For the universities that run VFX and games development courses, securing the right technology is a major concern. While money remains tight across higher education, the institutions charged with nurturing the artists and engineers of the future face an even greater challenge: without direct links to industry, they’re not up-to-date with the technology their students need to know to get a foot in the door.
Funds are always stretched in this sector, so every penny has to count. Free software licences are available for education, but not necessarily for the products used in the professional world. Zulfiqar Choudhry, Head of Computing and IT at Uxbridge College, explains: “You can teach games development using educational software, but students never see [that software when] they leave. They wouldn’t get a job with that skillset.”
To add to this, new software can be extremely powerful – and extremely power-hungry. At South Essex College, the games development department needed to increase their hardware capacity. Steph Wright, a student, says: “Last year I had to render a whole environment over eight computers, because it would have taken about a week.”
Escape Technology tailored solutions for both colleges, each designed to meet their particular needs. And we’re delighted by how happy they are with the results. With a tailored package of professional-grade software, Uxbridge College has been able to propel the quality of its course. Choudhry says: “Escape Technology has linked us to the industry. What you get from us is the real industry pipeline that we follow.”
“If a student leaves with confidence in using Maya for 3D modelling, ZBrush for sculpting, Nuke for compositing, programming in C++, that’s what’s going to get them the job,” Choudhry adds.
“[Escape Technology] started recommending us some of the best resources we could get,” says Rama Maccha, course leader at South Essex College. “The best thing that happened was HP workstations.”
In combination with Nvidia Quadro graphics cards, the HPs have been revolutionary for the college. Wright is amazed that not only can she now render instantly, but also run Photoshop, Maya and Mudbox at the same time. In the professional world this may seem small, but for Wright it’s a major improvement. Maccha agrees: “This is now an industry standard computer. It’s like a dream come true for the students.”
HP Z series workstations are powerful machines. Since buying their Z640s, Escape Studios, part of Pearson College, teach their students on them during the day then pull them into the render farm overnight. So the workstations are on 24 hours a day and according to the Studios’ IT Manager, David Conisbee, they’re “rock solid”.
“It was really good to bring [Escape Technology’s] insight into what we wanted” said Choudhry, “because they really understand the industry and they also understand what we need.”
To find out more about our work in education contact Neil Kalsi, Strategic Business Development Director at Escape Technology.