Rising Sun Pictures Education: Creating Production-Ready VFX Artists

Adelaide visual effects studio’s growing education program helps aspiring artists make the leap from the classroom to the production floor.

Adelaide, South Australia— Rising Sun Pictures is well known for its ability to develop highly-skilled visual effects artists through its unique Education program. In classrooms set up to mirror real-world production environments and with instructors who are working professionals, the award-winning visual effects studio rigorously trains students in the technologies and techniques they’ll need to succeed in an expanding global film industry. Since the program’s inception in 2015, dozens of aspiring artists have used the studio’s undergraduate and graduate-certificate courses, developed in partnership with the University of South Australia, as stepping stones to their first industry jobs…many of them at RSP.

To give more students an opportunity to turn dream into reality, RSP significantly expanded its Education program in 2017. Alongside its existing Graduate Certificate course in Compositing and Tracking, it added a complimentary graduate course in Dynamic Effects and Lighting. It also grew its offering of 10-week undergraduate courses and doubled the size of its classroom space. On top of that, RSP contributed to other UniSA initiatives, including its Teaching for Tomorrow and Careers Insights programs.

“We continue to grow our program to meet both our workforce needs and those of the industry generally,” says Anna Hodge, RSP’s Manager of Education and Training. “We’ve had an excellent group of students in our program this year, and we’re pleased by how many of them transitioned immediately into professional roles, here and elsewhere.” Hodge adds the visual effects crew for RSP’s biggest project of 2017, the summer blockbuster Thor: Ragnarok, included some 17 artists who were products of the RSP Education and UniSA relationship.

RSP offered its new course in Dynamic Effects and Lighting twice in 2017. The course teaches students how to create particle simulations, like explosions, water and clouds, “procedurally-generated” environments, such as cities, beaches and forests, and computer-generated lighting applications. Like Compositing and Tracking, the new course runs full-time for 12 weeks and is aimed at students with prior visual effects training. Most have undergraduate degrees or advanced diplomas.

“The students in our grad programs are career-focused and very passionate. They’re here early, they stay late, and they produce good work,” says Greg Wieder, a Lighting/Pipeline Technical Director, and a course instructor. “We see a lot of potential in our students and have picked up several for junior positions. Others have landed jobs at other studios.”

RSP instructors Dan Wills and Greg Wieder

Michael Majchrzak is one such success story. He enrolled in a graduate course in Compositing and Tracking that began in February. Shortly after earning his certificate, RSP offered him a staff position. He currently serves as a Junior Paint and Rotoscope Artist.

Majchrzak became interested in RSP Education after attending an open house that showcased the work of former students. “That really impressed me,” he recalls. “I thought, ‘I want to make things like that.’ It won me over.”

Students enrolled in the two Graduate Certificate course that began in February took part in producing a short film entitled Lucy and DiC. Written and directed by Jeremy Kelly-Bakker, an instructor in the Compositing and Tracking course, the film centers on a young woman who receives questionable dating advice from a floating support drone. Students managed the work of animating compositing and lighting the drone.

Lucy and DiC had its world premiere at the Adelaide Film Festival and has since garnered more than a million views of Facebook and YouTube. “The robot animation provided good teaching material because it was part of a real production,” recalls Dan Wills, RSP’s longtime VFX Technical Director and another Houdini course instructor. “We ran it exactly like a film project.”

RSP students Michael Majchrzak and Abigail Nath

Abigail Nath enrolled in the Graduate Certificate Course in Dynamic Effects and Lighting in September after winning a ROOKIES scholarship from Media Design School in Auckland, New Zealand. She says the course built on her undergraduate training and provided her with practical skills to bridge the gap between the classroom and the professional sphere. “It’s been quite intensive, but also really good,” she observes. “The course runs Monday through Friday and we’re expected to log 40 hours per week, but I have ended up doing quite a bit more, coming in early to set things up, and staying late to finish.”

RSP Education has more ambitious plans in store for 2018. The Graduate Certificate course in Compositing and Tracking will be restructured to include Silhouette, the new industry standard for paint and rotoscoping, and the studio has added two new second-year undergraduate courses that will count toward a Media Arts degree. “Interest in our program continues to grow,” says Hodge. “We recently announced two new units in the second year of UniSA’s Media Arts degree and had 40 students sign up in the first eight hours of enrollment.”

For more information about Rising Sun Pictures’ Graduate Certificate courses, visit:

About Rising Sun Pictures:

At Rising Sun Pictures (RSP) we create inspirational visual effects for major studios worldwide. Creating outstanding images is at the core of our existence. At the heart of our talented team, there is a diverse knowledge and skill-set, enabling a collaborative core where we can work together to solve problems and deliver great visuals to our clients. We have achieved some truly amazing visual effects work by providing innovative solutions to technically challenging work. We have the capacity and talent pool to scale to suit the needs of our clients.

Our extensive filmography includes over 100 projects, including Thor: Ragnarok, Logan, X-Men: Apocalypse, Game of Thrones Season 6, The Legend of Tarzan, Gods of Egypt, Pan, X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Hunger Games franchise, the Harry Potter franchise, Gravity, The Wolverine, Prometheus and The Great Gatsby.

Broadcast Beat - Production Industry Resource