­day evening I had the oppor­tu­nity to take a close look at the work­ing machin­ery of the ani­ma­tion train­ing titan that’s Escape Stu­dios.

I can safely say that Escape are one of the best CG acad­e­mies in the world, you can train there on any­thing from crea­ture rig­ging to ani­ma­tion, spe­cial effects and games. Their stu­dents or ‘Escapists’ as they call them have access to top end machines to work on, a team of vastly expe­ri­enced tutors, fan­tas­tic head quar­ters, hard­ware and soft­ware retail store with stu­dent dis­counts and even their own bar/cafe on the ground floor.

In less than an hour I met more tal­ent than my brain can grasp

In less than an hour I met more tal­ent than my brain can grasp, firstly there was Lee Dan­skin, their VFX tutor, who has worked at The Film Fac­tory at VTR, The Mov­ing Pic­ture Com­pany and co-founded Smoke and Mir­rors 3D; Then I had a chat with the leg­endary Jeff Pratt, ex-Nasa and Pixar man in charge of the ani­ma­tion course. I could not find out what made him give up sunny Cal­i­for­nia for our ‘pic­turesque’ British weather, what ever the rea­son the Escapists should con­sider them­selves lucky that he did. Finally I chat­ted to the bub­bly Nick Savy, their crea­tures and char­ac­ters Jedi mas­ter, who used to work at Sega, Sony, Psyg­no­sis, Glass­works, Inde­struc­table, Dou­ble Neg­a­tive and Cine­site. You can straight away sense their pas­sion and insight in their fields. They were nice enough to have a look at my work, which threw some encour­ag­ing com­ments as well, thanks guys.

Bigfeet at Escape

Jeff Pratt and I have some­thing in com­mon with Big­foot: We’re both blurred. (Thanks Ryan!)

I man­aged to peek at some of their work­shops in progress, in the games they were devel­op­ing new lev­els for the no-yet-released ver­sion of Unreal, which I imag­ine they will all be test­ing later chas­ing each other with lasers. And just across the cor­ri­dor the class was hav­ing an inter­est­ing open dis­cus­sion with a vis­it­ing VFX expert from Rus­sia, who trav­elled to give them feed­back on the sequences they were work­ing on for ‘The Hunt for Gol­lum’ project. I really didn’t want to leave the room, as you’d imag­ine I was crest fallen when we had to leave the classroom.

Vast expe­ri­ence aside they are all also really good natured peo­ple, unpre­ten­tious, friendly and with a sense of humour. I’ll def­i­nitely make sure to stay in touch with this great bunch.

Adden­dum: Lee if you’re read­ing this, I thought of another one: Cool­world, 1992. I loved the eclec­tic feast of styles to which Ralph Bak­shi gen­er­ously treated us.