Bachelor of 3D Art Design & VFX

Don Bradford was a high school student in the small North Island town of Dannevirke when he first heard of Media Design School. "I did a lot of research on 3D based courses in New Zealand and concluded that Media Design School was the best choice for me." Here, he tells us about the challenges and rewards of working on industry level films, both at Media Design School and as a Technical Director at Weta Digital.


What was it like to work collaboratively on the industry-level film at the end of your course? 

Our class film was very exciting for us, as we had the opportunity to work with Weta Workshop concept artist Greg Broadmore. We worked to develop a film based on Greg's original IP "Dr Grordborts." Without Media Design School’s industry connections, this wouldn't have been possible.

On Dr Grordborts presents: The Deadliest Game, the biggest challenge by far was managing the scope of the film within our time limit. From shooting on stage to modeling the scales of the beasts in 3D, everything was to the line and under constant pressure. To overcome this challenge, we had to learn how to work in a team to be as effective as possible. Leaning on each other’s strengths was the only way for this film to come together.

The most rewarding part of the experience was getting to sit back and watch the final film come to life on screen.

What would you say are the two most important lessons you learned during your time at Media Design School?

Interpersonal skills within a team and time management. These seem like obvious points for any industry, and the reason is because it’s true! Nobody wants to work with a person who doesn't listen and can't work in a team environment. Be nice and make friends, especially in this small industry.

With time management, if it's taking you 50% of your time to complete 10% of a model, you’re not going to finish or you will have a very uneven final product come deadline. Look at the bigger picture and hit the broad strokes as fast as possible, then work on the finer details.

What is working at Weta Digital like? Take us through a typical day in your role…

As a Technical Director in the lighting department, my role is to light and render CG elements for composition. Depending on the film, certain aspects of my role can change. For example, on one film I would be focused on creating hyper realistic lighting/renders, and other films I would be focused on helping convey the story by creating mood through lighting. Whichever the focus of the film, there is always challenges along the way that keep you on your feet and learning.

What was the step up from Media Design School to working at Weta like? Was there anything in the course in particular that helped prepare you for the real world?

A better question would be - was there anything in the course that did not help me? To which the answer would be no.

The course taught me the fundamentals of both the tools and the industry itself. The film production environment Media Design School simulates during the student film process was realistic and invaluable. Without a doubt it made transitioning to Weta Digital easier! Of course there is a lot take on board first starting out in the industry, but at no point did I feel too out of my depth to take on these challenges.

What is the most exciting part of your job?

They pay me to do it! Can you believe this?

What are some of the largest projects you’ll be working on (if you can say)? Otherwise, what project has been most rewarding so far?

I've worked on Fast and Furious 7 and The Hobbit trilogy. Then there is Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The Wolverine and unreleased films The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 2, Alvin and the Chipmunks and The BFG.

My favorite so far was The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Lighting and rendering Smaug was a very cool experience. It was a lot of fun getting to create an atmosphere in Smaug’s gold room!

What’s next for your career? Where do you hope to be in a couple of years?

Avatar was one of the best, if not the best VFX film out while I was at Media Design School, so naturally it was a huge inspiration for me. I'm really hoping to work on the next films in the Avatar series! And that’s going to take a long time, so I don't see myself going anywhere else anytime soon.

What advice would you give to anyone thinking about studying at Media Design School?

As my good friend Shia LaBeouf once told me "JUST DO IT." But in all seriousness, If you genuinely want to get into 3D Animation or Visual Effects, Media Design School should be your first choice. You can't go wrong.