Last fall I took a class with Virtual Animators (http://www.virtualanimators.com/) taught by James Lopez. I’ve had quite a few questions from the internets about what I thought, so I thought I’d write a note about my experience.
About the class: Character Design with Disney Artist & Animator James Lopez is a 12 week course taught online. See his IMDB here or amazing work here. The class is viewed through Adobe connect once per week for 12 (12!) weeks. You log in and the VA team, James and your classmates are online. You can ask questions via a chat box, and the VA team does a great job keeping track of the chat and bringing questions to James. The class is not structured, giving James the freedom to teach the class to the group’s skill level. You are also invited to send it work weekly to have it reviewed by James online.
What I thought:
1. The cost: usually where I’d start when considering a class. I didn’t have to consider the class cost here, since I won this class in a contest, but even if I hadn’t it would be a great deal. (As a note: this is not an endorsed post, haha). All of these courses are so affordable- This one was $250, which is really a couple of trips to the grocery store. For 12 weeks, that breaks down to $20/ class- for an experienced teacher at James, who teaches at Cal Arts… it’s beyond a bargain.
2. The class size: SMALL. There were under ten people in our class, which allows for everyone to ask questions and see James visually explain the answer. You can send emails with questions and receive individual attention.
3. The talent & experience of the instructors: I’ve only taken one class with VA (I am planning on another class this spring/ summer) and the instructors are so experienced and knowledgeable it’s unreal to have this sort of individualized attention. James is a friendly and giving individual who really cares about paying it forward and working with artists of all skill levels. He’s got so much knowledge and information it’s a thrill to see him visually work out problems and review your work.
4. The Virtual Animators team: Usually I wouldn’t touch on the “customer service” aspect in this sort of thing, but it was so amazing it needs to be mentioned. The small group who runs this online class system are probably the most genuine and friendly team ever. They’re focused around making a good experience for everyone involved, and keep up with their students. If I had a question or concern I would have an email back super quick. Also, as I mentioned above, they are in the classes with you running the sessions and keep on top of questions for the instructor.
5. Work Review: You send in your work, it gets a review online that week or the next. James was thorough and incredibly professional when reviewing work- it sort of felt like I was working with him at a studio! I learned a lot in such a small amount of time.
6. Recorded Classes: Classes are recored and posted on vimeo so you can watch later, or if you miss a class you can catch up. This was really helpful to me, watching in the midwest where the class time was late. Also, if you miss something, you can re-watch the class too!
7. A Personal Connection to the industry: As I mentioned above, I’m located in the midwest. It’s sort of like being on my own island, far away from the sunshine and talent network of California. Being involved in this class allowed me to connect at CTNX to the VA team, including founder Bill Recinos (who has an impressive IMDB himself), meet James Lopez and be involved in the community.
Ok, so, that’s a lot of writing. I guess you can see that I really loved the class. Negatives include the regular things of online classes- difficult to connect to classmates, really late live class times because of the time difference- but the benefits far outweigh these small points. I’m going to be completely honest, if you’ve ever thought of taking an online class, don’t think twice about this one, or any with these guys. This class is definitely the best online class I’ve taken based on the personal attention, small class size and the amount of information I learned in a short period of time.